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, 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.