Library Camp 2012- Enlightening!

Following on from VALA, an unconference or Library Camp was organised at the University of Melbourne. Nearly 200 attendees attended from academic, school, public and special libraries. It was free for delegates, thanks to sponsorship from libraries across Australia.

The day was a chance to extend discussions that had arisen from the previous three days, or to facilitate discussions on whatever took your fancy. The ideas were crowd-sourced and people then voted on the topics they wanted to hear discussed. There was also the opportunity to hear lightning talks of 3 minute presentations from delegates.

These were the sessions which had the greatest imapct for me:

Professional Reading in the National Year of Reading.

While the National Year of Reading is strongly focused on the recreational reading habits of Australians and to promote literacy, it was believed that this was a chance to promote reading of professional literature amongst library staff.In the midst of working and serving and reacting to our user’s needs, our own needs to continue learning about our own professional environment are often pushed aside. One delegate said she had to give herself permission to read for 10 minutes at the end of the day.

An online journal club was mooted, which sounds promising. It’s an idea which could be taken back to our places of work to get other staff reading more professional material- and not just the latest copy of incite. With aspects of librarianship becoming increasingly specialised, professional reading can often mean reading something which doesn’t appear in a library journal/website. If professional reading was tailored to a person’s specific interest and incorporated into their work day, perhaps more reading would get done?

Jason Griffey presented footage and discussed his time at the Consumer Electronics Expo in Las Vegas, which had 165,000 attendees. He was one of 6 librarians who attended (there really needs to be a greater acceptance of librarians attending non-library related activities to think outside the circle). He saw a tablet which could be powered by a handcrank, aimed at users in very romote places, and a Lytro camera which would never give you an out of focus shot again, through its plenoptic lens.

Librarians as researchers, or basically the need for librarians to undertake research as a means of getting published and achieving recognition as academics. While this has an academic library perspective, more librarians need to contribute to the profession by writing of their own expertise and applying research methods that they themselves try to instil in students. It often comes down to finding the time (this post was written over ten days in spits and spurts on the train and at home) and having the support of your parent organisation.

The lightning talks were…enlightening!

Amy from Melbourne City Libraries spoke of the experience of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer attending a library event, simply on the basis that they were asked. Lesson learned : Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Carolyn McDonald spoke of innovation and how people strive to be innovative, when in fact you should be thinking about the goals you wish to achieve. Innovation shouldn’t be your goal. Lesson learned: don’t do something just because it’s cool, but because it has a purpose and use.

At the end of the day the question was asked- What will you take away from this day? For me it was faces of people whom I had gotten to know very well on Twitter- this was another reason why I enjoyed my day at VALA. I ended up using the law of two feet and having a coffee and chat with Kate before heading to the Melbourne Uni Bookshop for a browse before appearing at afternoon tea.

Another thing  I took from that day was the pleasure of heading back to my old uni, at which I had the best time 20 years ago. I retraced my steps past Wilson Hall, through the Old Law quadrangle (I’m so old I remember when the law school was actually there!), through the Old Arts building, said a brief hello to Babel, the language building, then down the slope to the Baillieu Library.

The last aspect I took from that day was a question. How do you engage the staff who don’t have the opportunity or inclination to attend workshops? How do you get people enthused about seeking out professional development? To some staff, professional development is about being trained, or sitting passively in a room watching a demonstration. The challenge is to demonstrate the merits of professional development to a work force which is concerned with focusing on the present rather than the future.

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