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What happens at Library Camp stays at Library Camp…

…except of course it doesn’t! No chance of that, with all the bloggers in attendance… Here’s my small contribution to the blog posts currently piling up. It will be only a small contribution, as I didn’t make any notes at all, so here’s what I can remember from the sessions I attended (apologies in advance to anyone who was there if I’ve missed out important chunks, or misinterpreted/misremembered what anyone said as a result of my poor memory!):

Session 1: Real Life Social Networks

Flipchart from Real Life Social Networks sessionFor my first session, I really had no idea what to go into! I spent the first coffee break chatting to various people and snaffling cupcakes, so by the time the call came to go into our first sessions I hadn’t actually had a look at the board yet to see what to go to. I had a look at the board, picked three session titles that looked interesting and noted what rooms they were in, then dived into the first room with a name I recognised from the sessions I looked at. Of course, once I got in there and sat down, I suddenly realised I couldn’t remember which session I’d seen that was in this particular room! Luckily, others in there were a bit more on the ball and someone kindly enlightened me as to which session I’d stumbled into.

So, real life social networks. The thrust of this was about how libraries can build social communities. There was much interesting chatter about social initiatives and so on, and how libraries can appeal to various groups of people without falling into the trap of trying to be all things to all people. Several people present shared their success stories, and several also shared horror stories – for example, of a book group that was told they couldn’t use their local library any more once they got too many members. Several people talked about the importance of good customer service and general friendliness – which led to a bit of a moaning session about the rudeness some of us had experienced at the British Library! At the end of the session, facilitator Ben Taylor (aka @antlerboy) wrote the list in the picture to the left here, of what libraries should stop doing and start doing in order to build real life social networks. I particularly liked Stop: Managing for stats and Start: Managing with stats – i.e. stop doing things just because they up whatever stats your counting and make you look good, and start measuring the things that your users really value instead!

Session 2: Games and Gamification

This was a really interesting session, despite it having absolutely no relevance to my day job! I’d love to stick an xbox in my law firm’s library, but somehow I don’t think I’d be able to put together a convincing enough business case for that… I won’t go into masses of detail, as the session was recorded and the audio is available through the Library Camp wiki. I found the idea of making library tasks themselves into a game to encourage users very interesting – as someone pointed out, library tasks as a whole lend themselves quite well to the “levelling up” idea, to encourage repeated use, and this is something that in a way has been done in libraries for years, through things like summer reading programmes.

Having said that the session didn’t have any relevance to my day job, there actually was a mention of gamification in the corporate sector – Meghan mentioned a points/rewards system in place at her firm to encourage staff to use the know how systems. Nice idea, wonder if I could get anything like that working with the lawyers…

Session 3: What can libraries learn from retail?

Another fascinating session! I can remember reading Joeyanne’s blog post on this topic before, so it was great to hear her and others explore these ideas further. Again, not much of this was particularly relevant to my day job as, while we do still have a physical library, it’s tiny (and getting smaller all the time) and most of our actual enquiry work is done remotely. The physical collection and library space is of minimal importance really – the focus is on providing access to resources at the lawyers’ desktops, so I can only see the physical collection getting less and less important until it eventually disappears. However, I really enjoyed hearing the ideas that were tossed around and learning a bit about the kinds of considerations physical libraries have to bear in mind.

I agree that libraries as a whole can learn from retail – from a customer service perspective, as well as a practical, design/layout perspective. Some ideas I found interesting: observing what users are doing will tell you much more than just asking them, as people will just say what they think you want to hear if you ask (very true!). Floorwalking, in order to provide help at the point of need rather than waiting behind a reference desk is becoming more popular – I thought this had parallels with the legal/corporate sector, where there’s a really big focus at the moment on proactively providing people with information when they’re likely to need it, rather than waiting to be asked.

Really good session – I’d certainly want to read the retail books recommended if I ever found myself in charge of a physical library!

Session 4: Communicating with stakeholders & embedded librarianship

This is the session I remember the least, mainly because I was facilitating it alongside the lovely @samanthahalf and @funktious! We’d realised while standing in the queue to pitch a session that we wanted to talk about more or less the same kind of thing, so decided to do a joint session. Very glad it worked out that way!

A couple of people have added their blog posts on this session to the wiki already, and Sian (@funktious) is in the process of writing up her notes to add them too, so rather than try to remember what we all said I will simply point you to the relevant wiki page. I do want to share a couple of observations on how I found facilitating an unconference session:

First of all, it was absolutely nothing like presenting a standard conference session! I was a little bit nervous at first (and apologies to those present for my first few minutes of incoherent rambling about my job – I suddenly got The Fear and forgot everything I was planning to say, so defaulted to saying whatever popped into my head! I do hope it got better after that…) but once the session got going and everyone was joining in, I really enjoyed it. I much preferred the informal, conversational nature of it to having to stand at the front of a room, burning from the heat of a thousand hostile pairs of eyes (or at least that’s what it feels like sometimes!) and talk at everyone!

It was fascinating to get a cross-sector perspective on this topic, and I’m really glad that Sian made it clear in the pitch that we wanted it to be cross-sector. I’ve talked to other law and corporate librarians (mainly through SLA) about communicating with stakeholders and the embedded approach, so I really valued getting another perspective on that.

Really, the only bad thing about facilitating this session was that I didn’t get to go to @Batty_Towers‘ session, a “knowledge exchange” between public and corporate librarians to find out what each others’ jobs actually consist of, which sounded really interesting! I’m inclined to agree with Samantha, that while the free-for-all unconference format was great in many ways, it might have saved a bit of time on the day and avoided some of these scheduling conflicts if we’d had at least some of the schedule worked out in advance, via the wiki. Just a suggestion for next year…

That was the last session for me, as I was all unconferenced-out by the time the last session started! I spent the last hour having a bit of a wander outside to get some fresh air, and then sitting and chatting (but not knitting) with the impromptu knitting circle that had established itself by the time I got back inside.

Overall thoughts

This was the first unconference I’d been to, and I loved it! I’m looking forward to next year already 🙂 I wholeheartedly agree with @theatregrad’s post – it was a really inspiring day, and gave me a much-needed confidence boost.

One suggestion that came out of a chat during the lunch break was to have “unconference” strands or sessions in other conferences – SLA have been doing this for a couple of years and it’s been really successful, so I don’t see why CILIP and BIALL couldn’t do the same with their conferences. My experience of conferences is that there is invariably a couple of time slots where there’s nothing on that really grabs you – leaving some slots free for unconference sessions would mean that people could use those times to discuss whatever they would find most useful. Something to mention to both organisations’ conference organisers!


One comment on “What happens at Library Camp stays at Library Camp…

  1. Like that idea of unconference sessions within traditional conference set ups.

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