DIY Library Camp

What’s the most important thing to get right in organising your own Library Camp is the cake!

Running a small Camp is easy – Leeds was around 70 people. You need –

  • Eventbright account to deal wit bookings
  • Wiki to put up directions & pre-event info, but don’t need much
  • Don’t need much funding, anyone can blag a free room
  • be prepared to write a short report for any sponsors (e,g, place that you blagged the room from)
  • Cake

You don’t need to do too much for the small ones. They can be very rewarding to both run and take part in. Can be anything you want, within your means/what you can blag.

Potential problem is with it being free as sometimes people sign up because it’s free then don’t turn up as they haven’t paid for it. This is less of a problem with smaller, more local events. This also keeps the cost down so that people such as library students and lower earners can afford to attend – the bigger events with travelling and possibly accommodation costs involved can be prohibitively expensive even with free places.

Smaller events can have impact as they are local, so you can get local links and also increase your professional network. Great point made by library school students who wanted to organise their own more practical event for experience and to talk about in job interviews. They realised even just the act of organising the event was a great practical experience. Your local CILIP branch may help with sponsorship, maybe for room and/or refreshments – it’s worth asking.

Suggested alternative to ‘Cake Camp’ – savoury ‘Pie Camp’. Heretical?! Or sensible alternative? On the question of food, for smaller local events, there was a practical suggestion that participants bring their own food, which would mean no catering hassles in advance and also no danger of over catering and associated costs. In addition, any food allergies and preferences will naturally be taken into account.

You don’t need any permission to run Library Camp. The current organisers are happy, though, to share their experiences and and advice they can give to newby organisers via Twitter.

From one organiser – “If I can do it, anyone can!” is a great thing to take away from the session.


Librarians Without Libraries – Library Camp UK

Another ‘blogging at speed’ disclaimer – This post is an attempt to capture some of the discussion that took place during a session at Library Camp UK. I hope I haven’t mis-represented anything that was said and I know I have definitely missed out some important points! Feel free to add info and thoughts via the comments. Views are not necessarily mine, except where indicated, but my attempt to show what we talked about as a group and the points people made. Now on with the post…

This session looked at how librarians manage when they don’t have a physical library building, and/or when they don’t usually deal with the people who use their services on a face-to-face basis. First up was the whole question of being invisible. Information services now rely so much on online resources, many librarians now find themselves managing electronic resources and dealing with queries via email, online chat and phone. Even when dealing with physical objects, the enquiries and responses may take place in the non-physical realm. This can create the problem of both the librarian, and the library/information services being ‘invisible’ to the user.

This generated a number of potential problems, summarised as –

  • Staff being invisible and forgotten even when their service is well used
  • Potential users not being aware of specific services that are available to them
  • The library/information services being seen as irrelevant by senior management, as they don’t occupy a designated physical space within the organisation
  • Branding – the work and resources of the service not being easily identified by users and senior management

There were a number of useful suggestions from the group to address these problems –

  • Clear online branding of all resources provided by the service
  • Identifying users who could advocate the services among their colleagues, e.g. in each department of an organisation, and act as a champion for the services
  • ‘Popup libraries’- using the hot desking idea that all you would need to provide the services are the internet, a laptop and a mobile phone, go and sit alongside users/groups of users and provide support in person so they get to know you and see how the services fit in with their needs.

The whole question of ‘what is a library?’ quickly came to the fore. There was general agreement that the building/physical space is not the service, but a general concern that for users, the library building is the way they identify the service. There as an interesting discussion about whether the word ‘library’ is a useful one or not. Against the term was the need to educate users about new types of information services that do now rely solely on printed books – here library was felt to be an old-fashioned term with associations that weren’t helpful in describing the work of the modern librarian. For was the general understanding that many users have of the term, that they woud know the kind of services they could expect (and/or we could educate them on the newer services and resources available) and that people in general see ‘library’ as having positive connotations and associations. The discussion expanded out onto Twitter, and I *think* the consensus was that we the term is a good one, all be it with the rider of user education on the newer stuff we do.

The session was a really positive session, despite the problem of being invisible, being ignored and being overlooked for funding! The ‘unseen librarian’ is often providing the latest services and dealing with new technologies and resources, and as such is a great group to keep an eye on, I think.



#uklibchat in RL!

First, my ‘blogging at speed’ disclaimer – This post is an attempt to capture some of the discussion that took place during a session at Library Camp UK. I hope I haven’t mis-represented anything that was said and I know I have definitely missed out some important points! Feel free to add info and thoughts via the comments. Views are not necessarily mine, except where indicated, but my attempt to show what we talked about as a group and the points people made. Now on with the post…

I’ve participated in some #uklibchat sessions on Twitter. These can be great – a place online where you can chat, using the hash tag, about a pre-set topic. More details about the usual, online,  process are available via the uklibchat blog. So it was interesting to see how the popular Twitter chat sessions translated into Real Life at Library Camp.

I enjoyed the session, and it was nice to actually see people as we talked. But I kind of missed the side chat on Twitter, and also missed the slower speed required of my brain when I can look back over what has been said! The original idea was to include ‘people who couldn’t be with us today’ via Twitter, but a slightly dodgy network made this tricky, which was a shame.

Career progression was the first item. It was quite frustrating to find that most library sectors seem to have the same slow career progressions and that is seems always to be hard to get on. Basically, waiting for people to retire seems most common/best option, which is a bit depressing!

Finding out about jobs brought up useful alternatives for job searching, including someone who got a job via a tweet! TES, CILIP etc were the main source. Agencies were not so well used, but some people find that they were sent unsuitable jobs, for example in the wrong location etc. Time spent in getting set up with an agency can be an issue, but may be a good investment. Temporary jobs via agencies seem most common and ost successful, although these can be useful if they are for a longer period of time – e.g. 9-12 months.

The next question was “Chartership- is this important?”. Many people made that point that other people (including senior maanagers) in libraries don’t know what this is. It also raised the interesting question of continued CILIP membership. If you are no longer a member of CILIP, how do you deal with chartership on your CV? Some people have mentioned it as a previous experience, which seemed fair to me, but it was seen as misleading on the CV by an interviewer and candidate was marked down. Although I could see why the person on the selection panel felt this way, I had mixed feelings. CILIP membership isn’t cheap, and may be unaffordable for someone who is out of work. However, this is probably the time you need to be showing off your chartership credentials. A potential vicious loop, I’m afraid.

PGCert seen as very valuable in Higher Education sector, possibly having more value than chartership? Comment made that this is not better/worse but different, as chartership is seen as affiliation with professional body not a qualification as such.

An interesting question was “What skills do you think your employer wants, and how might this be changing?”. Customer care/customer-facing skills were universally the most sought after currently. For public librarians, customer-facing skills plus ability to work with children seem to be a killer combination.

Academic libraries – another big push on customer services skills. Linked fee-paying students and their expectations. This has always been at the heart of the academic library, but improvements are very keenly sought. The expectations of fee-paying students is really making this the biggest single issue.

The accessibility of the library and specialist knowledge plus a deep understanding of the needs of users is what makes a good library service, and the most sought after skills are the ones that support this kind of approach. Flexibility and being able to turn your hand to anything are the most useful skills for smaller libraries/library & information services. In a small team, such as a special or private sector library, everyone needs to be able to do everything.

An interesting question next, “Are technical skills important?” Yes, as so many services are online. This has potential for promotion, to be able to deal with technical skills. The main thing is how to apply/use/teach the skills of using technology rather than the technical creation of things. Also, the skills of being able to brief a technical person are very valuable. However, being able to actually code or fix a broken system, useful though they are, are probably not essential or looked for skills in librarians from employers – they have other specialist staff to work in this area.

The subdued mood of the session wasquestioned – is it just early in the day, or are people actually negative about their careers? This comment, made tongue in cheek, was greeted with some positive comments and enthusiasm. An afternoon session was pitched at this point, on where librarians want to be in ten years time. Stress is felt, though – you can’t compromise on quality of your work, also have to be willing to move. Is the library sector dying as a profession? We need to ask about the future and what we THINK the librarian role will be. We need to define this and fight for this!

The point was made that librarians ARE the knowledge society that everyone seems to think is so fundamental to the national success. Anger at what is happening in public libraries is common, but this doesn’t mean librarianship is a dying profession. There may be more and more ‘librarians’ in many roles, using the key skills and at the heart of the economy.

The frustration of an employer being incredibly specific in their requirements and thus seeming to negate your valuable experience and qualifications was a shared experience within the group, common in every sector. There can seem to be a terrifying amount of competition for every job. This can be harshest at entry level jobs, where huge amounts of candidates can go for library assistant posts, many of who will be qualified librarians. This can be tough when trying to enter the profession or when moving across sectors. On the other side, if you apply for a library assistant job when qualified, you may well not get an interview as you’re over qualified. This makes it hard to stay in work and/or move sectors.

However, on the whole librarianship, tough as it is on the application front, is not *as* bad as many other industries – e.g. the music industry.

It was an interesting session, and I’m looking forward to the next online chat where I can keep getting my regular fix of  library chat tweets.

Less Talk, More Action – Non-Digital Hack Day

Photo of Lego library counter by tzhaya via Flickr, used with thanks, under CC license.

Today I cam across an idea via Twitter that got me really excited. I’ve attended a few hack days and conferences in the recently with a mix of developers and library types. I have had some great conversations, and also, with developers, been part of helping them to build tools that non-technical information professionals would find useful. I’ve always been secretly envious of developers, though.

Developers make stuff. So they can go to a day event and come away, maybe, with a finished product. Or the rough outline of something that didn’t exist before that day. It’s not that I don’t come away from events with great ideas, or that I don’t value and enjoy discussions with colleagues at conferences and un-conferences. But sometimes I’d like to come away with something a bit more tangible, like the developers do.

Well, maybe I can…

During a teabreak, I noticed a tweet from @LibraryCamp about the latest additions to the Library Camp session proposals on their wiki, so I hopped over to check them out. One from Andrew Walsh (@andywalsh999) really got me excited! Andrew was suggesting people getting together to discuss Non-Digital Hack Day. What? How? When and Where?

Here’s how Andrew explained it –

“… in the run up to it people pick what areas they’d like to talk about, then self-organise into groups on the day, spend an hour discussing a “challenge” on that topic they’d like to discuss, then during the rest of the day they have to produce a practical “thing” to take away. This might be a plan and outline promotional materials for promoting ebooks, a rough & ready game (see my suggestion above) to play in their libraries, or who knows what else… IT people do Hack Days where they may create a piece of software – this would be a non-digital version!”

I really love this idea! It takes the best bits of an un-conference for me – the ideas, the discussions, the dynamic of being in a group – and gives them all a practical tweak. So I’ll be heading off to this session at Library Camp for sure. I’d really like to take  part in a Non-Digital Hack Day at a later date. Just think, all that energy, all those ideas, all the good group stuff, focussed into an end result. Library and information professionals as makers – genius!

Library Camp will be taking place on 13th October 2012 in Birmingham, UK, with full details on the Library Camp Wiki. If you want to follow on Twitter, the pre-discussions and tweets on the day will be using the hash tag #LibCampUK12