The California Academic & Research Libraries (CARL) conference begins this Thursday in San Diego. The theme of this year’s events is ”Creativity and Sustainability: Fostering User-centered Innovation in Difficult Times.” What better way to foster innovation and inspire creativity than through an Unconference!

As Fortune would have it, I will be co-coordinating the Unconference with the inestimable and talented Young Lee. While the unconference events will be mostly standard fare (see below), the format is a bit unorthodox. Rather than having a multi-hour block of time set aside at the beginning of the conference, the unconference will be broken into five, 1.25 hour blocks that run over the course of two days.

Here is our game plan:

Friday 10:15 am – 11:30 am: Speed networking and DIY round-table

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Kick off your unconference experience by getting to know your fellow attendees and perfecting your “elevator pitch”! We’ll briefly discuss what makes the ideal first impression and work on refining our own responses to the perennial question “What do you do?” Share and repeat. DIY Roundtable: A classic staple of unconferences, the round table brings everyone together as a group to discuss topics chosen on the spot. Participants drive the conversation according to their concerns and by their contributions.

Friday 4:15 pm – 5:30 pm: Solve For U

Taking a cue from the tech sector, attendees will have the opportunity to apply “moonshot thinking” to tackling problems. Utilizing prior submissions and/or discussions from earlier in the day, participants will select a single problem to tackle and work in separate teams to formulate competing solutions. Show and tell to follow.

Saturday 8:30 am – 9:45 am: Round Table, Part Deux

A classic staple of unconferences, the round table brings everyone together as a group to discuss topics chosen on the spot. Participants drive the conversation according to their concerns and by their contributions.

Saturday 11:45 am – 1:00 pm: Crowd-sourced Boot Camp

Each attendee brings a unique set of skills and experiences with them. Why not leverage that expertise for the benefit of everyone? Participants themselves will educate, explain, or demonstrate how to accomplish a task, create an item, or understand a concept. Topics will be based on attendees’ knowledge and interests.

Saturday 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm: DIY Think Tanks

Attendees will brainstorm possible topics for discussion based on interests, current events, or conference proceedings, with topics ranging from “improving customer service through mobile media” to “future thinking in academic libraries” (and anything in between!). Participants will vote and select the most popular topics then divide into separate “think tanks” to discuss. At the end of the session, each think tank will share the results of their discussion

If you are planning to attend CARL, I hope you will consider joining us for one or more of the Unconference events. Because the discussion is driven entirely upon the interests of the attendees who show up, you never know where it will lead!