Yesterday I travelled to a very hot and sunny Horsforth for Library Camp Leeds. Library Camps use an un-conference format which is very informal and encourages participants to propose and choose session topics on the day. Its based on Open Space Technology. This was my first Library Camp and at first I was a little unsure as to the setup; it all seemed a bit chaotic for someone who thrives on structure and routine but I ended up liking the relaxed atmosphere (including setting up Camp in the local park!)
Of the many proposed sessions I attended four: Twitter behaviour; fun and games in libraries; accessibility for library users with hidden disabilities and new professionals in Latvia and the UK.
Carly proposed the session on how our behaviour on Twitter (and other social networks) can impact the way we are perceived and our professional lives. Three themes emerged from the discussions:
- One, what you say online can and probably will be read by your current employers, your potential employers, your colleagues, your peers, and your friends so choose what you say wisely. Its easy to get a sense of someone (both good and bad) from their Tweets.
- Two, there is the possibility of a divide forming between young people who appreciate how to use social media and those who don’t. It was suggested that parents who don’t use social media in their jobs won’t be able to inform their children about the pitfalls of misusing social media and being too open online. These young people could well be disadvantaged in the job market because of their online activities.
- Three, there are many positives to Twitter such as the advertisement of jobs that you may not see elsewhere; problem solving and trouble shooting; feeling more included in your profession; knowing people online first makes conferences and events less intimidating and it can validate similar issues professionals are facing.
I was intrigued by Andrew’s session on Fun and Games in Libraries as I’m currently tasked with improving our information skills training sessions at work and thought I could harness some of his ideas. The idea around gamification is to make commonplace activities (such as information skills training in this case) more engaging by introducing fun and play elements to them. This in turn enhances deep learning and reflection. I was a bit dubious as to how this could work with my library’s users (professional healthcare staff) but Andrew offered the idea of leadership boards to encourage competitive use of the library. I could see how this could work and will definitely see if I can start something like this at my library.
After lunch Camp was moved outside into the simmering heat (my sunburnt shoulders are testament to the fact that I never remember suncream even though I am a pale freckly being!)
Penny led a session on Accessibility issues for people with hidden disabilities such as autism, dyspraxia and epilepsy. Penny argued that those who are high-functioning will often not have any specialist help offered to them as its perceived that they don’t need it. Inclusivity and accessibility is helpful to all library users as everyone needs clear unambiguous signage, dedicated quiet areas and good lighting. Being proactive is always better than reacting to a problem once its been pointed out to you. The general consensus was that if something is irritating or affecting you (flickering lights, noisy ‘quiet’ areas, heavy doors, badly signposted sections, nowhere for users to sit for e.g.) just think how it might then be ten times worse for someone with a disability of any kind. The best kind of supportive resources for people with disabilities tend to be the ones that everyone either wants or can use (such as iPads). Creating specialist tools or resources isn’t truly inclusive. Penny also suggested that charity websites tend to be the best places to research how libraries can make their service inclusive for all people.
And lastly Dace proposed a discussion about New Professionals. Dace is chair of the New Professional section of the Library Association of Latvia which was founded by six students (of which she was one) and now has fifteen members. In Latvia a tiny minority of all library professionals are new professionals; there is only one institution that teaches academic librarianship qualifications and of the 25 graduates in 2008 only 8 went on to work in libraries. (Ned Potter recently visited Latvia to speak about the profession to Information Science students and to see how well the Latvian public library system works.) It seems that Latvian libraries are hugely respected by the people and the media yet very few undergraduates and even fewer postgraduates go on to work in them which is the opposite of what has happened in the UK. The government, media and general public has a rather apathetic view of libraries yet library qualifications (especially postgraduate) are very popular. This is likely to change with the rising fees of postgraduate study and the lack of post-qualification professional jobs; something that CILIP, universities and library employers need to be addressing. Since 2008/9 new professionalism has snowballed but there are still issues that people feel need addressing to support people entering the profession such as:
- Awards aimed at new professionals should be more widely promoted
- Conferences, events and workshops should be cheaper (or free) for students and recent graduates without jobs
- CILIP membership fees seem unfair. The jump between the student price and the employed price is huge.
- Practical ‘real world’ library management/professional skills are often not included in postgraduate courses
- Many people see CILIP as a passive organisation not supporting a sometimes demoralised section of its profession
- Links between European and UK new professional organisations should be encouraged and good ideas should be replicated. For e.g. Latvia has a ‘library marathon’ and many countries are involved with Cycling for Libraries
All in all an intriguing day meeting very enthusiastic library people. I’ve got my eye on the main Library Camp on the 13th October!