Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Library Camp 2011

Last weekend I attended Library Camp UK 2011 in Birmingham, my first experience of an unconference (or any type of conference in fact).
An unconference works on the principle that participants decide on the programme at the beginning of the event (people had been posting suggestions on the Library Camp wiki in the run up to the day) and that all attendees get the opportunity to contribute to the discussions.
The idea is based on “Open Space Technology” (Harrison Owen) which has four main principles and one law:-
  1. Whoever comes is the right people
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time
  4. When it’s over, it’s over 
Law of two feet: If, during the course of the gathering, any person finds him or herself in any situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they must use their two feet and go to some more productive place.
(Library Camp website)
Courtesy of Dave & Bry's Flickr stream
I was a little nervous about attending because I like structure and organisation and the unconference style doesn’t really fit that format.  I was also nervous because I’d never even been to a traditional conference before, and I was worried that I would find it all a bit overwhelming and over my head.  However, a lot of people on Twitter mentioned feeling the same way which helped bolster my confidence, and there was a growing sense of excitement in the twitterverse from attendees. 

The day started with everyone introducing themselves (in which I learned an awful lot of librarians are called Sarah!) which was time consuming, but I think it did help to break the ice.  Then came the pitches, followed by a short break to let the organisers sort out the timetable of sessions.  In an effort to force myself to get more involved I had put a proposal on the wiki the week before the event, but in the end I didn’t pitch it as there were a few other pitches on similar(ish) themes (and, if I’m truthful because I wimped out!).

The timetable board courtesy of The Lizard Lounge

The sessions I attended were;
Real social networks
Special collections
New library models
Wikipedia & wiki commons
Social media and #uklibchat
I will blog about the individual sessions later, but here are some of my general thoughts from the day.

My overall experience of Library Camp and meeting so many library folk for the first time wasn’t as scary as I’d imagined.  It might have been nice to have more time in advance to consider the different sessions, as it did feel like a free for all getting to the timetable board in between each session.  And there definitely wasn’t enough time for everything, I didn’t get to talk to nearly as many people as I would have liked.  I also wished some of the sessions were longer, some subjects really felt like they need more than just 45 minutes.  Although that might not have been such a good idea, as by the end of the day my head was spinning from all the information I had taken in.

The highs
  • The venue; it was clean and bright, with a never ending supply of coffee.  It was also really easy to find thanks to all the information put up on the wiki
  • All the cakes; there was so much more cake there than I was anticipating
  • Meeting loads of lovely people; I got to meet people I only knew from blogs and Twitter, catch up with people I already knew and meet lots of new ones as well
  • Learning about other sectors; I was the only museum librarian there, so it was a great opportunity to learn more about other sectors of the profession
  • That it was held on a Saturday rather than mid-week, so I was actually able to attend
  • All the chatter on Twitter, before, during and after the event helping foster a real sense of community

The lows
  • Realising that I do in fact have a limit to how much cake I can consume
  • That there were so many people, and so little time to meet them all
  • Not getting to all the sessions I would have liked to because of scheduling clashes (although that’s where the session notes section of the wiki will come in very handy)
  • The early start; I should have gone up the night before, I’ll know for next time!

All in all, I had a great day; I felt there was a real buzz and sense of enthusiasm at Library Camp.  I left feeling motivated and full of ideas, so roll on Library Camp 2012!


  1. Blast! I would have liked to have said hello to you properly... And we were in a coouple of the same sessions, too. Ah well, such is life, I suppose. Hopefully there'll be a chance again in the future.


  2. I know what you mean, I thought I would have had more time to talk to people between sessions, but somehow it never seemed to work out that way. Perhaps we should have had a session just for chatting and catching up!