Cycling for Libraries – A TTW Guest Post by Mace Ojala

Note from Michael: Mace’s post echoes my own thoughts about the R-Squared conference. The opportunities for learning, collaboration and engagement seemed so fresh and exciting at the conference as they did while cycling.

 Cycling for libraries – one of infinite different ways to cooperate with colleagues

A hypothesis: there are better, and more efficient ways to spend time with colleagues than to sit in an auditorium and watch powerpoints all day long.

Sounds like common sense. But when you take a look at our profession, librarianship, you will quickly notice how much time, effort, money and kerosene we spend to send our best minds to go to isolated rooms to sit still and quiet for hours and hours. One person on the stage talks about his/her work, and right after everyone has been initiated to the topic, we change to another one. We’re just funny, aren’t we!

Tacit knowledge shared by many experienced conferencegoers tells that the most fruitful stuff at conferences happens during the breaks, in the corridors and in the afterhours. This is what we call “networking”. However – for whatever reason – the endless powerpoint presentations still have to be there to justify doing what we value the most.

Me and Jukka Pennanen, together with a network of other enthusiastic libraryfolks contribute to the process of de-constructing the  conference paradigm by organizing Cycling for libraries. To put a long story short (ask me sometime), in 2011 we and 100 other  librarians and librarylovers bicycled 650 kilometers from Copenhagen to Berlin for the 100th Deutscher Bibliothekartage, and this year 600km from Vilnius to Tallinn, then to Helsinki for the IFLA WLIC  2012 conference.

At Cycling for libraries we assume each and every participant is an expert in their profession, and has something valuable to share, and also a lot of things to learn. We assume that we are all intelligent, and also physical, social, emotional and beautiful beings. A one-and-a-half week bicycle journey works as a framework for this. We design and build our unconference not to be hostile to life, but to be lifelike itself.

Such a concept seems to bring together a motivated, curious and resilient group of participants from all the nooks of libraries. Take any group of libraryfolks away from their organizations and everyday lives, and make them bicycle through countrysides and cities of foreign countries; I guarantee a temporary, global library thinktank will form. And it’s quite thrilling I must say.

Don’t get me wrong, I love traditional presentations and conferences build around them as much as the next guy. I attend them and will continue to do so. But in addition to that model, we need more ways  to learn, share and work together. A lot of new and different ways. Cycling for libraries is one of them. This won’t happen on it’s own, we must push it!

Please do what you can to help expand the horizon how we library folks think about collaboration, learning and sharing, and seek for ways to turn those highflying thoughts to practical action when we return to our libraries on that eventual Monday.


Mace Ojala is a librarydude from Helsinki. He’s into librarianship broader than libraries, the Internet, processes, cities and other constructions, beauty, and existentialism.

Photo Credits:

1. 7808999740_b77769b446_z.jpg by menickkt@Flickr
2. 7689275214_bc657d8329_z.jpg by xmacex@Flickr
3. 7802752654_3229ae85c3_z.jpg by cya_c@Flickr