I attended my first library camp at the weekend (Library Camp SW), and thought I should get down my thoughts about it before it fades into the distance. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Library camps in the last year or so; they’ve been providing a great space for discussion of library issues, they’re free, held on weekends so people who can’t attend events during working hours can come, and there is a lot of cake available! As part of the staff development group of CLIC (Cardiff Libraries in Co-operation), we’re thinking of running a library camp in south Wales next year, so I realised that I really needed to attend one, to see what it was actually like in person, and to try and pick up a few hints and tips about the best way to run one.
Sadly, I didn’t enjoy the experience as much as I’d hoped.
This was not a reflection on the organisers, I should hasten to add, but more a case of my own personality, and my ‘head space’ on the day. I realise to get the most out of a library camp you really need to put a lot in, you shouldn’t just sit back and let if flow around you. I’d already decided before I got there that I wasn’t going to pitch a session, as it was my first time I wanted really to see how it worked, and wasn’t brave enough to jump straight in – I also couldn’t think of any burning issue that I really wanted to run a session on anyway. Maybe if I’d been brave enough I would have had a more beneficial experience. Part of my problem was that I wasn’t particularly interested in most of the sessions that were pitched (and yes I know, if that was the case I should have pitched something I was interested in!).
I’m a cataloguer – and I went to the event with the full knowledge that it was highly unlikely that anyone would want to talk about cataloguing; but I am also involved in staff development (both within my own library service, and with CLIC), and like to hear about stuff that is going on in general in the library world, so I figured there would be something to interest me, and yes there were a few sessions that I went to that were fine (one on chartership which I’ve been thinking about doing for ages, and one on disasters in libraries, which was interesting and I could at least speak about a bit); but for the most I found that I was just the worst Library camp attendee ever, didn’t feel inspired by what was on offer, and I sat silent……
I also found some attendees rather bolshy, and one session I attended got a little bit heated…
I guess at the end of the day each library camp will differ depending on who is there and what they want to talk about, it will also depend on which sectors are represented – as it became clear that some issues affect some libraries services in a far different way to others.
In the last session of the day I attended Rhyme time where I didn’t have to worry about speaking up, or cringe about some people’s attitudes, all I had to worry about was waving my arms around, not letting the rubber ducks fly off the parachute, and how silly I looked (but hey we all looked silly together so not a problem!). There was indeed plenty of cake, and I sort of wished I’d skipped the main course and gone straight to cake – as I didn’t manage to taste the rather exciting looking Finnish blueberry concoction unfortunately – though I did manage some veggie rocky road – yum! The food sharing all worked wonderfully, and we could have just all sat in the park eating all afternoon.
I am sad that I didn’t have a fantastic experience, and wonder if my personality just isn’t suited to this kind of professional development event, or whether I was having a particularly bad ‘off day’, or whether if I went to one where the kind of things I am interested in were talked about more I would enjoy it more. Maybe next time (if there is a next time), it will all be different for me.