Library Camp Glasgow

Happy Campers - all photos courtesy of Lynn Corrigan
Happy Campers – all photos courtesy of Lynn Corrigan

Where did it all begin? I think way back in March 2012 someone mentioned the possibility of a Scottish Library Camp at one of the early Glasgow Library Tweetups, then the idea reappeared in a Twitter conversation towards the end of that year. At the beginning of 2013 I thought, well I might as well go for it, and it finally happened on October 26th. I won’t write much here about the day itself, though it was a great success – there’s plenty of information on the Event Writeups page of the Camp wiki about that. I’ll concentrate on how it was organised in case this might be helpful to anyone thinking of staging a similar event. So here are my top tips:

  • Don’t re-invent the wheel. I read probably everything that came out of other Library Camps and copied as much as I could. I’ve appended a list of good posts at the end.
  • Find a good team and specify roles. One of the first Twitter conversations was with Lesley Thomson (@lelil) who had experience of Govcamps so an early meeting with her set things in motion and made sure I had at least a vague idea of what I was doing. We thought about a few venues and decided on the Mitchell Library as offered by Myra Paterson (@MyraCPaterson). She was very enthusiastic and made sure everything ran smoothly at the library end. Finally, Lynn Corrigan (@lynncorrigan) came on board, looked after the online stuff and was “official photographer” on the day.
  • Find a good venue. We chose the Mitchell because, apart from Myra’s energetic support, we had the flexibility of a suite of three rooms, two of which opened out into one larger room, although the overall scope was modest – for this type of event we thought 50 people would fill it. It was also opposite the café which could have been useful had we not raised enough money to feed everyone.
  • Find sponsorship. I approached various library organisations and suppliers, looking for money and / or items for goody bags and prizes. Those who obliged are listed on our Sponsors page: particular mention should be made of Swets, SLIC and SALCTG who provided between them morning and afternoon refreshments and lunch.
  • Decide how to manage bookings / create an online presence. Early in the summer, I created an Expressions of Interest page on Eventbrite to check that we would get enough people willing to come. We easily reached the target of 50, so in September I made the proper bookings page live. Eventbrite allows you to password-protect a page when you’re setting up your event (see Additional settings which is part 3 of the Edit page) so I did that for the first couple of weeks, using the email facility on the Expressions of Interest page to alert those who had signed up there. That way they got the first chance of Early Bird places. There is also a Library Camp Glasgow page on this blog, and at a later stage Lynn created a wiki bringing together all the information about the Camp, which now acts as a record of it with write-ups and photos added after the event.
  • Publicise. I’m not sure I got this right. I circulated various lists (and tweeted of course) near the beginning, but once Camp filled up and a waiting list was started I let things take their course. Then, towards the end, people started to drop out in larger numbers than before and the waiting list got used up, so I had to do a bit more frantic publicity. It seemed silly to keep plugging a full Camp with a waiting list though, so I’m note sure what I would do differently, if anything, next time. (See also the comments below about numbers.)
  • Keep people informed and engaged. I made a conscious decision to email attendees every couple of weeks with a bit more news about what was going to happen on the day. I hoped this would mean that Library Camp was kept in the forefront of their minds and they would be less likely to be no-shows on the day. This seemed to work – people were very conscientious about letting me know if they could no longer come and there were only two or three people who signed up and didn’t turn up on the day. Or maybe they were just all lovely, polite people anyway!
  • Have fun features with prizes. This also helped to keep people involved. Two competitions were announced as part of the email series mentioned above – a Soapbox feature which filled the time between pitches and the timetable being produced. Four brave souls ranted for one minute each on a library related topic. The best (decided by secret ballot) received a prize. The competition for best home-made name badge really took off on Twitter where it became known as the #GreatBritishBadgeOff. The organisers felt they couldn’t possibly judge this, so two neutral staff from the Mitchell were drafted in to help. You can see a gallery of badges, including the two worthy winners, on the wiki. The icebreaker also had a prize and this I shamelessly stole from Cambridge Librarian Teachmeet – their Human Bingo sheet needed only a little adjustment for local circumstances!
  • Don’t worry too much about numbers. One of the principles of open space events is that “whoever comes is the right people” so bear that in mind. Not that I took my own advice of course; I did worry. We decided to allocate 60 places on the grounds that about 20% would drop out. When we got to 60 and the numbers stuck for weeks I began to wonder what would happen if everyone turned up and we were overcrowded. Then, as mentioned above, there was a sharp drop and I worried that we wouldn’t have enough people to make a successful event, but just at the right time, this lovely post by Lisa Hutchins about Library Camp East came out. She had had the same, unfounded, fears as I was having, and was also kind enough to give me further reassurance via Twitter (@myweeklybook). Her post is a must-read to understand the spirit of Library Camps.

Was there anything I would change? The numbers were right overall (with attendees and helpers we peaked at about 55 – I never stood still long enough to count everyone properly) but the sessions were too big in some cases, which meant that not everyone could contribute. We needed more pitches, but perhaps now that people have seen how a Library Camp works they will be more comfortable about proposing sessions next time. I wouldn’t bother with the expressions of interest stage again, but would probably still use Eventbrite’s password facility to give previous attendees the first chance of tickets. Eventbrite overall was great, but I made a mistake running two types of ticket on the same bookings page – we offered tours of the Mitchell which had limited spaces and so had to be booked in advance. This was fine until we sold out and I discovered that you couldn’t create a waiting list for each event, or prevent someone booking on both when only one had spaces, so things got a little muddled.  However, these are minor quibbles.

Was it worth it? I can honestly say I have never been to an event with more buzz. And just look at the concentration on those faces!

In addition to the links in the text above, I found the following particularly useful:

Library Camp UK site, especially its list of Past LibraryCamps. Invaluable for ideas for everything. The post Library Assistants! Why go to a librarycamp gives good reasons why anyone should go.

Andrew Preater wrote a couple of good posts on running LibraryCamp London: What I learned from organising an unconference and Practical suggestions for running your own Library Camp.

Aude wrote about Organising Library Camp North East.

Keira Parrott wrote Hosting an unconference in a few easy steps.

If you feel moved to organise your own Camp, that lot should keep you right! It’s also worth noting there’s now a School Library Camp Wiki which has been set up with the aim of organising a network of regional events happening on the same day and linked up by social media. That sounds like a great idea and there are no entries for Scotland yet, if any school librarians are reading this…..

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Anabel Marsh

I'm a proud Glaswegian who loves to go gallivanting both at home and abroad. Join me in my travels, both historic and current. Credit where credit's due: photography mostly by my more talented other half, John.

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