Attending Library Camp

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.



Filed under CPD, Librarianship, Staff development

6 responses to “Attending Library Camp

  1. What a pity 😦

    I purposely didn’t attend this LibraryCampSW as I’m not terribly joyful about work at the moment, so absolutely agree that ‘head space’ is crucial to LibraryCamp fulfillment. And, yes, equally important is participation… even if that participation is walking out of a session or two because it doesn’t suit you. Some of the most enjoyable (not always library-related) chats I’ve had at LibraryCamps have been outside the pitched sessions. Pitched sessions that I’ve left part way through because they weren’t quite what I thought they’d be. Did you leave the room when you weren’t interested and go in search of a different session? Or just a friendly soul? Or a Gromit? If you didn’t, please do be sure to encourage this behaviour if CLIC runs a LibraryCamp… because I don’t want to be the only person doing this! 😉

    • I didn’t walk out of any sessions (though they did remind us we could do this!), and probably should have just to find a friendly soul to talk to – I partly didn’t walkout because there was nothing I wanted to walk to – but then found my friend had skipped a session and had a great chat with people on the balcony, so yes perhaps I should have just left the sessions and looked for cake or something! Did see some lovely Gromits on the way there!

  2. Good post.

    I thought one of the best things about the day was the very fact that there WAS so much diversity and (slight) conflict: otherwise we’re just sitting around in the echo chamber agreeing with each other how awful everything is.

    It was my first camp experience too, and I came without preconceptions, without any sessions to pitch myself, and having heard only vague rumours of the vast range of cakes on offer. (For the record, all the stuff I brought was shop-bought, and I’m not afraid to say so! Not everyone can be good at everything!)

    I wonder if the session you thought was heated was the same one I thought was heated.

    It was clear that some of the sessions were going to be of more interest to people working in a public / academic / school library, while some were more generally across the sector. I personally found the range of topics quite wide-ranging, certainly far enough outside my comfort zone to feel I’d been challenged and made to think about new things. The fact that we were almost all West/SW based made for an interesting commonality among so much diversity.

    I certainly look out for going to another one, particularly now that I have an idea of what they involve.

    • I agree it is good to have diversity, and it would certainly be a waste of time sitting around agreeing with one another! I just got the impression that some people thought their experience was more valid than other peoples, which I don’t agree with. We are all at different stages, and have different experiences which are good to share, we can all learn from one another. Maybe I was getting the wrong impression…
      Glad to hear you did enjoy the event though!

      • That’s a good point well made. I don’t mean it offensively, but if current situation in any library has taught us anything, it’s that things have definitely changed and moved on in the last 40, 30, 20, 10 years. I knew someone years ago who had resigned as a librarian when her library switched from book-tickets-in-pockets, in those long rack things, over to computers and barcodes, because she said it would be the thin end of the wedge!

        No one should feel bludgeoned by the weight of someone else’s experience at a peer-to-peer event like I assume LibraryCamp should be. As you say, we all learn something from each other. (But hey, I’m just a newbie.)

  3. Good observations. I too had mixed feelings about the day. Not about the organisation which was wonderful but the fact that you really have to be there right at the beginning to hear all the pitches and what they are about. By missing that crucial part I was “in the dark” when choosing which sessions to go to, and hadn’t had time to “network”. I really should’ve gone to the networking session. I did walk out of the first session but to find somewhere cool to sit and cool down. I have walked out of previous Library Camp sessions where I’ve not really got anything out of it, or where I feel I might have done some group members physical harm! I’ve also pitched sessions which was very scary. I totally agree with Sarah N that greater benefit is often had by not going to pitched sessions and to sit around chatting with other like-minded souls. Un-sessions at an Un-conference perhaps, or a wear a badge that says “please talk to me about CPD” or whatever your fancy, and strike up a conversation. Anyway, it was good to chat to yourself and Helen, shame about the rain!

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