LibCamp2011, Birmingham, UK

Last week I have participated Library Camp UK 2011. Main reasons were:

  • It was free
  • It happened in Birmingham
  • I like un-conference format
  • Librarians were asked to bring cakes to share

I couldn’t participate the events before or after the conference, but I still managed to meet some new people. It is always interesting to have a look around and find some people from events/conferences you have visited before. Librarians have very interesting sense of style that can vary from strict office-look to purple hair and weird accessories. They also have great sense of humour with ability to make up some new profession related phrases (“Go Book Yourself ” was my personal favourite from LibCamp). Also I got a small i-pad envy, as so many people were comfortably using them (but I still don’t think I would really need one).

One of the main activities at arrival was to look around and see how many interesting cakes have been baked by librarians.

Me and Dace also brought a fruit pretzel (Dace’s work of art). My favourite was the beetroot cake – mostly because it was the most original one. After such degustation sandwiches seemed redundant. I also liked that coffee supply was endless.

Un-conference format is perfect for development of new ideas and being involved.

“Library Camp was run as an “unconference” where participants decide on the programme at the beginning of the event, working on the principle that the sum of the knowledge, experience and expertise of the people in the room is likely to be greater than that of those on the stage at traditional conferences.
The idea is based on “Open Space Technology” (Harrison Owen) which has four main principles and one law:-

1. Whoever comes is the right people
2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
3. Whenever it starts is the right time
4. When it’s over, it’s over

Law of two feet: If, during the course of the gathering, any person finds him or herself in any situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they must use their two feet and go to some more productive place.”

As there are no presentations but only a lively discussion about participant recommended topics, there is no barrier between different social statuses or age groups. Everyone can feel equal. All have their own unique experience and it is interesting to share. There are several topics discussed at the same time and anyone can choose which could be the most interesting one. Each session gives many new ideas.

I the first session I chose discussion about Real Life Social Networks in libraries. The main point of discussion was the problematic situation in public libraries. It seems that there is still a lack of direct communication between librarians and patrons. Many librarians are too busy with other tasks and don’t pay enough attention to human communication factor. This problem could be solved with friendlier attitude and smiling. Zoning in the library is also an important part of making the library more welcoming for discussions and breaking stereotypes about being a “quiet place to store books”. Library users should be looked at as customers.

In the second session the discussion was about Games and Gamification in libraries. I think it is a great idea to make libraries gamer-friendly by allowing and organising game tournaments and setting special computers for playing games. Games should be looked at as a great tool for training and development of new skills. Libraries should develop simple games for teaching information literacy and how to use library catalogues and databases. Also reading could become a game – getting points for each book you read, special points for books from different fields of interest and extra points for comments. The possibilities are endless.

The third discussion was about Retail Techniques in libraries. Libraries should be looked at more as customer-oriented places. The same tricks that work on buyer’s psychology could work on library users. Putting books in more presentable way, zoning, special book displays, putting information material near the queuing area, self-service, putting baskets for borrowing books and many other ideas can be “borrowed” from shopping centres. Also 1 working day a month should be used for the librarians to become library users. It is a good way to spot errors. Eating and having coffee in the library should also be allowed as it doesn’t really cause too much problems. Learning café concept becomes more and more popular. It also helps to change the rusty perception of what a library is. You can read more about this topic here.

Fourth session was less discussion based but not less interesting – about Wikipedia, Creative Commons and QRpedia. Main principles and ideas of using Wikipedia for putting articles about museum exhibits or  perhaps book authors was an interesting perspective. As suggested, everyone should “lose their Wikipedia virginity” by finding and correcting an error on Wikipedia. Interesting is the fact that Wikipedia has fewer errors than Encyclopaedia Britannica. People are also encouraged to send in open license material for the world to discover, it will also bring in promotional credit to the institution sharing their treasures. Another idea is to make QR codes with a link to Wikipedia articles. It can be used for promoting books, authors or exhibits. Of course, a good advantage of Wikipedia is the language variety.

In the last session Advertising Libraries was the main topic. It seems that many people don’t realise advantages of using a library. People are not aware of events and services provided by the local library. Much more effort should be put into outreach.It seems that too may people are just working in the library without any interest or passion and the staff training and attitude issues were brought up.  Social networks are a great way to promote libraries, but too much control over the librarians blogging or tweeting about libraries they work in can be a huge turn-off. Libraries should find a balance between formal approach and open-minded way of doing things.

Altogether the conference was a great success and I would love to participate in the next one.

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