Library Camp London

Last Saturday I attended my first ever Library Camp (#libcampldn), at Senate House Library in London. I was drawn to library camp because of its democratic philosopy – anyone can pitch a session, attendees vote with their feet and can leave a session at any time.


  • Creative CPD, Me!
    This was a session I put on the wiki at the last minute, but the idea had been floating around for a long time. While I was doing my Chartership, my attitude to continuing professional development changed, I started to see opportunities in new places. I am going to write a blog post on the session soon, including the notes from the smaller break-out groups’ discussions. Thanks to everyone who came!
  • I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords…: technology, digital libraries, and the future of librarianship, Simon Barron (@SimonXIX)
    Simon’s session began with a short talk, which outlined the background to his talk (he has also written an introductory blog post). Then we broke in to smaller groups and were assigned discussion topics on a shared Google Doc, my group discussed digital information and information overload. All of us deal with digital information in one form or another and many of us commented that one of the challenges of digital information was that librarians and publishers were often applying the principles of print to digital information.
    As well as an engaging topic, Simon was an exemplary facilitator. He reminded everyone of the Twitter hashtag for the day at the start of the session and encouraged us to tweet. He had also prepared a shared Google Doc for the break-out groups to work on in real-time during our discussions, this helped groups to structure our discussions. Simon then brought the groups together for a final round up which, though brief, was very interesting.
  • Library assistants session, Cathryn (@cathrynlol)
    This session was aimed at anyone interested in the role of library assistants. As there was a large group we were broken up in to smaller discussion groups. Mine was a blend of library assistants, former library assistants and people managing library assistants. We spent a lot of time discussing how to balance providing development opportunities and diverse work for library assistants, with not burdening them with work that was really the responsibility of others. I can’t say we solved the problem, but I came away from it with a greater awareness of how to manage staff development and workload.
  • The Sweary Session, Richard Veevers (@RichardVeevers)
    Richard works in a public library and has, like most of us attending the session, been sworn at whilst at work. In this session we shared our experiences of having been verbally abused and how we had dealt with it at the time. One of the hotly debated aspects was around getting back-up from managers. Some had experiences occasions where managers had resolved a situation by giving the user what they wanted, which staff felt undermined them and might send the message to users that if they cause enough of a scene they will get what they want, regardless of the rules. We also discussed that sometimes getting a colleague involved and having a “change of face” was helpful, even if that person was not a manager, because once people have started being rude they may not feel able to back down.
  • Librarians and personality, Rosie Hare (@rosiehare) and Andrew Preater (@preater)
    After an ice-breaker, which was disappointingly uncringeworthy(!), we were broken in to smaller discussion groups. With one side of the room discussing the personality traits that non-librarians would expect of one, and the other side of the room discussing the personality traits actually required for library work. We then reconvened as a larger group to discuss these points. We heard practical examples of how Myers Briggs personality traits can be used to articulate one’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as getting the most out of a team – for example by not giving a “big picture” person something that requires a lot of detail. However, it was still seen as important that people operate outside of their comfort zone sometimes to encourage them to develop. We never settled on how true to life the stereotypical traits ever were, but there was discussion that the variety of roles within LIS work meant that there couldn’t be a homogenous personality type in the profession. The most important thing I took away from the discussion and the test itself was around self-awareness, in terms of thinking about how my personality traits can impact on others and to be aware of the preferences of others in the workplace.

Library camp was not only invigorating, but also liberating. All too often we get fixated on the idea of CPD in order to develop within our current role, essentially to get “better” at our current job. However, Library camp being free, and on a Saturday, meant that the day was solely for me as a professional. I didn’t have to make a case to attend, so I could choose sessions based on my interests rather than ensuring relevance to my role. I wouldn’t have to feed back to my team on what I learned and how I could apply it to my work to demonstrate that it was worthwhile.  But everyone who’s asked me at work if it was worthwhile, I have replied with a resounding “yes”!


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