April Hathcock tweeted the other day that the Critlib Unconference started out with an icebreaker that I used at the uncon in Portland a few years back: find someone you don't know yet, introduce yourself, and then high five them. Voila, high-five buddy for life! Then, every time throughout the day when the organizers ask you to find your high five buddy, you've got an instant partnering-up system. And hey, you now have someone throughout the rest of the conference -- and perhaps life -- to high five, which can be a real boost when you're dragging. I learned this icebreaker from some of my student colleagues at the University of Iowa, either Paul Mintner or Megan Watt, both of whom taught me so much about getting folks connected and starting conversation.
Thinking about this lineage of icebreakers is timely, as I recently attended the CCCCs conference (known as Cs or 4Cs). It's a conference for college and university writing instructors, compositionists, and rhetoric folks. I was asked to join in on a preconference workshop about DIY rhetorics and making, and then I stuck around to peep in on other conversations. I mostly went to sessions about information literacy, less out of a commitment to the Framework than out of curiosity for how non-librarians were talking about it. There were some interesting bits -- for example, Carolyn Caffrey Gardner noted that non-librarians seemed *glad* that the Framework wasn't a policy document.
Anyway -- one of the main themes I noticed was the role of collaboration. At one session, a librarian and a writing professor discussed their cross-departmental implementation of information literacy curriculum. It was dreamy, an example of how a strong partnership could lead to structural change. Chatting with Carolyn and a few other librarians, we swapped anecdotes from the conference, hearing presenters lament their unhelpful librarians, or be prompted to say how helpful a librarian had been. Maybe I was also feeling sentimental, as I got to reconnect with a rhetoric instructor who I collaborated with at my old job, or because I don't really work with our writing program at my current institution. But, it was a reminder that it doesn't matter how great your idea is, if you don't have the relationships to make it happen. There's something in here of course, about feminized labor, and the invisibility of the feelings-work that women do, but I, uh, don't have the energy for it right now.
And it isn't just about relationships between staff/faculty. The keynote speaker was journalist and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas, who mentioned that his essay coming out as undocumented came in part from a suggestion from his writing instructor, way back in his first year of college. The work of teaching writing (and research) is rooted in supporting an individual through their whole life, and what a spectacular example.
As a sidenote, CCCCs had activities that ALA would do well to learn from: strategy sessions about labor organizing and adjunct dependency, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on Friday night, childcare. Their statement related to the travel ban is also worth reading.