I felt a bit of a fraud on Saturday morning turning up to Library Camp, an unconference for librarians, until I realised that I had actually spent some time looking after a library. And I made cake, which actually seemed to be more of a prerequisite for attendance than a library career. Thankfully everyone was so utterly delightful that I think as long as you are passionate about libraries and had cake you were greeted with welcomed arms.
The first part of the unconference was the pitching for sessions, duly written on post-it-notes, groups and organised into sessions. It’s a shame we could only go to five, but when the disappointing thing is too many interesting sessions you know you’re on to a good thing. Thankfully lots of people tweeted throughout the day so it was possible to catch up on other discussion and people have subsequently blogged their thoughts on them too (like this one from Jennifer Yellin).
It’s hard to pick favourites, but I really enjoyed the two on advertising and what libraries can learn from retail, which isn’t surprising given that I work in communications and marketing. Bums on Seats made some really good notes on these two sessions. The retail session seemed to focus on a lot of practical things that could be done in libraries – displays and books facing outwards, although the idea of having books in categories seemed to split opinion. Personally I think opening times are one of the biggest barriers to people using the library – something which I mentioned on twitter and seemed to get some good responses. The last session on advertising was the one I understood the best, having experience in public sector marketing and it seems that some of the problems the librarians found were similar, if not worse, to those I found in the NHS. Sadly it sounded like the will to market was there, but with little support from their corporate communications teams (one team has to email tweets to the webmaster which are frequently changed and lose meaning)
The other notable session I sat in on was one on Shared Reading A group of about ten of us read a short story about a father and son, paused at relevant places, which provoked some really unexpected and strong emotional reactions. I’m not entirely sure I can convey how powerful and moving this session was, but when a 45 minute session with a group of strangers nearly brings you to tears you might get the idea. I’m determined to learn more.
Discussions at lunch about further education libraries, children’s development and a whole raft of bookish talk were really interesting. Plus I was given a free book by the lovely @JennySarahJones which I found out about thanks to the power of twitter!
So what did I learn
- Library folk are some of the nicest people ever and really like their cake.
- Following a hashtag (#libcampuk11) on tweetdeck when its updated fairly regularly is rubbish, the twitter app was a lot more useful.
- The cola cupcakes recipe from Hummingbird Bakery book was actually a hit – people even tweeted me to say so!
- If the people at libcampUK11 are anything to go by, so long as the current government doesn’t completely chop the library budget to shreds, the future of libraries are in good hands.
Initially I wasn’t sure how interesting I’d find the day or how useful I’d be, but in the end I left Library Camp inspired and hopeful – and determined to use the library more. A big thanks to those that organised the event and to those in attendance for providing me with some really interesting ideas.