This is a long overdue blog about my experience of library camp, it was nearly a month ago now but life has been busy and luckily I did make some notes on the day to refresh my memory. At the end of Library Camp I remember feeling so drained, not because it had been a long, boring day, quite the opposite; the day was so packed and my brain became a bit overwhelmed! That coupled with an extremely early start and lots of cake consumed followed by a hard sugar come down!
I had heard so much about Library Camp 2011 I couldn’t miss the opportunity this year. Personally, I wanted to go because I had never been to an ‘unconference’ before; it sounded fun not knowing exactly what you were going to learn about that day. I saw it as a chance to meet more people in the information world (generally termed ‘networking’ but perhaps that is too formal for an unconference) and also a chance to learn more about what’s going on in other sectors. Working in the third sector it is difficult for me to keep up with what is going on in public, academic sectors etc- the news and twitter can only tell you so much.
So I arrived (a little bit late due to train delays) and the proposals had already begun with a few interesting ones had already being pitched, I just hoped that there wouldn’t be any clashes in talks I wanted to go to. Unfortunately there were clashes but with the power that is twitter I was able to see what was going on in the talks that I was missing whilst being present in the other ones!
The first talk I attended attempted to address the question, “What are libraries for?”. This was hosted by people who did not appear to know everything about the library and information world (but then, does anyone really know everything about it?) but there was enough of us there to discuss the problem and highlight the different values and skills we all have. It was refreshing that someone was there who wasn’t in the library and information sector but was looking for a librarian to run his new business – refreshing in the sense3 that someone realised the value and skills that a librarian has and felt he needed a librarian to run his particular business venture. Somewhat oddly there was also a person who appeared to attend all unconferences going, no reason why not I suppose they are free for all to attend, but I wonder what you can actually gain from doing s?. He seemed fascinated that most of us were making notes on pen and paper rather than via ipads, he wondered whether this reflected the nature of the librarian until the majority of us pointed out that this was down to the poor wifi network within the building leaving most of us unable to use electronic devices throughout the day.
The second session I attended was run by UKLibChat. UKLibChat is something I try to participate in when I can but often don’t get the chance. This session discussed the role of the information professional. There were people there that I recognise from twitter who I’m sure also contribute to #uklibchat and I actually found it quite nice to have the discussion face to face in a room rather than online.
The session run by @libmichelle on working abroad was also interesting. I have often wondered about working abroad, and what opportunities there are from a LIS point of view. Michelle was really helpful in sharing her experiences and the additional costs and admin that are involved when working abroad. Other people in the session were also interested in working abroad (though they have been far more proactive than me so far) and reminded me of LibEx which, although not ready to leave right now, may be something to look into in the future.
Looking back I’m not sure I got exactly what I expected from Library Camp. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and discuss the library and information world whilst also catching up with peers you already know, but for me I still felt something was lacking. I think it might be due to my rarer role in the information world; coming from a third sector charity organisation that does not have a physical library or traditional user base I felt I could not fully relate to many of the sessions or contribute due to my lack of understanding of the politics and regulations currently going on in other sectors (mainly public and academic) and therefore it was more of a learning opportunity for me rather than an interaction. Due to this I would have liked to attend @theatregrad’s session on “Librarians without libraries” but unfortunately it clashed with another session. This led me to conclude that should I ever find myself at an unconference again I would certainly make a pitch to explain my role and problems that we have within our sector. I find learning about peoples roles in public and academic sectors interesting, and therefore hope people would be interested to hear about the third sector and less traditional roles as some people may not be aware of how far the ‘librarian’ role can extend.