Sunday, 17 March 2013

Library Camp London 2013

On Saturday 2nd March, I spent the day at an unconference called LibraryCamp. I attended the first UK Library Camp in 2011 and last year's too, however, this is the first time I have attended a regional one. I can't say there was much difference; there was just as much lovely food and it, seemed like anyway, a similar number of people.

I've always liked the collaborative and democratic ways the Library Camps are ran. Everyone brings and shares food, people offer ideas to the wikis set up beforehand and there are pitches from all library and information types to discuss relevant topics.

For more information about the range of sessions delivered and for pictures, take a look at the event wiki.

As always, it was difficult to choose which ones to go as there was such a range of interesting and potentially useful sessions. In the end the five I attended were on vision, the future, the problem of the printed book, what would the world look like if librarians ruled the world and lastly, librarianship and personality. So, slightly more whimsical than my usual fare but much more forward looking and strategic.

Scheduled session pitches
Some notes and highlights I took away with me:

How to keep vision when dealing with operations, led by Kathy Baro:

We were asked how do we keep an overarching vision in mind while doing your everyday tasks. It turns out that this is a problem quite a few face - we are so caught up in the here and now that we forget the bigger picture, and while it is great to be mindful of every situation, event or person we are dealing with it can sometimes mean the service doesn't move forward. One example given which ensured that people did stay in touch with the vision was to ensure that the strategic objectives were visible at every staff meeting. By becoming commonplace they were not shrouded in mystery which resulted everyone knowing and understanding the reasons behind their everyday tasks. I agree with Liz Jolly, whose point it was, that you should always know why you are doing something.

It was mentioned that those not involved in the physical day to day running of libraries can spend more time on the vision but aren't always able to see its impact  - this led to a discussion about the importance of bringing everyone, at all levels, into the creation of the Library's vision. It goes without saying that it needs to be aligned with the overall institution's. As we went round the group and listened to each others' experiences, it became clear that often strategic plans are just given to staff so I feel lucky that at my current institution everyone was involved in the process. One final thought, before the session came to a close, was that ideally a personal vision shouldn't conflict with a work one as this is a recipe for unhappiness and stress.

Future of librarianship, led by Simon Barron:

This was a very well organised session and wouldn't have been out of place at a regular conference. Simon even wrote an introductory blogpost explaining his ideas behind his pitch. Many ideas were covered including changing technologies, robot hybrids, digital libraries, and the future of librarianship. The idea was suggested that librarians have stress because they suffer from information overload; emails and smartphones are leading to reduced memory and librarians are losing control as they are very susceptible to this. Due to the large numbers we were split into groups and ours pondered information overload and digital information - there was some dissent over the aforementioned suggestion as one Stella Wisdom remarked that using apps had improved her memory. This led to discussion on weeding and print versus digital book and how discovery tools are solving but also causing problems for users. There were a lot of themes to cover in a very short period of time and I'm not sure we did any of them justice, however, there was a unanimous agreement that people, not robots, were needed to help people sift through the information and teach people how to make good judgements. Well, we would say that wouldn't we?!

Collection management - stewardship of collections, led by David Clover:

I attended this because I thought it would be focused on weeding, something that I have a little difficulty persuading a couple of my subject departments to consider. However, it was mainly focused on reserves which I don't really know much about - it was interesting nonetheless and I was intrigued to find out more about salt mines and military bunkers being used for storage and how despite them being very good for storage they are incredibly costly if anything needs to be retrieved. Universities regularly weed to keep the collections fresh and alive but there is always the danger of throwing out something important that isn't available anywhere else at all. To ensure the sustainability and availability of monographs there needs to be a shared service between Higher Education and and public libraries there doing for monographs what the UK Research Reserve does for journals. One final comment from the group, Stella Wisdom again (!)  suggested that if libraries were to become privatised there would be a central cooperative created straightaway...

If librarians take over the world, led by Anna Brynolf:

I attended this as it sounded like fun. The idea behind it was that as librarians are very liberal and open minded and they would have rather left leaning ethics and policies if they ran the world. So, if they did:
  • there would be more freedom of information
  • there would be free access to medical trial data
  • everyone would have broadband
  • copyright law would not exist - though there would still be authors' rights
  • a more feminised culture would ensue as the profession is approximately 74% women
  • there would be plenty of public space to break down barriers
  • universities as they stand wouldn't exist because there would be lifelong learning via the internet instead
  • there would be fewer criminals as literacy levels would be much higher
A proper manifesto wasn't created, however, some interesting ideas were discussed and the legal and business librarians looked increasingly worried! I was concerned that by being in power, librarians would no longer be able just to focus on working for the public good and their emphasis would shift from altruism to wanting to stay in power. As I recently discovered in a lecture on the psychology of leadership this regularly happens as soon as someone is given a position of authority - absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Librarianship and personality, led by Rosie Hare and Andrew Preater:

Having accidentally found myself reading a lot about personality, psychology and leadership recently I figured that this session would fit in quite nicely with this theme. While it is good to be reflective, I sometimes think librarians spend a lot of time thinking and talking about this topic and was curious to find out why they wish to classify themselves. I tend to have a bit of everything when it comes to personality types or traits so I never feel like I fit neatly into a box, however, I don't feel the need go out of the way to do lots of 'crazy' things to prove this point.  We started the session stood up in a line with introverts (energy is depleted when with others) at one end and extroverts (who get their energy from others) at the other. As an ambivert (see what i mean?!) I stood in the middle.

We then split into groups and our group was tasked with looking at what personality traits a librarian should ideally have. We discussed how due to the sheer enormity of roles available for librarians to do it was actualy a good profession for all types as there's something for everyone. I raised the point that whatever role you do, whether it be digitising or teaching, empathy is a key trait to have as you always need to think about the experience of the user. For those who would like to know more about this topic Andrew Preater has written a fantastic summary of the session and the reasons behind it.

One difference I have noticed is how much slicker the sessions are becoming; when I led a session at the first Library Camp we all just had a big discussion about the topic in question which was HE in FE but now people are planning things out much more thoroughly. This does mean more content is covered and it is recorded effectively, however, I do hope it doesn't scare away people who haven't pitched a session before.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that there is already a national reserve collection for fiction that operates between public libraries. I am not sure how this will survive public spending cuts but it does still seem to be in operation, see Looks like public libraries are already doing their bit.