Last Saturday I went to Libcampnw, the first mini library camp in Manchester. I was involved in the organisation of it, working with Sue (@shedsue) and Richard (@richardveevers). I think it was a great success, and I enjoyed the planning process as well as the event itself. Thanks to both Sue and Richard, the people at Madlab (who, thanks to Sue’s persuasive skills, gave us the venue for free), and also all the participants and session facilitators for making it so good! The photos that were taken with my camera are on Facebook. The event wiki with session notes and more is on wikispaces.
I have been speaking to some work colleagues and we are thinking of hosting a mini library camp in Leeds. Who would be interested to come, and would you prefer a Thursday or a Saturday? Also, who would be interested in a mini library camp just for public library people (and those passionate about public libraries)? Can you offer a free venue for up to 50 people?
The following are my notes from the day. If you haven’t been to a library camp or un-conference before, here’s a link to explain a little what happens: http://www.librarycamp.co.uk/librarycamp
Session 1: Central library vs. branch libraries, pitched by @theatregrad
- library resources: where do they do the most good? In a branch library or in a central location -> depends on the resource and how it can be shared. Can it be cost-effective and is it affordable?
- is it “better” to close a branch library instead of refurbishing it -> look at opening times that accommodate the community, where does the money some from (can funding be sought)
- some public library users in the group felt that their local authority needed to be better at communicating/explaining their decisions, to be more open and take public’s needs into consideration
- do we actually know why people use the library, what they come for?
- do we see the library as a community space, with an important social aspect? -> harder for a central/city centre library to be a community space as community is not clearly defined
- central expertise needs to spread into branch libraries -> more travel, outreach, road shows
- branches need to be tailored to their community, not just be a scaled down version of central library
- statistcs don’t prove the social aspect -> it becomes harder to prove need of the space -> think homeless newspaper readers in a central library
- Manchester is currently restructuring to be able to offer bespoke service to branch libraries -> great idea, I would like to know more!
- to get use out of your libraries’ online resources you need to train your (potential) users
- does central library have the same training potential as a branch library that can adapt services to their community -> maybe not, also because not everybody can get there
- central library very much a prestige thing
- central library can be very intimidating for (new) users -> old buildings create barriers but there is also potential here: get people in for the historical aspect
- signage is very important! also: should library staff wear uniforms? -> Bolton have abolished uniforms because of cost cuttings -> staff not always obvious enough to users though and users might walk out unsatisfied
- install confidence in your users by helping them, training them -> train your staff first, so they can help people
- the digital future: who gets excluded and how can libraries work on inclusion?
- digital libraries mainly aimed at Windows users -> do libraries have to staff expertise to change this?
- some library authorities, e.g Trafford, looking at uploading content on to people’s devices -> looking forward to hearing more
- other services ideas: tech support desk, music practice rooms -> get people to come to the library for un-library stuff! Be the living room of your city!
- shared services, e.g. share with registry office
- use of volunteers: volunteers need to enhance not replace -> what does a volunteer coordinator do?
Session 2: Public reference libraries – keep or abolish?, pitched by me
- the reference library as a physical space -> stepping into the past: positive when managed and stocked well -> can be a sacred space
- stock is often things that are not online, specialised, tactile
- another important use: local knowledge, community information, community services = local reference
- need to use the space to its best: e.g. run workshops, offer space to community groups
- work with other groups, promote other uses, .e.g. eco-literacy
- non-fiction reading groups
- business use: patents, IP, inventors
- example: Sheffield references library also includes art, music and social sciences stock, not just information generally
- some public libraries do not have a separate reference department now: reference stock is shelved within non-fiction lending stock
- try and get hold of university’s and college’s reading lists -> promote the stock that you hold that could be useful for students -> e.g. via twitter
- hold events
- have expert staff!
- library staff who don’t normally work in the reference library can be apprehensive when asked to work there -> fear of not knowing -> training needed
- encourage studying
- promote digital literacy -> great idea, would like to explore further
- experience: not enough demand for specialised sessions, apart from IP
- often what is classed as reference stock would be more useful to the public as lending stock -> what do you do about that? Is price the main reason to make something a reference copy now? -> stock criteria/strategy seem to differ in different authorities
- online resources only get used when enough training is offered, to both public and staff -> reassure people it’s okay not to know things
- why not run workshops on content creation -> for campaigns, fundraising, links with local groups -> e.g. Sheffield Access Space
- take the reference library elsewhere -> pop-up libraries, road shows, take iPads and stock to events to show -> great idea, would like to explore further
- need to market services within building and library service first -> surprising how little other staff know -> look into staff exchanges
- the group liked the idea of embedded librarians but we weren’t quite sure what it means -> anyone?
Session 3: Staff training, pitched by me
- problem with training budgets: often if you can’t afford it yourself you can’t go
- learn from other people/colleagues, shadowing
- focus on training and training needs in appraisals -> try and fit your needs into strategic plans to get what you want
- take an organisational development approach, rather than a personal one
- take people’s outside interests into consideration -> your staff might know things that are useful for the service but that you don’t know about
- staff time -> think about benefits to organisation, contacts made, change something as a result of training attended -> cascade your knowledge
- benefit from in-house training, cross-sector approach and regional training offers
- offer a venue and let trainers come to you -> cost savings
- get involved with professional organisations, network!
- go for bursaries -> not a lot of people do, so lots up for grabs
- convince managers that your staff need training -> don’t wait for them to come to you!
Session 4: The little things, pitched by @spoontragedy
This was a session about everything, from toilets via signage to mentoring.
- public buildings should open up their toilets
- people’s behaviour turns others off from using the library -> keep them in check -> get a full-time caretaker
- keep the social aspect of libraries in mind
- think about what is needed when extending opening hours: bins, more toilet roll, etc.
- user complaints often carry more weight than staff comments
- what do you call your users? -> university community, readers, borrowers, users, customers, ladies, patrons
- Teesside University library has no access restrictions -> great idea for sharing services
- jargon/terminology -> needs to be useful/relevant to system user
- strategic plans vs. day-to-day operations
- ideal: bosses with open-door policy -> often people still won’t talk because they see status before person -> your director is human
- two-way communication important -> it’s okay to tell you boss stuff
- make an appointment with whoever you want to speak to
- mentor someone to learn about management and being in that position (small scale)
Some other bits from sessions I overheard:
- frontline staff are regarded as “librarians” -> does the public need to know job roles? Does it matter?
- take ownership of what you do!
- management want to push content but be in control at the same time -> difficult position for staff to be in when updating websites etc.
- all you need for a successful library camp is running water, a toilet and ideally wifi -> do it!