Sunday, 21 September 2014

Library Camp UK Newcastle #libcampuk14

Last Saturday 13th September, I attended Library Camp UK in Newcastle.  If you've not attended a library camp before and you're interested in libraries then I would recommend it.  It's an interesting, friendly and informal way of spending the day with people discussing current topics and issues - an unconference. Usually tea and cake and in an interesting building.  It was held in Newcastle City Library and if you've not been there before I would recommend that you go now, immediately - it's an impressive place, cool and friendly (like Newcastle really).

Introduction by the organisers of the event Sue @shedsue and Richard @richardveevers
Then pitches by people who wanted to do sessions.  Then while we chatted and ate cake, the organisers sorted out the time slots for the sessions.

The first session I went was led by Tom Kistall @thomaskistall from Sheffield Hallam Uni.  
He's a 'Digital Innovation Librarian' and looks at improving the user experience.
the topic for the sessions was how to communicate with staff in your team especially if you have lots of part time staff working at different times in different locations.  
Face to face communication is the most common method.  I mentioned about using google forms and google drive as a means of sharing and collecting information.  

Many places have SharePoint and I think it is fair to say that most staff don't particularly like it as it is difficult to use apart from as a repository - it's clunky and at some places it is mandatory to use it.  You can set up SharePoint alerts so that come to your email and sign up to different groups.  
Most people were agreed that on a practical basis the quickest and easiest way was to communicate face-to-face or write stuff on whiteboard and sometimes you need to know something before you log on.  I sort of agree with this but I would like to get to the stage where alerts and notifications were pushed or pulled to mobile devices.  So it didn't involve logging on to the system but you received the information in a timely manner in a useful format.  
Shared outlook calendars and emails are common practice so that all staff can view events. TopDesk Unidesk was mentioned - this was interesting to me because quite a lot of what I'm working on at the moment is about using the IT help-desk system or similar to process library issues and enquiries.
Other channels:

Are blogs used for internal communication? It seems not and I don't know why there is a lack of enthusiasm for them - there is often initial enthusiasm but it doesn't last - used more for outward facing.
Online meetings? They are more natural if you've met face to face previously and different cultures have different ways of participating at different times.
Online training is an important consideration and how to include staff who don't work full time so that they have the same opportunities and experience.  The training can be online and/or be recorded so can be cascaded. 
Managers need to be flexible in providing training and this may involve working evenings and weekends to deliver it.  There is the dilemma of whether to limit the means of communication to two or three channels / platforms. This makes staff development easier as you can ensure that staff know how to use them effectively.  Personally I think it is ok to go with a diverse range of tools and channels to see what works best. Also students / library users have access to a wide range of tools so we should be able to know how they work.  There does need to be some understanding of the different tools, which are appropriate for which content and who will use them.  

The second session I went to was about York City Libraries who extracted themselves from local council control to become the Explore York Library service.  This was a result of the service being shrunk  due to cuts.  They talked about the process and how they had, and have, a vision of what they wanted to do.  This was a useful and informative talk as I hadn't realised what the options would be for services that are not council run and not volunteer services - it seems there is another way to keep libraries open.  The Cabinet Office 
Mutual support programme.  I appreciate that there is a lot more to know about this but these are the interesting parts that I took notes about: 
External consultant to advise. 
Buildings still owned by council so rent from them. 
Council quite helpful - but the support services of council were difficult especially to get information - need to dig in the council to find out contracts, procedures, finance. Legal forms - discover stuff
Charitable organization. A good move for the service and for the people who work as part of it. It involves art and culture, community engagement, innovation.  Funding - council does provide funding to provide library services - it is 5 years contractual at the amount that was cut to in final year. 
Also provide adult learning in library buildings. Social inclusion, community engagement.
All staff engaged in the process - no option to stay the same - pay and pensions.  The leader of CYC library service has become CE of board.  There is staff representation on board.  1 part owned by staff, 2 parts owned by community. Services are provided by council and can be pricematched at end of Y1.  
It has been a positive change for staff.  There is community involvement eg project to sell fruit and veg. There is involvement rather than a hierarchy.  Donations.  Volunteers are wanted and needed but are not responsible - the staff are paid.  

The next session was about 'What is a Librarian?'.  This session was led by Marianne Bamkin @mainlymazza

I have mixed feelings about this question and topic as I think there is a danger that librarians spend too much time either being precious or disruptive about it and what it signifies to them rather than concentrating on what it means to the outside world.  Whatever you think about being a librarian, there is a need to be positive about it and promote it as a useful and significant role and profession - it's a great 'brand', don't through away the opportunity to use it and instill it with value.  
So back to the session - we came up with a series of words that reflect what a librarian is or does:


The ones I like best are Find, Support and Empower
Different definitions are needed for different audience e.g. stakeholders, students but would it be useful to have a tag line made up of simple words?

The last session was by Dawn of the Unread

All in all it was a great day - I met lots of interesting new people and caught up with lots of others who are based in the North East.  Thanks to all those who organised and attended.  Thanks to those who made cakes - they were delicious

I'm now looking forward to Library Camp Glasgow in November #libcampgla