Librarians are doing it for themselves
November 1, 2012 6:17 AM   Subscribe

What really concerns librarians; what do they discuss when they self-organise and decide for themselves? After the inaugural UK event, the second UK Librarycamp, with around 200 attendees, was recently held; reflections by Frank Norman, Carolin Schneider [1] [2], Sarah Wolfenden, Amy Faye Finnegan, Shambrarian Knights, Michelle, Jennifer Yellin, Jenni Hughes, Bookshelf Guardian, Amy Cross-Menzies and Simon Barron, and by one of the organisers.

Unlike traditional library conferences, where proposals have to fit in with a theme, are submitted months in advance, and scrutinised by a panel, librarycamp follows the camp / unconference / bar format. Attendees can propose anything, right up to and including the day of the event. Sessions are strongly attendee-involved. The event is free to attend (funded by donations, crowdsourcing and sponsorship) and on a weekend, making it a personal, rather than an employer-sanctioned, event. Similar events have been held in the USA and Australia.

UK librarycamp has led to several regional and local librarycamps, such as Library Camp South West and Leeds (another review) (video).

Pictures of the 2012 UK librarycamp, and of the 2011 one.
posted by Wordshore (10 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I loved this quote from Simon Barron, "A Library Camp is a uniquely human event – emotionally involved, dependent on a community of people, ever-so-slightly mad – and nothing that human can ever be perfect. And that’s kind of beautiful."
(this probably applies to any unconference)
posted by Blake at 6:31 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

> What really concerns librarians; what do they discuss when they self-organise and decide for themselves?

In my experience, what we're going to do for a living once we're automated and/or underfunded out of existence.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:51 AM on November 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

What really concerns librarians... when they self-organise

Whether to file themselves under 040 for Biographies, 080 for General Collections, 301 for Anthropology, 370 for Education, 706 for Arts Organization and Management, 807 for Literary Education or 905 for Historical Serial Publication.

hi mom (librarian)
posted by nathancaswell at 6:53 AM on November 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

I went to library camp in Birmingham, England a few weeks ago and was told by some senior so-and-so in the starting plenary my idea of starting a tool lending library was "giving too much away" to the public. I managed to hold a focus group among a small number of librarians, meet a Brit with a lot to say about resiliency who has yet to get back in touch with me. It was not disaster of a day but I think it was really just another day of hypothetical questioning, not actually sharing expertise or amazingness. I wish I had known it was a potluck. I did not take anything because I did not bring anything.
posted by parmanparman at 7:22 AM on November 1, 2012

> What really concerns librarians; what do they discuss when they self-organise and decide for themselves?

In my experience, what we're going to do for a living once we're automated and/or underfunded out of existence.

Yep. And how we will react to all the externally-imposed organization and decisions out of our control.
posted by Rykey at 7:27 AM on November 1, 2012

Based on my first-hand experience at the University of Washington iSchool and in self-organized gatherings in the years following our graduation, usually Doctor Who.
posted by stet at 9:48 AM on November 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

As for my LIS peers and I, we tend to get together to talk about prison libraries, LGBT resources for kids, the digital divide, and other social justicey issues involving free and equitable access to information. Two of the forums for this are our local Progressive Librarians Guild and Boston Radical Reference chapters. So the upshot is that we're talking more about how to help patrons than help ourselves. Which, I think, brings more positive energy into our profession, and more interdisciplinary collaboration from other civic-minded professionals, like teachers, health care workers, etc. To be fair, I'm sure we as a demographic skew weirder and more bushy-tailed than most. ;)
posted by sunusku at 1:28 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

This sounds ever so much more fun and interesting and useful than the interminable rounds of "are we still relevant?" and "should we be called libraries?" and "how do you prove your relevance?" and "we aren't librarians, we're info-architectural-professional-knowledge-managing-organisational-community-engagers, we need to rebrand ourselves!" which tended to dominated the last few every single library conference I've attended bar one. Yes, even the librarycamp.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:21 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think that's a pretty common feeling - and where the non-digital library hack day idea came from But it's not too hard to avoid those What is a Library For? type librarian navel gazing sessions! There are always usually several things going on at once - and you can leave a session if it's dull...
posted by Suelaw at 5:19 AM on November 2, 2012

The last unconference I went to had multiple sessions on that same theme - it was still interesting in places but I think it's somewhat of a bug in my country's mentality (or at least my state - I didn't notice it as much when working elsewhere). It was a common theme while at library school too (nothing quite like conferences for early career librarians that have whole streams about 'how to be something other than a librarian with your degree!'). Unconferences are a whole lot more forgiving than the big ones, that's for sure.

I am slightly bitter, and jaded, about my experiences with these sorts of gatherings though. I've been to one unconference that was AMAZING. One that was fun, but still dominated by the desperation to be a 'real profession'. It's utterly demoralising sometimes.

But, they were still a whole lot better than the last actual conference I went to, with a keynote by someone who insisted outsourcing digital collection management to Amazon is a good thing, that left me and most of my colleagues wondering what we were supposed to get out of it.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:45 PM on November 2, 2012

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