Saturday, 30 November 2013

LibCampUK 13 - the highlights for me

I've just spent the day in the brilliant new Library of Birmingham building at the LibCampUK13 "unconference". This is a meeting of librarians, library staff, library consultants, library suppliers and even a few of us lowly techies allowed out into the light from our basements. It being an "unconference" the agenda is created on the fly on the day from things that the attendees want to talk about. Its not about presenting papers or holding workshops - its about sitting around in huddles sharing problems, telling stories and swapping ideas. Its manic, chaotic and absolutely fantastic. It being full of librarians there was also plenty of cake on hand (including a competition won by a lady who had made a superb Moomin cake).

This blog post serves by way of a memory jogger for some of the useful things I came across during the day. There was so, so, so much more than I can record here as there were five or so parallel threads going on. You were encourage to "vote with your feet" and move between threads during each session if you got bored or wanted more variety, but I found all the groups I attended engaging and so stayed put!

My first session was on social media use in libraries. This was a really popular topic - so much so that there were two separate groups discussing it simultaneously. In our group I learnt some really useful tips that the social media aware folk are using (including a lady who works for a pub chain rather than a library service!). For example tweeting events that are in your local area that you don't run but which might be of interest to your followers both gets your tweets retweeted more widely and thus attract new followers, as well as having the event organisers follow you and retweet some of your messages by way of return. Location based searches can be useful as well - see who is talking about topics you are interested in your geographic area and then target their conversations with your own replies. Social media analytics are of interest to many: can they be sure that the effort that they put into social media interactions is actually reaching the desired target markets? Keeping up with the various social media services is also an issue: although Twitter and Facebook are biggies, Pinterest, LibraryThing and Tumblr are also used (hardly anyone seems to care about Google Plus though!). Different social media are used by different groups and even age isn't a sure fire targeting mechanism (some schools say students are into Tumblr as the latest thing but another school librarian said her students viewed it as a bit last year and were all over Instagram now). Some sites have issues with some (or all!) social media being blocked - useful to bear in mind if you're trying to reach certain groups (schools and NHS especially).

After grabbing a quick coffee and trying to grab a charge on my laptop and phone, I headed upstairs to the Open Archives session. It was already in full swing when I crept in and I was surprised to hear that some educational institutions still seem to under value open archives or data repositories as a way of spreading the message about their research (despite them being happy to send data to folk who do manage to seek them out). RCUK mandates of archiving of data supporting publications and Gold/Green journal article publishing with institutional repositories is helping, as are some JISC initiatives. There's lots of active work in this area though so its a "hot topic" at the moment. One chap said he was from FE and there was a large and mostly untapped market for repositories in FE colleges. Some discussion of open data and the benefit it provides for "mash ups" (especially if library folk are hacking on open source code).

Next was lunch, followed by three more sessions. The first afternoon session I attended was on digitisation. Some interesting work being done on private digitisation initiatives, especially for things like maps (which the chap who pitched and initiated the session was really into). Some discussion on the +/- aspects of things like Google Books: I was on the +ve side as we've used it in LORLS reading lists and its been really useful and popular, but some complaints over lack of transparency on quality of OCR behind the page scans (which I can understand as that's an expensive thing to do and probably isn't Google's primary aim at the moment). Heard about a group of heritage conservation volunteers called NADFAS who had help digitise and preserve works in some special libraries (though it needs librarian input to ensure metadata about digital objects are captured).

Back in the main theatre the middle session of the afternoon I dropped into was about gadgets, a topic close to my techie heart. Most folk in the group held up smart phones or tablets and said lots of their users had them. Some talk about managers buying "iPads" without any real idea how they would be loaned out or to who. Some sites have issues with setting up shared tablets as the software eco-systems on them don't really encourage it, whereas others (ones using "bump-in-the-wire" wireless portals for network authentication) have fewer issues. I asked if other sites had any great solutions to students trailing power leads everywhere (as policies and telling them off don't really work): one chap said that even their new sofas had power sockets in the arms and all tables had power sockets. I managed to also slip in a mention that NFC capable phones/tablets can also pick up RFID tags which seemed to interest several folk!

 I then stayed put for the last session of the day which in my group was on open source. The immediately useful take home for me was Library Box, which is a content hosting wifi hotspot that I'd not come across before. Great for providing educational/library resources in "pop up" environments, especially where there isn't decent Wifi or 3G coverage (eg book events in public parks). Some discussion about appropriate open source software for managing small library catalogues: I suggested Koha but one of the facilitators suggested it was too complex for really small libraries and she'd made good use of Drupal with cataloguing extensions. Another chap was looking for suggestions for school data repositories - Dspace and Eprints were mentioned but again may be too complex to set up and maintain, whereas a CMS like Wordpress might work fine and be more familiar to school teachers.

So some great stuff there, and so much more in the other sessions I didn't get to (and probably in the bar after the meeting which I didn't go to either). LibCamp is definitely on my list to attend again next year... assuming they let Shambrarians like me slip in again!

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