This is a long overdue post on my very own reasons of getting involved with library camps. Library camps (and the people that I met through them) have helped me to regain my enthusiasm for library work and libraries, and also pushed me to aim higher.
I was at a point where I needed to meet some people to tell me I’m not mad, wanting to make things more open and clear in libraries, and just try something new once in a while, using common sense. I needed to feel that I’m not strange when I say that we must listen to our colleagues, even though they might be on a lower pay scale. That doesn’t mean that they know less. Counter staff know so much more about what customers want than anyone who sits in an office most of the time. Often when I attended conferences there were only one of two layers of staff – where were the people facing the users every day?!
Where I was based at the time staff morale was in danger, because of changes and other things that were happening in various teams, as well as (overdue) library closures. Staff training wasn’t happening as much as was needed (or desired), staff expertise was lost due to early retirement and voluntary redundancies, budgets were cut (as everywhere) and a lot of things took too long for my liking (if you know me you know I can be patient…).
I was very much looking forward to going to my first library camp as I would meet a lot of people in person who I regarded (and still regard) as some sort of mentors to me online. Some of them probably still don’t know how much they have helped me by being there when I needed someone to make me feel sane and vent my frustrations (and have someone listen to my ideas). I also loved the idea that there were no rules about who could attend or what would be discussed!
At my first library camp I met people who needed library camps as much as I did, for all sorts of reasons (one being cake recipes), and I knew there were more people on twitter who could not attend the event in Birmingham. So I got involved with organising camps in Manchester and Leeds, which was fun and also gave me useful experience in event planning, marketing and analysing results to report back to library management. Every library camp has been different, with different people, different ideas, different motivations, different cakes and different outcomes.
Library camps reinforced that I actually have something worthwhile to contribute to the profession, and I am grateful to the people who started library camps for helping me realise that and giving me the opportunity to get involved.