One Heck of a Hackfest, I’d Say

Last Friday (May 9th) a dozen librarians gathered for a hackfest at SFU Harbour Centre.  Our goal: to work collectively for the day on an OER project we were keen to get done.Participants were a mix of librarians from the recently formed BCOER group, a grassroots group of B.C. postsecondary librarians interested in OER, as well as, a cadre of talented and energetic UBC Library school students and grads.

Post by Leva Lee, manager, Learning + Teaching, BCcampus

Upon review of our projects which we had posted in a Google working document, two hackfest working groups emerged:  an OER Subject Guides group and an OER Awareness group. Fortified by plenty of coffee, tea and food, we got down to business! With Erin Fields, UBC and Melanie Cassidy, SLAIS UBC as the lead facilitators, the Subject guides group had a clearly laid out plan and process. They would review OER resources in the Sciences and the Humanities using a newly devised OER assessment rubric which would be put rigorously to the test throughout the day. The group reviewed and ranked a whopping 31 OER Science resources with the OER assessment rubric working beautifully.

Discussing a plan of action!
Discussing the plan of action!

The OER Awareness group identified that a tool like a poster was needed to present key talking points to engage BC faculty in OER.  The group started with researching and reviewing existing OER awareness materials by organizations like Creative Commons, UNESCO, CCC-OER, SPARC and BCcampus.  From this research,  we were able to hone in on five key ideas for our poster.  Now all we needed was some BC statistics,  some graphics  and finessing to complete our poster!
With a bit of time to spare, the OER Awareness group discussed ideas and approaches for professional development for librarians. Webinars were favoured as the preferred format to learn as the sessions if recorded would make a handy  self-serve resource. Other ideas for professional development: a monthly drop-in webinar to field questions on OER, a regional listserv for OER, and some quick guides modelled after SPARC’s advocacy tools. Great ideas and a good start for creating our plan for professional development for librarians.
Ambitiously, we hoped to have finished a set of fully developed, publishing-ready OER subjects guides, as well as, a poster. However, at least one more day of hacking would probably be needed in order to finalize some details. (Also we need to have a graphics person work on the visuals of our poster outside of our hackfest time).  Given our short planning period (less than 2 weeks), a lot of work was packed into one day. The BCOER Hackfest demonstrated what we already knew: an  incredible amount of time and expertise is required to curate quality resources and to navigate all that is available on OER on the web. The hackfest also confirmed another truth: the workload is made much easier through our collaboration.

The volume of material on OERs on the web is daunting--even for information experts.
The volume of material on OERs on the web is daunting–even for information experts.

At the end of the day, we were one beat and bleary-eyed bunch. I asked who would consider participating in another hackfest and most everyone said “yes” but not in the immediate future.  Time is needed to review what we have “hacked” and to discuss next steps.
So kudos to the brilliant librarians who participated in the BCOER Hackfest!: Lin Brander, BCIT; Caroline Daniels, KPU; Erin Fields, UBC; Deb Flewelling, Douglas College; Janis McKenzie, SFU; Melanie Cassidy SLAIS, UBC; Stephanie Fan, SLAIS, UBC;  Mary Jinglewski, DPLA Rep; Sam Mills, SS Librarianship; Sarah Parker, UBC-Student;  Shawnna Parlongo, UBC; and Alli Sullivan, SS Librarianship.
A huge thank you  to Janis McKenzie and the SFU Library for hosting the venue and BCcampus for the catering sponsorship.
For those contemplating a hackfest for the first time, a few simple tips:

  • Give yourself plenty of lead time to drum up participation (the more the merrier) and to brainstorm on projects
  • Plan not only what you want to do but how; the process should be explicit and well communicated ;(Explaining the process is particularly important for newbies.)
  • Refreshments and food are  important, as is, a large airy space and good wifi
  • Encourage frequent breaks throughout your event to keep everyone’s energy up
  • Maximize the use of tools like Doodle, Google apps and Etherpad; (We didn’t use Etherpad but that would have been an excellent tool for concurrent writing.)
  • A good resource  for planning a hackfest are Mozilla WebMaker guides:!/event-guides

    Surreal selfie with enthusiastic Hackfest participants.
    Surreal selfie with enthusiastic Hackfest participants.

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