Library camp Brunel

Though I sadly missed last year’s library camp I had heard enough good things about it to immediately sign up to Library Camp Brunel when I heard about it. A mini version of library camp, it fortuitously took place on the same day as LibcampNW, happening in Manchester. LibcampBrunel is an unconference, my first, unconference.net describes them as ‘like a conference, only better’, and considering my lukewarm opinion of my first conference I had high hopes.

Getting to Brunel University, in Uxbridge, took a long time, not helped by the dreaded planned engineering works, but once I got to the campus it was really easy to find the library. The seminar room had a Wild West theme, as did the organisers, lots of checked shirts and cowboy boots, even some chaps. The cowboy-themed schedule and country music playing all helped reinforce the running joke that we were in deepest, darkest West London.

I had seen pictures of #cakecamp at Library Camp, and though the amount of cake didn’t quite equal that there was still a lot of cake, and cookies and a whole variety of savoury food. Being able to have proper coffee and doughnuts while waiting for everyone to arrive meant I spent the next couple of hours on a major caffeine and sugar high.

The unconference style of even became obvious as the introductions spontaneously turned into pitches, but the planning of what sessions took place when was brilliant, rather than having to trust to organiser’s decisions we made the schedule ourselves, and with a bit of haggling settled on something everyone seemed to be happy with. Not only was it fairer than a normal conference, it seemed to break the ice really well, making us work together without having to do stupid co-operation exercises.

The first session I went to was about social media and QR codes, I’ve been trying rather haphazardly to get more into social media so this session made perfect sense. I didn’t write who proposed the session, but that Rob Wannerton, of Brunel university, had wanted to talk about, as did others, and the session was well attended.  The discussion started with talking about Twitter, the problems of having and not having it, and of persuading library management to allow it to be used. The fact that Cilip recommend it is a major way of selling it to management, but the problems of monitoring and updating it, and the need for quick answers were raised.

I was especially interested in the mention of LemonTree, run by the University of Huddersfield, who apparently everyone is in awe of when it comes to social media, especially as I had actually stumbled upon it a few days ago, and am really liking the idea of gamification. Another thing I hadn’t known about was Oxford having an instant messenger in the catalogue so students can ask a librarian questions, and Senate House reducing the number of day’s they closed several floors because of protests by students on their facebook change. This is all social media having a real effect on people.

The second half of the session was about QR codes, and slightly over my head, I’d only fairly recently worked out what they are, and I don’t have a smart phone so I can’t use them. This was one of the points raised, and it seemed to be a generally accepted thing that information should never just be available in one form, though I love the idea of a QR code leading to a map of the library reader’s can  then walk around with. I also like the idea of being able to show visual demonstrations of how to use photocopiers, because misused photocopies is something I spend a lot of time telling readers about.

After the first session we had lunch, which was very tasty, and I found someone to talk to about book moves, so hopefully I’ll be getting some handy hints, I hadn’t even thought about the need for masks because of the dust that might be being raised. The graduate trainees all sat together over lunch, lots of discussion of applications and courses, but also lots of nice general chat.

The second session was held by Andrew Preator, who works at Senate House, and was entitled ‘grouse about next-gen catalogues’. I’ve only briefly used a next-gen catalogue, without really knowing about all the stuff they can do, and what I have at work is not next-gen at all, in fact it’s a bit awkward to use unless you know what you’re doing, but I was interested to hear what other people had to say. I like the idea of improving upon search results, and making better use of metadata, but the problem was raised of not having good quality meta-data in the first places, which brings to mind images of having to re-catalogue thousands of books. A lot of the technical stuff that was talked about was a bit too much for me, though interesting, such as using open-source software to make a nice front-end that the users will see, with the next-gen catalogue behind it. However, that does remind me that I really should learn at least some basic coding skills and so on.

The last section was by Frank Norman, from the National Institute of Medical Research, and was about ebooks. This is something that has been being discussed quite a lot at the NAL recently, so I was interested to hear how libraries that have implamented ebooks are finding them. Frank stated by saying that a large amout of the stock at NMR is journals, which makes a lot of sense, and that they are steadily heading from being paper-based to digital. A lot of the discussion was about the fact that ebooks come in many different formats, and on many different platforms, reading fiction on a KIndle would have a whole different way of setting up to work in a library than using journals with tablets or using a service to create living books of all the information needed from different sources. This was a new idea for me, but I can see how useful it could be in an academic setting, and textbooks becoming outmoded would not be a bad thing for many students I’m sure, I was lucky to not need to buy many or take them to classes with me often. Apple are roumered to be releasing textbook software, with the aim of saving students or schools money, and making textbooks more relevant. The problem of pirating was discussed, apparently there are easily available versions of ebooks on the internet, and the question of ebooks meaning the end of collections was asked. The andswer from several people was no, because especiallly academic libraries already know they won’t be keeping their collections forever. This did sound a bit odd to me, as that is precisely what the NAl has done.

Finally, there was a summing up session where we said thank you to the organisors, ate more cake, and talked about what we had learnt over the day. I walked to the station with a couple of the other graduate trainees and ended up on a train home with some of them as well, so more talking about trainee stuff. It took nearly two hours to get home, I was glad to be back as I was starting to crash from all the sugar, but it was completely worth it. I had an amazing time, and will be trying my hardest to go to other library camp events, I feel like I learned a lot from this one and it made me talk to lots and lots of people I don’t know, not normally my strong point. The other thing I have taken away is that I want a decent laptop and a smart phone, I was very jealous of everyone sitting around with theirs, and tweeting during the day, I want to be able to join in digital conversations as well as spoken ones at the next event I go to.

‘Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious…’

Yesterday after work I went to the anarchist book fair at my old uni in East London, or rather I met up with some friends from back home who had been at the book fair and went straight to the pub. I had been interested to go to the actual book fair, one discussion they went to about gender, sex, sexuality and anarchism sounded like it would have been awesome, but the pub is always good.

It was really nice to catch up in person with one of my best friends, but the main thing about last night that was good was standing around and mostly listening to the anarchists talk, most of the people I talked to all belonged to one message board, which I sort of do, and have decided/ been urged to start going on again, and of course they all assumed I was an anarchist too. What with not being, and for most of the time being the only girl I felt pretty much an outsider, but that was ok as it was interesting just listening to people talking. However, I did get to talk to a guy who recommended me a few queer/feminist groups in London to look into, when I said about how cut off from the kind of politics that I feel connected to. Anything that leads to me getting to know some more interesting people will be good, especially considering how lacking in intellectual stimulation most of my life is at the moment.

The other thing hat came out of yesterday is the fact that I really need to work out what my politics actually are, in some areas I know what I think and I can be very vehement about it, but when it comes to general politics I really am not sure, I know I’m a feminist, but I while I vaguely think of myself as liberal I don’t know how well my views fit into that, or even what my views on so many issues are. And then there are issues where my views totally fit with most leftist views, not surprising considering some of the people I’m very good friends with. It’d be far too easy to pass myself off as apolitical, I’m not though, not really, I just don’t pay any attention to most politics, and to be honest most politics bores me, but my opinions on queer or feminist politics are obviously informed by my general political views, it’s just like I have to work backwards to them.

What part of your body is most beautiful?

I really like this post, I especially like the way the answers seem to have turned from ‘what part of your body is most beautiful’ to ‘what part of your body do you like the most’, so that not all of the answers are about conventionally attractive things, lots of people saying scars or stratchmarks, individual things. It makes such a difference from being told what to like by other people, or worse, hearing people list things that they don’t like about themselves. This sort of thing is so easy to do, just a couple of mintutes to read the commentsor think about what you like about yourself, it’s the sort of self-help thing I’m always a bit suspicious of, but in this case it really just makes me pleased.

For me, I like my hair, even though it’s all full of split ends it’s tick and long, and the most amazing shade of green at the moment. I like the inside of my arms, they’re really pale and smooth, and my veins look interesting, though they show scars and bruises really easily. I have good hands too, small but with very long, thin fingers, and long nails, and interesting little callous’ from writing so much. I have good legs too, I’m short but they’re proportionally pretty long and look good with pretty tights and big boots. I like realising that there are lots of things that I like about myself.

A Nice Reminder

This was photoshopped, an entry from The F Word, one of my favourite blogs because it’s British, and has such a huge range of interesting posts. This one I especially like, it’s so simple but very clever, and reminds me that pictures like that, which I see every day and think nothing of, are edited and shot cleverly, and the models have amazing make up and so on, which is why they look so good. I know all of that, after all I’m worryingly addicted to America’s Next Top Model, but I don’t know it consciously, which I think is also the point of the – vandalism? conceptual art? improvement?

Maybe next time I look at a photo of me and see how pale I look, or how my skin is all blotchy, and then see a beautiful picture of Christina Aguilera, who I would quite happily look like, I’ll care even less than I already do. I know I don’t have that many issues about my appearance, possibly less than I’m expected to, after all my skin is far from perfect but I never wear foundation, but anything that makes me happier with the way I look is good.

We all have to burn something…

Recently I have been thinking about feminism and politeness, two things that I’ve been thinking about on and off for a long time. Politeness is obviously deeply encoded behaviour, and I do think it’s important, and one of the aspects of my English Language A level I found interesting was all the stuff on politeness theory. However, as I’ve become more aware of gender roles and feminist politics I’ve begun to have some issues with politeness.

For example, waiting at the bus stop, and the bus arrives, an old man signals for me to get onto the bus before him – what do I do? If I get on, and smile, and say thank you I’m doing the polite thing, but I also feel like he’s only doing it because of enforced gender roles, because I’m female, and it’s not like I need to get on the bus first, I’m a healthy 21 year old, and I end up being resentful. If I don’t get on I look rude, and what with the great reputation many young people have that is that last thing I want to present, it was bad enough working in a charity shop and having old people express their surprise at how nice and polite I was. If only I could give every person who offered something like that a little talk about how just because I’m female I don’t need to be coddled, to have the door held open for me, to go first, to be helped with stuff when I’m not really struggling.Of course they are probably just doing it to be polite, not because they think I’m some helpless little woman.

Normally I opt for doing the easiest thing, accepting their help if it would be rude not to, smiling and saying thank you, and I hold the door open for anyone, no matter of gender, age, etc. It does still annoy me, I can’t help projecting my awareness of stereotypical roles onto other people, I probably should give them the benefit of the doubt really.

That’s one part of politeness that annoys me, but I feel a bit trapped by, on one hand it feels irrelevant, on the other hand for me the personal really is political. The other part is something I noticed today, and it made me more annoyed at myself than at the other person.

So I know this guy at uni, he’s friendly and stuff, and I was kind of amused talking to him last week, it was a mix of the ‘I’m a nice guy’ sexism and plain sex-obsessed stereotypical lad conversation, two fairly extended conversations with him over two weeks have taken it from kind of amusing as I wasn’t taking him very seriously to a bit creepy as the more he talks the more I think he’s serious. God, blatant misogyny is worse in real life than it is online, even is the actual words are nowhere as offensive. Crude jokes rarely bother me, two of my best friends are male and we make some terrible jokes, but I know they’re joking, today I was really not so sure, worrying when a proportion of the misogyny was directed at/about me. (Note to self: don’t let slip that you’re queer, polyamorous and in an open relationship around someone like that.)

The thing that’s made me annoyed is my reaction, I was polite, I ignored it more or less, and talked to other people and changed the topic of conversation, and was pleased that when the subject of my relationship came up another guy basically agreed with me that it’s not really a big deal. But – I was polite. If I was online I’d have been a hell of a lot less polite, I’d have made it obvious I was beginning to be a bit offended actually, and maybe I’d have got in a stupid argument, but I’d have done something. I’ve never thought of myself as a coward, or hypocritical, and now I kind of feel like I’ve let myself down.

So, next week, I’ll see what happens, and if it’s the same again, well, it won’t be. If he says the same sort of things he has been I’ll just make it very clear, in firm, polite language, how I feel. Hopefully this won’t end up in a silly, big argument, but if I have to sacrifice politeness to get my point across, and to do what I think is right, well, whatever.

This all comes back to my initial, and recurrent feelings, that somehow politeness holds me back, and holds feminism back, in the obvious ways such as enforcing gender stereotypes, but in less obvious ways such as the way we automatically, perhaps unconsciously censor what we say. Maybe this is just me, but I certainly think it’s something that I want to look into more.