Library Camp UK 2011 in Birmingham

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Uncategorized
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In the beginning of October Ella and I attended a Cake Camp (#cakecamp) aka Library Camp (#libcampuk11) where about 160 librarians and also shambrarians had a meet-up. There was one really significant rule: no presentations, just discussions!

Here is an excerpt of prehistory of “How Library Camp UK 2011 came about…”

@BhamLibrarian invited ex-colleague @libraryjmac to #localgovcamp in Birmingham on 18th June 2011. During introductions @libraryjmac thought “mmm …what about a library camp?” and the thought passed and she got on with joining in #localgovcamp.

Big fruit pretzel

Also the idea of Cake Camp came along:

(..) @siwhitehouse made @libraryjmac believe she had missed out on lovely, gorgeous cakes at #localgovcamp by tweeting her a photo (which it transpired later was, in fact, from another event). Aggrieved at possibly missing out, @libraryjmac asserts that Library Campers WILL have cake!

There were lot of wonderful cakes at Cake Camp. Ella and I pledged a big fruit pretzel. It is rumoured that a great cake taster came to Library Camp just to try a piece of every cake. The beetroot cake pledged by Katie Birkwood (@Girlinthe) was announced to be the best of best. I’m glad I managed to try a piece it.

Now I would like to introduce you to shambrarians! 😉

Someone who knows enough truth about how libraries really work, but not enough to go insane or be qualified as a real librarian.

It turned out I used to work in the world of shambrarians. Well, everything can happen when you’re working at the Department of Digital Library. Shambrarians have their own rules, here is one of them:

Dear Librarians, just because we like you, doesn’t mean you can be a shambrarian. Sorry.
(Cheal’s first law)

Here I’m going to skip the part of library visit, pub, curry, poetry, roving microphone, the other cakes, knitting & crochet camp, raffle, hugs, nap time and continue on Library Camp.

The programme of unconference was built by pitching ideas for sessions. We had 7 rooms (Accelerate 1 & 2, Forward, Proceed 1 & 2, Propel 1 & 2) for 7 parallel sessions. Aha, I have managed to get lost twice by trying to find my chosen sessions. But it was fun to ask the library campers at which session I was. Every session was supposed to last for 45 minutes. We had more than 35 sessions. I believe that some of the sessions were held in restaurant area (closer to cakes!). The first and second session started at 11.00 and 12.00. Then a lunch time came. Afterwards we proceeded with third, fourth and fifth session. The final round up started at 17.00.

The venue of Library Camp - Maple House

My first session was Real Life Social Networks in libraries. There were 24 people at this session. I was agreeably surprised by Andy Mabbett (I met him on Friday night) who brought an extension cord with him. This I would call a real life sharing and experience. As promised, he came to unconference with his Brompton bike! That was a nice reminder of Cycling for Libraries I attended this summer. During the session we discussed how important it is to interact with local community network (see also Steph Thorpe’s remark on inclusive community), to make them feel accepted and needed. A great role plays the frontline staff – it should be friendly, empathic and also professional. Sometimes an eye contact is needed. For two years I have worked at the circulation desk and reading room at university library and I know how important it is to keep a positive communication. Appropriate zoning in the library can form a space for community sub-networks. Also light, colourful and easy movable furniture and shelves would help.

Next session was Reading for Non-Native Speakers. We were a very tiny group of 11 participants. Everybody shared their experience of providing library services to non-native speakers. We basically discussed how far should we go to help non-native speakers in assimilating themselves in a new environment. As an example we took the Library of International School where 50% of students are non-native speakers. There was an opinion that one should invest more in teaching English. But still it is really important to invest effort in comforting students, in helping not to loose the connection with their native language. Bilingual dictionaries are needed for studies. Newspapers and journals can help in keeping student up-to-date. The librarian, she is also teaching English, who works at the Library of International School said that she is trying to provide some novels in both languages. But she would like to do more, especially when she has received money for providing a better service for non-native speakers.

There are several things to do: cooperating with local communities, public libraries, parents and their children in providing books in non-native languages and planning library services; organizing culture days or reading clubs where students can bring their own books and talk about them.

As revealed, there are students who don’t speak English at all. And it is quite hard to query what would they like to do. After the session I had a talk with the librarian of the school library and offered a help in getting in contact with one of the group of non-native speakers – Latvian students. I really hope that she will manage to fulfil here good intentions.

3rd session: What Can Libraries Learn from Retail?

After a lunch a joined the session called What Can Libraries Learn from Retail? The room was really full, some of the participants even sat on the floor. I would like to share Ella’s notes with you:

Libraries should be looked at more as customer-oriented places. The same tricks that work on buyer’s psychology could work on library users. Putting books in more presentable way, zoning, special book displays, putting information material near the queuing area, self-service, putting baskets for borrowing books and many other ideas can be “borrowed” from shopping centres. Also 1 working day a month should be used for the librarians to become library users. It is a good way to spot errors.

These and some more ideas you can find in Paco Underhill’s book “Why we buy: the science of shopping” and also in Jo Alcock’s blog.

The motto of Library 10 (Helsinki, Finland) came to my mind:

When other libraries just start planning,
we have already made mistakes.

I think we should follow this motto and there is no need to be too cautious. After all, we all are human beings and it is allowed to make mistakes.

The fourth session – Wikipedia, Creative Commons and QRpedia – was a real trap for me, in a good sense of course! To be short:

Wikipedia is a multilingual free-content encyclopedia which is written collaboratively by volunteers (till the 24th of October I was just an occasional reader of Wikipedia);

Creative Commons can be used to provide an “open licence” to your work (Wikipedia needs a licence to your images which allows anyone to reuse it, even for commercial purposes);

QRpedia is a system which uses QR codes to provide you a Wikipedia article accordingly to your preferred language (a lot of translation is needed to provide this).

So what to do next? Find an error in any random article and correct it, improve poor quality articles, find an article you would like to translate or create your very own article. You can also contribute by donating your images and providing open licence to them.

I also did my first contribution to Wikipedia, a homework for this session! I translated The King of Rome for Latvian Wikipedia. It wasn’t as easy as I imagined. I browsed through many help pages, studied automated templates (first I needed to find them), read some discussion pages and went through many wikitexts to understand how should I do one or other thing. Wikipedia is a place where you can learn by doing, as well as learn by making mistakes. It was quite a new experience for me – to use a system ‘what you see is NOT what you get’. Oh well, the lost metadata editor has awakened in me.

In the last session – Next Library Camp – I popped in without knowing where did I get. I just saw familiar faces and decided I can stay. This was one of those sessions with a tiny group – we were 13 there. The main idea of the session was to analyse what went right and what went wrong. And that was exactly what I needed – a real reflection time! This was also the place where I finally asked who shambrarians are. Here you may find a discussion about the next Library Camp.

Here are some of my thoughts for what is needed to organize a successful unconference:

    • Twitter Power – all the tickets were sold out within 24 hours ensuring a great hullabaloo around Library Camp;
    • Crowdsourcing – agenda built by participants, a wiki was just in time;
    • Cake Camp – non-traditional campaign on involving library people in pledging a plenty of tasty cakes;
    • PowerPoint Free Zone – a room with chairs and some extra things is needed;
    • Handy Venue – close to the city centre and no connection to the library world;
    • Saturday Sets Free – non-working day;
    • Enthusiasm in Every Aspect!

Library of Birmingham (by the crane)

A big thank you goes to: Jo McCausland (@libraryjmac) for being all along on Twitter, answering all the questions and initiating the idea of Cake CampJen Bakewell (@BhamLibrarian) for organizing a tour of Library of BirminghamTim Wilson (@timmy666) for organizing Friday night activities (meeting at The Old Joint Stock & Theatre and curry at Milan Indian Cuisine) and Sue Lawson (@shedsue) for setting up Library Camp blog and other web accounts.

I also want to say thank you to Andy Mabbett (@pigsonthewing) for engaging me to Wikipedia and encouraging me to participate in my first Social Media Café. Thanks for keeping an eye on me! One more thank you goes to Luke O’Sullivan (@L_OS_Cymru) for persistent reminders of Wales, Brecon Beacons and Swansea. You are a real shambrarian! And finally I want to thank you Lukas Koster (@lukask) for managing to follow all the Library Camp activities and for participating in my crazy FB experiments. We are a great team!

P.S. The session notes of other library campers are available here.
P.S.S.  See also Pinboard bookmarks of blogs, photos, reviews, tagged with #libcampuk11.

  1. Is it alright to put part of this on my personal web site if perhaps I publish a reference to this website?

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