A network for new and aspiring library professionals

Library Camp 2013 #LibCampUK13

A couple of weekends ago myself, Catherine and hundreds of other librarians/information professionals/graduate trainees/library school students etc. assembled at the newly finished Library of Birmingham (the biggest public library in Europe!) for the 3rd annual Library Camp unconference #LibCampUK13. I was really looking forward to the day as I’ve had to rescind my ticket previously due to other commitments so was determined to go along and get involved!

Even though I have seen the library on the news and on the The Culture Show’s ‘The People’s Palace’ I was in awe of the colossal yet ornate structure. On arrival at the library, the lovely Darren pointed us in the direction of the other library and information professionals waiting in the Lecture Theatre.

The Library of Birmingham

The Library of Birmingham

The day began with a meet and greet session where microphones went round the room and we announced who we were, where we were from and our twitter handles if applicable. After this began the pitches, which set the agenda for the day, with topics including Evidence Based Librarianship, DIY MOOCs for Digital Literacy, Open Source for Libraries, Library Box, Proving the Value of Public Libraries, Create a National Public Library Website, Improving Library Publishing and many more (which can be found here!

The queue to pitch

The queue to pitch

I attended the following sessions: Advanced social media in libraries; Collaboratively creating a MOOC on Digital Literacy; International Librarian Network; Wikipedia, Wikidata, and Open Content; and Catalogues and search interfaces.

List of the days sessions

List of the days sessions

In the first session I attended, Advanced social media in libraries, I quickly became aware how difficult it is to live tweet from an unconference as, from my experience, it can either hinder your input or you join in with the session and don’t tweet (this may explain the lack of tweets on the day)! The session began with one attendee stating that social media is critical to information services, then we went round the circle where everyone said something about social media, after which people could pipe up to engage in conversation and offer advice. The session was heavily focused on Twitter, as it seems most attendees use it to keep abreast of developments in the library world and to interact with their users as it is so immediate. Different ways to use Twitter were suggested, such as the use of characters to make it more interesting or to separate it from yourself e.g. Mr Potatohead used by Hull Library and a Batgirl doll used as a persona. Other useful suggestions proposed were:

  • Use Socialmention* to gather statistics to monitor your social media output[1]
  • Make your Twitter handle visible in your library
  • Find accounts that will retweet you to get your message out
  • Manage social media by using tools such as Hootsuite which allows you to link different platforms if you want to send the same message to all users
  • Set up or facilitate the use of free social media surgeries to offer help – this is imperative as library/info professionals as ‘we don’t hoard information, we give it free’
  • Using irony on twitter to engage with users i.e. mad busy in the library today #deadinhere

The problems attendees face were:

  • Unable to use Twitter in a work capacity as it is banned on campus
  • Centralisation of Twitter accounts can mean focus is only on central libraries and not smaller libraries
  • Different experiences with different forms of social media i.e. more traffic and interactions on one form rather than both


The second session I attended was Collaboratively creating a MOOC on Digital Literacy, where the ‘pitchee’ explained that although there is information out there on digital literacy it is not all in one place! We then went round the circle all saying what the target audience should be. The session was made up attendees from various backgrounds i.e. schools, public, academic and corporate libraries and it was agreed that it should be a resource which could be used by all and that sectors should work together!

Suggestions made during the session:

  • check out #edchatie on Twitter for more information on MOOCs
  • the MOOC should be affiliated by open badges
  • separate it so it can be used by practitioners and users i.e. exercises for the users online followed by face-to-face sessions
  • have a tagline of ‘helping you to help others use information more effectively/responsibly’

MOOC session

Next came lunch which gave myself and Catherine a chance to network, eat (mainly Irish snacks courtesy of NPDIreland) and have a look around the library!

Lunch time!

Lunch time!

Mooching about the library

Mooching about the library

View of the old library

View of the old library

After lunch Catherine and I parted ways and I headed to the International Librarian Network session (note: this is separate to IFLA). I found this to be the most exciting session of the day as it is similar to the work we and others (NPDIreland etc.) do by facilitating communication and using the network to both learn from and help others. The session was led by Ffion Bell who began by explaining the purpose of the network which is to incorporate ‘normal’ librarians and facilitate communication across the globe whilst engaging in mentoring; in essence being assigned a “penfriend” based on your requests.

How it works:

  • In order to be matched to someone you can either state what you require from the other person i.e. a specific sector, language, position or you can leave it blank and someone will be assigned to you at random
  • Once you have been assigned a “penfriend” a coordinator will send a topic for you both to discuss
  • The discussions can take place through whatever means you choose i.e. email, skype, google hangouts, social media etc.

It was great to hear from one attendee currently signed up who has been paired up with a librarian from Kazakhstan. She told us it was a great learning experience as you get the opportunity to learn about other libraries/sectors experience in different countries, where ordinarily you would not get the chance to.

The session ended with a discussion about reaching out to library/information professionals in other countries if you are going on holiday to set up tours – this is something I will definitely do!

The next opportunity to sign up is 8th March 2014 and the programme lasts for six months. If you are interested in joining up or want to promote the network Ffion and Helen Murphy are the UK reps and would be happy to hear from you.

The penultimate session I attended was Wikipedia, Wikidata, and Open Content. This was, I felt, a very one sided view of Wikipedia. In this session we were told that we, as librarians, should:

  • be editing content on Wikipedia with an individual account
  • teach others how to use Wikipedia effectively: using it to find articles then follow the citations

The pitchee stated that Wikipedia is reliable because it is self-working, however, it is not always suitable for certain age groups. There is a way round this, which is to select the option for Simple English to produce content more suitable to younger users.

We were told that:

  • Wikipedia is one of the best encyclopaedias as it provides a good overview on any topic and certain subjects are written by experts
  • it is useful for cataloguing resources as you can use it to find more information on a topic
  • Wikipedia subject headings are used by the BBC for tagging – an example of effective folksonomy
  • it is useful as a starting point to gain knowledge on a subject and then to follow the citations to investigate the subject further
  • promotion and advertising are frowned upon on Wikipedia
  • if you are a beginner at editing pages on Wikipedia visit The Tea House for simple, friendly answers.

The pitchee then spoke about Wikidata and how it centralises access to and management of structured data i.e. simplifying the change process of changing information i.e. population numbers increasing/decreasing can be changed in all entries that mention this by changing the template.

Wiki session

Wiki session

The last session of the day I attended was Catalogues and search interfaces, however, after an early start and having indulged in lots of snacks I was feeling quite lethargic so didn’t take too many notes. The session began with one of the pitchees showing us a library catalogue he created which showed a record as a book on a book shelf. Followed by this, the second pitchee sought to find a solution to bad metadata at the institute he worked at, to ensure effective usability, and asked if anyone knew of a quick solution to this. Unfortunately, nobody had the answer to this but the following suggestions were offered:

  • there should be a fix this record button to alert staff to the problem
  • staff and students should be made aware of who to contact/notify if a record is incorrect
  • free tools from The National Library of Finland allow you to identify cataloguing errors
  • MARC changes generally produce errors so are something to look out for
  • other errors to look out for are spelling differences between languages i.e. Shakespearean English.

#LibCampUK13 ended with the announcement of the winners of the cake competition and a massive round of applause for the organisers. After this, once the library was empty, those who were still about headed up to the Rotunda bar  to finish the day with more networking and drinks! A fabulous end to a brilliant day! I am already looking forward to next year’s #libcamp!!


Refreshements on the train home

Refreshments on the train home

[1] Social Mention is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information including: Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google etc.


One comment on “Library Camp 2013 #LibCampUK13

  1. Pingback: Get involved with the International Librarians Network (ILN) | NLPN

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This entry was posted on December 22, 2013 by in National/International events & conferences and tagged , , .

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