Library Camp: Real Life Social Networks and Social Networks in Real Life

Last weekend I attended Library Camp – an unconference, and a “place for anyone interested in modernising and transforming libraries of all kinds”.  Library Camp sprang out of #localgovcamp from earlier this year, and I was pleased to see some of the #localgov campers in attendance.  The event was free, and ‘sold out’ in 24 hours; so I think anyone who wasn’t on Twitter didn’t really stand a chance – once again highlighting the relevance and usefulness of Twitter for professional development.

I was pleased it was being held in Birmingham, though disappointed more people from libraries around Birmingham didn’t come; I was surprised I was the only one from my University, given the proximity, but then I don’t think many people here really use Twitter.

And let’s not forget #cakecamp either… 

QR code cakes

Cakes with QR Codes! Image via @JenniferYellin


Swets Cupcakes

Journal platform Swets were one of the sponsors

Being a former Serials / E-resources assistant, I appreciated the Swets cupcakes and freebies!

A quick bit on Open Space unconferencing, from the Library Camp website : “working on the principle that the sum of the knowledge, experience and expertise of the people in the room is likely to be greater than that of those on the stage at traditional conferences”.

 Library Camp was based on the “Open Space Technology” (Harrison Owen) format that:

 1. Whoever comes is the right people
2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
3. Whenever it starts is the right time
4. When it’s over, it’s over

Law of two feet: If, during the course of the gathering, any person finds him or herself in any situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they must use their two feet and go to some more productive place.

The programme was decided at the beginning of the event, with people coming up to the front to “pitch” a slot (or “conversation”) and then, with a bit of re-jigging, a timetable was created with post-its on a whiteboard.

Library Camp Timetable

Timetable for the day. Image via @pigsonthewing

I tried to attend sessions I thought would be useful, however, as I wasn’t actually required to report back on anything, I could have just gone to things completely unrelated to my day-job that took my fancy.  Or maybe I’m still justifying being attached to the library/info profession now I work in a room of careers people.  As it’s an “unconference” you don’t really know what is going to unfold in each of the sessions; the discussion can go anywhere, and so in hindsight @joeyanne and @AnnaLMartin’s session on What Libraries Can Learn From Retail looks like it was an interesting one, but I didn’t go as I thought I had already touched on stuff like that working at the Public Library with an ex-manager of a large book chain.  But in hindsight it maybe could still have sparked some useful ideas for careers library.  And maybe I could also have shared some – that’s also a thing with the idea of “sharing” and “discussing” in the sessions, but a couple of the sessions I went to just to “learn” and be open-minded, I didn’t know enough about it to really share anything.  

I attended sessions on:

1. Real Life Social Networks

2. Philosophy of the Library

3. Throwing out all previous knowledge and starting from scratch – What do our our users really want from our service?

4. Open Source Software

5. UK Library Chat #uklibchat

A lot of the discussions in sessions ended up drawing on experiences and issues surrounding Public Libraries, so I was glad I had already had experience of working there so could relate to what they were saying.

I thought the structure of the sessions was good, 45 minutes was just the right length and then the 15 minutes breather after each one to network / coffee / cake before onto the next session. One thing with so many sessions on at the same time though, was that you had to make a fast decision which one to go to, sometimes hard with so many interesting sounding sessions.  Reading other people’s write-ups, other sessions look really interesting as well that I didn’t think of going to, and make me think I should have gone to them!

I did like the discussion nature of the unconference, instead of just listening to presentations, and being able to hear ideas and input from everyone, which made for a very fluid exchange of ideas and practices.  I do think it would be useful and refreshing to have more meet-ups like this, as I do feel very invigorated and full of ideas, and ready to tackle our Careers Library, though did find by the end of the day I was quite tired and spaced out. 

Definitely up for next year, and any post-libcamp events, however, if we hold one in Birmingham, isn’t that just like doing Library Camp again?  As, the event was held in Birmingham, and people came from all over, even abroad, so… wouldn’t a “small” fringe event in a different city just end up attracting people from all over if people were up for a discussion?!  Although Birmingham does have good rail connections to all corners of the country so, the travel may put some people off going to other meet-ups. 

I wonder if there is any benefit to having a similar kind of thing within an organisation?  There are often inter-departmental working groups set-up within organisations, e.g. Social Media; Widening Participation; Making Libraries More Fun; but they tend to be structured as meetings – what if we had a day where everyone just came together and  groups could chat informally in sessions about the various services and working groups?  Staff, academics, and students, together.  Would allow service providers to gauge what they were doing right, how they could improve, and what academics and students really want from the service.  And would allow the bouncing of ideas from staff in different departments doing similar roles, e.g. front-line staff, and the ways innovative ideas of one department could be adapted for another.

Anyway, big thanks to the organisers, and the cake-bakers, and the people for being so passionate, and I hope everyone enjoyed sampling Birmingham 🙂

Session 1 notes: Real Life Social Networks

Library Camp Session 1

Notes on board in Session 1. Image via @pigsonthewing

The inclusive community – idea that frontline staff become part of community network.  (In reality it doesn’t really work like this as there isn’t the staff time to be spent chatting to customers, and the removal of issue desks also removes interactions which take place there; some of which are very comforting to elderly / lonely people who may not speak to anyone else all day. 

Plus, it’s no lie that some staff find certain library customers “weird” (probably those who need the community network most) and don’t particularly want to engage in conversation with them).

  • People use their branch and Central library in very different ways, branch there is more time for a chat, Central, more for getting things done, looking for something specific.
  • The idea that people are going to the library but don’t really talk or meet each other there, and that there are certain barriers to people going in the library, e.g. feeling intimated and the librarians seeming “scary”.

British Library people in the group found the experience of going in there was intimidating, and off-putting having to get a Reader Ticket etc, and that sometimes the staff seemed quite rude, with anecdotes of “oh you’re not going to become one of us are you?” said by staff there.  On the other hand, people had found the London Library – a subscription library, much nicer and friendlier.

  • Stop focusing so much on the stats  get people in there genuinely, not because you need to up your stats. 
  • The fact that so many people use the library online, so this affects footfall stats.  (For both Public and Academic).
  • Bookgroups a way of getting people to socialise in the library, but problems of space juxtaposition, people feel they can’t just discuss openly and make too much noise.
  • Librarians should be facilitating bookgroups, idea of going out of the library to do bookgroups  success of Birmingham bookgroup in coffee shops because people like the atmosphere.
  • Libraries are helping bookgroups by getting hold of the books for them that they have lots of copies of.  Lists of books library has lots of copies of for groups to add to their schedules.  Some groups get very popular, but then library will say they can’t help them when there are too many people.
  • Remove social media blocks on library computers.
  • Librarians need to get involved in designing of space when refurbishing / building a library, not people in management who never use them – security barriers not very welcoming entry to library, and to have different zones for different things. (we do, but we are not always allowed to have it our way.  Library Manager at Public Library very involved in design process but still had to abide by wishes / guidelines of Council, so weren’t allowed to have any ‘pod’ or staff in view of doorway).
  • Be friendly and human! self-service frees the staff up to do ther things, but then the public think they’re busy and can’t approach them, but there are no desks so they don’t know where to go.  Also, that it is not very welcoming to be confronted by a machine on entering the library.  One library employs volunteers to go around welcoming people.

I thought this session, by @antlerboy of Red Quadrant, was really well-structured, doing a re-cap and summarising the points on a flip-chart at the end.

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2 Responses to Library Camp: Real Life Social Networks and Social Networks in Real Life

  1. Pingback: Library Camp UK 2011 in Birmingham « Cycling for Libraries via Dace

  2. Pingback: At last « Headstrong Ways

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