Who’d have believed spending a Saturday in the Mitchell Library talking about libraries could be so much fun? I certainly wondered why I was up so early on a weekend day as I headed to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow for my first library camp.
So what is library camp? Well there are no tents involved so if someone could enlighten me where the name comes from I would be grateful! Library camp is an unconference, there are few rules, and the participants decide what they are going to discuss. Most sessions were pitched on the camp wiki beforehand and one brave person pitched a further session on the day. The pitched sessions were organised into a rough timetable for the day so participants could choose which they wanted to attend, and as there are no rules it’s possible to move from one session to another.
Before we got going on the serious discussions there was some fun stuff – library bingo to encourage us to circulate and meet new people, and a competition for the best 60 second rant!
My main reason for going to library camp was to investigate the unconference format to see if might be suitable to use for events for another library organisation. I knew I was likely to be the only corporate librarian there so wondered how relevant the discussions would be to me, as it turned out there was one session of direct relevance to my job.
I elected not to take part in any of the discussions in the first session of the morning and instead went on a tour of the Mitchell Library led by the lovely Myra who works there. The Mitchell has certainly changed since the last time I was in it about 15 years ago, so much brighter and more welcoming I hardly recognised it as the library I used to dread visiting to dig through old volumes of Hansard. Very interesting tour, I think I might book on another tour in the hope I get to see in the stacks next time.
The first session I took part in was the discussion about business information. The leaders of this discussion and the other participants were mainly interested in business information from a provider’s point of view but as a consumer/user of this sort of information it was very useful to be part of this discussion. It is definitely a growing area of work for law firm librarians so any efforts to improve the access to this expensive type of information will be very welcome. It was also useful to meet those involved in working with business information. I even joined Glasgow City Libraries so that I can investigate the services of Business @the Mitchell the next time I work in the Glasgow office.
Next up lunch and a chance to meet more people and chat over some rather tasty sandwiches (and soup).
The afternoon sessions I chose were for personal interest rather than for direct relevance to my job. First the session on attracting young people to library work to correct the problem of the ageing demographic of library staff. It was interesting to hear how various organisations are dealing with this problem and some innovative ideas that are being talked about. However the discussion soon widened to the problems of graduates, short term contracts, low pay and general lack of professional jobs. I am not sure we reached any conclusions that can easily fix all these problems. My last session of the day was on e-content in public libraries. As the owner of a Kindle I haven’t been using the public libraries recently so I was interested to hear if improvements in e-book provision might change this. Certainly the developments in some libraries look impressive and whilst they’ve not reached Edinburgh yet as soon as I get chance I will investigate their e-content offerings. I like the idea of listening to an audio book on my bus journey to work and browsing magazines via my phone.
So did I enjoy my first library camp? Yes, I did. I met and talked to interesting people who are passionate about the libraries they work in (and libraries in general), and it was refreshing to widen my horizons beyond law firm libraries. If you are willing and able to be open and share and to take part in the discussions library camp is fun and energising and I recommend people to give it a go.
Oh and today I am very much enjoying the jelly beans I found in my goodie bag!