Friday, 13 July 2012


Saturday 7th July 2012 saw the first ever Libcamp in the southwest; our very own little sister to the national Libcamp.  It was a wet and windy day (when isn't it?) and unfortunately some attendees were unable to come, being stuck in Honiton.  Fortunately there were only a few minor delays on the line from Cornwall so I arrived at the Xfi building at Exeter University with time to get my Ipad connected to their wifi and to ogle the amazing array of cakes which was steadily growing!

I had my first moment of panic when Claire (one of the organizers) announced that we were to each introduce ourselves to everybody else (first panic - speaking in front of people), then handed over the microphone (second panic.....).  Once all 40 odd librarians (and one non-librarian) had introduced themselves, it was time for pitching workshops.  I had already pitched an idea on the wiki,, but panic number 3 set in just as I bravely took the microphone again and nervously suggested that it would be good to talk about how libraries and librarians were using mobile devices - Ipads, tablets, smartphones etc.  That moment of pressure over, I then had the rest of the day to worry as to whether anybody would turn up to my proposed workshop as it was placed near the end of the day. 

Just for anybody who might be wondering why this didn't sound like a normal conference, let me show you what it was all about ....(from

"Library Camp SW will 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."

The first session I chose was on looking at children's services, specifically that of public libraries, but the discussion soon morphed into more of a general consideration as to how do you reach young people in the first place, then get them through the door and finally keeping them!  It was also interesting to hear the views of public librarians who use schools as the medium for reaching young people, many positive stories, but a few frustrations especially in the secondary sector which I could empathise with; pressures of teachers to get results doesn't always mean they have the time to do all those other things they would like to do.  The second session was an informal chartership chat which was great as I found that everybody has the same problems as I do; trying to get your portfolio done whilst holding down your full time job is hard.  It was also interesting to have a mentor as part of this group as we were able to hear from their perspective, especially the different ways in how mentors mentor.  Assigning chilli levels to each mentor on the CILIP website denoting levels of strictness was suggested!  One great outcome of this session was a regular Plymouth Chartership meet up #chartershippub and I am looking forward to our first 'date' later this month.  Hopefully this will keep us all on the straight and narrow and not the scenic route!  Thank you @annetteearl, @calire and @claireStevens.  We just need to keep asking 'so what'?

After a fabulous lunch (Libcampsw was sponsored by SWRLS, CILIPSW, Arts Council and OCLC, wild boar sausages and more cake, I attended a session on engaging people who don't use our libraries.  Having refreshed my memory by taking a look at the #libcampsw tweets, there were some great ideas suggested from Plymouth Libraries introducing a monthly email bulletin and sending to all users (a good discussion came out of this on using our user data more wisely), to a 'tell a friend' schemes whereby promotional material is given to regular users who then pass it on to friends etc. We discussed Twitter and Facebook as a means of getting to your library users and keeping them updated; several libraries/authorities are well down this road by now.  I also was interested to hear about a cross sector library group which meets regularly in Exeter to share ideas etc and we all agreed that one of the biggest barriers to libraries is that people still don't actually realise they are free!  The final session I attended (not of the day - I had to leave a bit early to get my train), was the one I pitched on using mobile devices in libraries.  Extremely relieved to find people turned up as the session on your Dream Library was very popular, I began by sharing how I have been using Ipads, Kindles and tablets in my school library and the discussion was taken up by several HE Librarians who shared how they were using tablets, specifically Ipads, so as to be roving Librarians which meant that could be amongst their users on the 'shop floor' if you like, not stuck behind a desk and not having to return to a PC to answer queries.  We also discussed the digital divide, but that of staff; those staff who are experienced and confident enough to use technology and those staff who require additional support and training.  A Gadget Day was suggested for the south west enabling library staff to have a 'play' on different technologies, including social media therefore enabling good practice and expertise to be shared informally.  Using QR codes was a popular discussion as well; promoting author events, bookmarks in books linking to the online version etc.  One tweet which came out of the session asked whether mobile devices are a distraction in a learning environment and this really struck a chord with me in particular being in a school.  We also decided that it was now acceptable to tweet at meetings, conferences etc and discussed the changes in the way in which we view and use technology as a society; one person shared how a few years ago he would have begun any training session with the words 'please switch off your mobile phones' and how different it is nowadays with people even using their tweets as the basis of their note taking and using Storify for example to curate them afterwards.

Although I had to leave before the last session finished, I was really pleased to drop-in on a discussion on 'what's next for #libcampsw as everybody seemed to have really positive feedback on the day.  I really hope that there will be another library camp in the south west and in the meantime look forward to keeping in contact with new colleagues on Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. Great blogpost! Hope to see you at the next libcampsw.