ILI's 20th birthday programme

25 April 2018

Tales of the unexpected - how ILI’s conference programme is developed
With ILI’s 20th programme now in development, Programme Director Val Skelton describes the process of putting together Europe’s most popular library innovation conference.

The ILI conference programme is the product of a collaborative process. Conference chairs, a conference advisory board, past delegates and speakers, and many informal conversations throughout the year all guide us in choosing a key theme for the conference. This year's theme - Celebrating innovative libraries and info pros - has been used to frame our call for proposals to speak at ILI’s 20th birthday celebration in 2018.

What’s most enjoyable about crafting an event for the global library community is that info pros are proactive, setting their own agendas for a conference that will directly reflect the needs, successes (and failures) they are experiencing right now. So, though we may set a theme or invite contribution on specific topics, what comes in from the submissions process is never quite what you expect!

Firstly, all proposals enter a refereeing process. The conference team of Chairs and the advisory panel read all the proposals carefully. A very few proposals may not be suitable for our audience and may be quickly put to one side. The major challenge for us is the overwhelmingly high quality of the proposals received – always far too many for the spaces to fill. These proposals go onto the next stage.

At ILI we have six conference ‘tracks’ – three for each day. We review the proposals again and begin to identify possible themes for these six tracks. Then we begin to think about how some presentations will ‘fit’ with others to make a perfect session. And we work to see if tracks have a ‘narrative’ and just generally make sense. As an international conference that attracts delegates from all library sectors, we like to balance our sessions to ensure we have a great mix of countries and organisations represented.

Every year we also offer an extra track which we like to think of as our ‘fringe festival’! It’s here that we can run events, often interactive, that might not fit into a formal structure of the conference, or which cover topics that might not fit into the main programme. 

Then there are suitable keynote speakers and topics to identify: who would our delegates really love to hear from? The right keynote is critical because these presentations can set the whole tone for a conference. What are the hot topics and who are the best speakers?

And that is just the start of the ongoing programming process. Ideally, you hope to create such a great conference programme that delegates face a difficult choice between the sessions they ultimately attend!

ILI's conference programme is announced in June. Reserve your copy here.

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