Library Camp Glasgow: Jennifer’s view

11 Nov

Picture: Lynn Corrigan

In this guest post, Jennifer Higgins writes about experiencing her first library camp.

I’m a diabolical blogger. Only too eager to attend the latest library event happening in Scotland’s central belt, my vampiric tendency is to gorge on the offerings of the day, internalise them in the darkness of my desk before picking over the bones of half-remembered details a few weeks /months later – and usually in response to an information enquiry that requires further support.

But the outwardly reflective nature of the sessions at Glasgow Library Camp 2014 on Saturday at The Mitchell Library has awakened me out of my blogging somnambulism to share a few thoughts on what really was a brilliant day out.

Proceedings started at 10am sharp, minutes after my hasty arrival. This being the first library camp I’d attended, I’d been pre-warned to expect the unexpected. Nonetheless, it was still quite unusual to be greeted by a chorus of questions from “Do you have a pet cat?” to “Do you play any team sports?” while fumbling through my CILIPS goodie-bag for a pen and notepad. Library bingo had been in earnest play since 9.30am, an excited Anabel Marsh and ever-cheerful Kirsten McCormick (General Services Librarian at the Mitchell) explained.

The ice well and truly broken, Anabel welcomed us all, explaining the concept of the un-conference (a more spontaneous version of the traditional format) and introducing the day’s session-pitch speakers. It was then onto the MmITS-sponsored 60 second soapbox rants covering an assortment of cross-sector themes. I was very apprehensive about standing up to recite a verse I’d penned on the subject of female-librarian stereotypes, alongside three spirited pitches from Sharon Wilson, Karen McAulay and Fiona Hughes, but it was well-received. (Ed: Jennifer is too modest to mention she won the prize!)

The announcement of the day’s timetable saw a glacial surge of librarians move to pick their sessions. I plumped for a combination of four sessions that I could sink my teeth into – either because they sparked my professional interest or addressed a latent development need. Here are some thoughts on each of those four sessions:

Jane Furness, Edinburgh College of Art – Innovative Information Literacy

Jane’s session discussed her work as an art librarian offering visually-orientated information literacy sessions to both small groups of creative students and large lecture theatres. Jane highlighted student artists’ preferences for using hands-on, visual materials (such as the fabulous collection of artists’ books from Red Fox Press she had brought) as part of information-literacy sessions in today’s contemporary digital context. She sought contributions from the group on best ways of expressing information literacy concepts to engage students who often have to produce work rapidly. Some of the most salient ideas I took from the session were:

  • The use of stealth IL techniques such as pop-up library sessions and 15-minute library clinics
  • The benefit of introducing students or school-pupils to the library in advance of the academic session when there are fewer distractions around
  • The development of techniques such as QR codes to encourage students to explore new corners of the library space
  • The discoverability of the ‘hidden’ aspects of the library such as Special Collections.

It was interesting to hear from a school librarian who discussed the difficulties implicit in attempting to teach IL to pupils for whom the idea of going into a library to find something out for themselves (and not to answer the pre-set questions of the teacher) was a completely new concept. How to give enough instruction while also letting learners work ideas out for themselves in the library and get other educators on-board with this idea was one outcome we discussed. The group’s response being that IL librarians need to find their champions who can take ideas to senior educators and represent library initiatives on all-staff Boards and meetings. The benefits of the online use of Prezi, wiki spaces, Glasgow School of Art’s InfosmART and the use of ‘Comic Life’ software for creating subject guides were all held up as successful information literacy tools.

Martyn Wade, CILIP Info – Internet Privacy

In what must be a clear-cut violation of library camp rules, I couldn’t help myself from scribbling screeds of notes in fascination at some of the things I learnt during Martyn Wade’s informative session on the IFLA’s manifesto for a privacy statement (to be released in Spring 2015). I’m really pleased I attended this session as it highlighted an alarming number of gaps in my knowledge and encouraged me to reflect on my previous experience as a public library assistant in the habit of regularly collecting data from the public to join them as library members. It was evident that libraries need to be communicating with their suppliers to avoid breaches of user privacy, particularly when accessing e-books that could feasibly entail the downloading of software that routinely collects personal information that can be shared with other organisations. Adobe’s rights management was cited as one prolific example. The over-riding message was that there’s a really strong role for the library and information profession in privacy matters, not least in our ethical and legal responsibility to protect library users’ information and in communicating what we do with that information. Discussion was had around the need for a distinction to be made between digital skills training (‘here’s how you do it’) and digital literacy training (‘here’s the implications of doing it’). Martyn put some feelers out to collect people’s thoughts on the term ‘media literacy’ as a better means of describing the inter-relationships between different media types and conveying the idea of communication on social media as ‘publication’ as opposed to ‘conversation.’ The term was positively received although mixed feeling prevailed over the recent passing of EU legislation giving citizens the right to be forgotten – does this prevent people taking responsibility for their (online) actions and where does the ripple effect of this legislation stop? Foregrounded were the need for a public interest test when applying this legislation and, related to this, the extent of the FoI Act’s scope to extend to organisations currently evading its jurisdiction. I was grateful for the sustenance of a good lunch however the prevalence of Internet monitoring left a bad taste in the mouth. It’s unpalatable that a lot of what people trust about libraries is under threat from this activity and consultation on the content of a privacy statement is surely an opportunity for all in the library and information profession to comment on.

Karen McAulay, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – ‘Do you practise what you preach?’

Karen’s session took us through her reflective practice blog developed on a teaching artist course she’d undergone as part of her CPD at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, posing the question: do we reflect enough in our daily roles? Thoughts to come out of the session were how to solicit honest responses from library users to facilitate more impactful reflection, whatever form that reflection may take. Although when and how to reflect is deeply subjective the discussion raised a need to share our reflections more widely as a profession and for this reflection to be externalised at both an individual and institutional level. Due to its portability and transferability between institutions, Evernote won hands-down in response to the question of whether any librarians kept bibliographies, although with Martyn Wade’s words still ringing in our ears, there’s debate to be had about the merits of institution-wide endorsement. In other words, as soon as you stop purchasing, you become the product. I was encouraged by the level of reflection the session generated and Karen’s blog-model is a fantastic template to follow. Read her post on the session here.

Annette Thain, NHS Education for Scotland – Cross-network Collaboration

Annette’s session canvassed for ideas to facilitate cross-collaboration in order to produce more evidence-based practice and foster better information-exchange across sectors. She was also interested in how library assistant training could be delivered as part of these cross-collaborative efforts.

Strong suggestions were made for:

  • Increasing the broker role of library services that have pre-established links with the health sector (such as Sandyford Library or the Dementia Services Development Centre at Stirling University
  • Improving opportunities for work-shadow placements across sectors
  • Introducing more guest lectures explaining services to be delivered on university MLIS courses and establishing links between NES and the SCURL Health Group

We chewed over the representation of, for example, public library professionals in presentations at health and SHINE-organised events as well as NES representatives at CILIPS events. Plus, the idea of receptionists and information assistants in the NHS being trained in the resources available through the public library made a lot of sense to me. What resonated most were the interests of other library sectors to be collaborating specifically with the public library sector to reach a wider audience. Yet the localism of service provision for each sector representative seemed to muddy the waters – is the ‘embeddedness’ of sectors a positive or negative thing? As a newly-qualified librarian, I’ve been nurtured on the benefits of establishing library partnerships yet I still harbour a real scepticism about the essential remit of public services being stretched too thinly through private partnership or joining with trusts. However, where public library visits can be driven up and on an agenda as central to the public library mission as wellbeing, surely such public collaborations are to be encouraged. Perhaps it comes down to connections being made by open-minded individuals in different sectors but I think it would be extremely sad for cross-collaboration opportunities to be passed up on the basis that the practicalities were too difficult to tease out. The public library sector could really be showing its value by pushing forward a physical and mental health agenda – beyond the remit of its collection development policy. Making this a reality has to come down to the vision and enthusiasm of the people on the ground…

… something which led nicely onto the thorny issue of training for library assistants. The number of questions raised rather than answers given highlighted the need for more consistent support of LAs and other information workers as members of the group shared varied interpretations of what staff training needs might be and levels of training provision.

And that concludes my reflection on Library Camp Glasgow! For a first attempt it’s been pretty rambling but if events like this wet my appetite for the importance of the profession, then in future, I could be holding up a mirror on the library profession more often. Given the openness and supportiveness of the group and the value of group discussion, I’ll certainly be looking to pitch my tent and importantly, reflect once again. This vampire has seen the light!


Library Camp Glasgow 2014

10 Nov
Mitchell Library

Mitchell Library


The second Library Camp Glasgow took place at the Mitchell Library on Saturday, 8th November 2014. 36 people attended, took part in competitions, listened to rants (or ranted) and discussed a variety of topics. Here’s how the day unfolded:

Badge Competition

Everyone was invited to bring their own name-badges, with prizes for the best, and entrants were photographed as they arrived. There were some very creative efforts!

Human Bingo

To get everyone talking, the day kicked off with Human Bingo with the incentive of a prize draw for the completed bingo sheets.

MmITS Minute of Madness

This was a chance to vent a burning passion or frustration about libraries, librarianship or a related topic, with 60 seconds to get the point across in a mad rant. It was sponsored by MmITS who generously donated a Kindle Fire as the prize. Thanks to the four entrants, Sharron, Jennifer, Karen and Fiona, for taking part.


The main event was, of course, the sessions. At a Library Camp, these are pitched by participants and a timetable is made up on the day. There were sessions on CILIP Registration, Innovative user education, Internet privacy, Advocacy, CILIPS West, Do you practice what you preach?, 23 Librarians live, and Cross-network collaboration. Two groups also toured the Mitchell Library. Some sessions have already been written up and I hope more will be added – check the Event Writeups page on the Library Camp wiki, which also lists links to some of the sites recommended during the day.


So who won all the lovely prizes? We finished up with the prizegiving. Jennifer Higgins won the MmITS Kindle Fire with her rant “Covering gender bias in representations of the female librarian – a poetic quip about the perils (or should that be pearls?) of image stereotypes.” All other prizes were sponsored by CILIPS – Annette Thain won a book and CDs when her name was drawn from the completed bingo sheets and Sharron Wilson and Karly Walters-Smith won Tunnock’s goodies for the best badges. These were independently judged by desk staff at the Mitchell who gave it a lot of thought before choosing their two favourites.


Library Camp Glasgow was a completely free event, for which I am indebted to its sponsors. I’ve already mentioned the prizes donated by MmITS and CILIPS.  CILIPS also provided the goody bags, seen here being investigated by an unexpected guest, and librarians do not run on empty stomachs, so thanks also to SALCTG for morning refreshments and SLIC for lunch. Thanks to Glasgow Life for use of the Mitchell for the second year and to library staff Kirsten McCormick, Lisa Powell and Elaine Thomson for all their help.

All photographs, except for the view of the Mitchell entrance atop this post and the (so delicious) chocolate muffins above, are courtesy of Lynn Corrigan. Thanks to her too and, of course, thanks to everyone who came and made it such a great day.



Library A to Z and Book Week Scotland

13 Oct

Something that might be worth discussing at Library Camp Glasgow? Particularly Library A to Z.

23 Librarians - and counting!

Here are two, important library-related events coming up in November.

LIbrary A to Z Library A to Z  is a campaign, created by Gary Green and Andrew Walsh, that has produced a visual A to Z celebrating the wide-range of services, resources and facilities that make libraries so fantastic. Via Kickstarter funding, Gary and Andrew commissioned full colour images from freelance illustrator Josh Filhol to depict the words that reflect the great work, activities and values of libraries. These illustrations are the basis for a range of promotional and advocacy materials including posters, cards and a full colour book. As well as the illustrated library alphabet, the book also includes quotes from library users and a chapter about the positive impacts of libraries.

Library A to Z launches during the week 17-22 November, when packs, including copies of the books and other material, will be sent to local, national and international politicians. The aim of this action is to highlight the continued…

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Library Camp Glasgow 2

23 Sep

Library Camp 2

I’m delighted to say that the second Library Camp Glasgow (#libcampgla) will be taking place at the Mitchell Library on Saturday, 8th November. I’m very grateful to the Mitchell for hosting this again. Full details are available on the Library Camp Glasgow wiki and bookings are now open on Eventbrite. Attendance is completely free. For those of you who have not been to a Library Camp before, it is an “unconference” which is entirely user-generated – the programme is decided on the day from session pitches proposed by attendees. This makes it very participatory and I’d urge as many of you as possible to think of a topic on which you would be willing to lead a discussion. (NB Library Camp is a non-tech, PowerPoint-free zone.) You can pitch in advance on the wiki (username and password will be supplied when you book) or at the beginning of Camp – the wiki has examples of previous pitches and write-ups of some of last years sessions to help you.

Library Camp has prizes! Last year’s Soapbox feature has been renamed the MmITS Minute of Madness in honour of the prize sponsor – MmITS has generously donated a Kindle Fire for the best contribution. Do you have a library-related peeve or passion that you can rant about for 60 seconds? Sign up on the wiki for a chance to win this amazing prize. There will also be prizes for the best home-made name badges, so time to get crafting! Last year, this was VERY competitive and took off on Twitter as the #greatbritishbadgeoff. Once again, examples from last year of both these competitions are on the wiki.

Morning refreshments, sponsored by SALCTG, and lunch, sponsored by SLIC, will be available. Many thanks to them for their help.

Finally, please let me know of any special requirements, e.g. access or diet, after you have booked. I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have.

I look forward to seeing some of you at Library Camp – and please help with publicity if you can by circulating this information to your own networks.

#GLTU13 – Cornton Vale

1 Jul

For GLTU13 on 10th June, a group of us visited the library at Cornton Vale Prison in Stirling. Security was obviously a lot tighter than on previous tweetups, and we had to leave phones and other technology in lockers before we went in, so no tweets and no pictures! However, Jennifer Horan (@Miss_Horan7) has given her impressions of the visit below.

For GLTU13, a tweet-up without tweets, seven of us visited HMP & YOI Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only all-women prison. We were shown round the Learning Block by Liz Moffat, Community Outreach Librarian with Stirling Council, whose duties include managing Cornton Vale’s library, and Kaye Stewart, Learning Centre Manager. The Learning Block includes a kitchen for cookery classes, a salon for hairdressing courses, an ICT suite, a classroom and, of course, a library.

We met a group of women inmates who were participating in a book group and were reading Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. This was obviously a beneficial activity to the women, especially one who told us that before she was sent to prison she couldn’t read, but she has now learned and is a member of the book group. Poor reading skills and illiteracy are very often issues for prisoners. We then spent time in the library, looking at the resources and asking Liz and Kaye about how the library runs.

Although Liz visits the library as part of her remit to ensure it is in order and can run well, it is mainly staffed by a group of prisoners. Along with a wide range of fiction titles, including new publications, there is also (a smaller) range of non-fiction and audio books, and a number of foreign language books in a variety of languages. Some of the women imprisoned do not have English as a first language, so foreign language books accommodate this, though Liz pointed out that many of the women do not have the literacy skills to be able to read. The library has a budget for book buying from Stirling Council. Liz also spoke to us about the issues surrounding stock selection in prison libraries. While no librarian likes banning books, they must follow the rules of the prison, and there are some books that just can’t be stocked for the safety and well-being of inmates and staff, for example, recent local true crime books and books featuring facts about unacceptable prison behaviour.

The library has three computers for prisoners’ use, though there is no internet access. This is a complex issue for the prison system, as so much information required for learning and gaining qualifications, including Open University courses, in which the women are encouraged to participate, is available online. There are plans to allow prisons access to the internet in the future; however, these ideas have been in the planning for some time.

We were very impressed with the library and its contents; the couches and light colours of the room express comfort and make a visit to the library appealing, but thankfully we were free to leave the locks and keys and return to the comfort of our homes.

If Jennifer’s account has sparked your interest, I also recommend this post on Me and my big mouth which was written in response to the ban on sending books to prisoners in England, and is full of useful information on reader development in prisons.

Libraries and heritage by the sea: Saltcoats

30 Jun

Some pictures and thoughts from Saturday’s CILIPS West excursion. A grand day out, which might become annual – highly recommend going next year if so.

Adventures of a Retired Librarian

What could be better on a summer Saturday morning than getting a train to the seaside? No buckets and spades required though – this was a CILIPS West outing to Saltcoats to view its library and Heritage Centre. Six visitors had a fine time thanks to the efficient arrangements made by Alison McAllister, Systems and Support Officer at North Ayrshire Libraries.

We began our visit in Saltcoats Library, set in a pretty park, where we were met by Area Librarian, Jim Macaulay. Librarians, as we know, are fuelled by cake, so it was good to start with coffee and strawberry tarts. The serious business over with, Jim told us a bit about the work of the Library before showing us round. It’s open 50 hours per week and serves a population of around 13000, from which result 6-7000 visits per month and 57000 adult and 14000 children’s issues per year. That sounds pretty good to…

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National Public Libraries Festival

26 Jun

A message from Sue Lawson:

We’re pleased to announce that the National Public Libraries Festival – our first celebration of all-things public library – has launched a call for funding over at Crowdfunder.

The first ever national public libraries festival will be a day long celebration of the creativity and innovation happening in public libraries. The one-day public libraries festival, set to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, will bring together an exciting programme of interactive workshops, engaging discussions, fun events, live music and theatre and much more.

We aim to:

  • attract a new audience into the library and inspire them to become library users
  • confound perceptions of libraries as places of limited appeal or outdated institutions with limited lifespans
  • inspire library staff and drive change in the ways libraries are presented to the non-using public
  • focus on exciting future possibilities

If you support public libraries I urge you to donate to the Crowdfunder appeal and support the festival – a brand new event to positively promote the strength and dynamism of public libraries at a time when many are under threat. It also has the potential to widen our audience and convert non users. It will also be a brilliant day out! Now who can argue with that?

If you are interested in becoming a Public Library Festival corporate or institutional sponsor, please contact Sue Lawson or Richard Veevers at

Keep up to date by following the #PubLibFest hashtag on Twitter, bookmarking our blog, or following LibraryCamp on Twitter and Facebook.

Please do get in touch if you have any questions or suggestions or just want to help!

School Library Camp

24 Jun

In this guest post, Jennifer Horan (@Miss_Horan7) describes Scotland’s first School Library Camp.

School Library Camp Scotland, the first of its kind, took place on Saturday 14 June 2014, in the Andersonian Library at the University of Strathclyde. It coincided with three other regional School Library Camps, in London, Manchester and Leeds, and was open to school librarians, librarians in other sectors, other school staff and anyone else with an interest in school libraries. It followed the usual unconference format of Library Camps, where sessions were user-generated and were pitched on the day.

I got the idea to organise the Camp after attending Library Camp Glasgow in the Mitchell Library last year, and becoming the star attraction as “school librarians never come to these kind of things”. I then became aware that, other than the School Library Association’s annual conference, I rarely see another event advertised which is based solely around school libraries. (Though maybe I’m not looking hard enough.) After finding online a few other like-minded school librarians from south of the border, School Library Camp was born.

Much Twitter-publicity later, we had a potential full house of 50 delegates, a large meeting room at Strathclyde and lovely gift bags, courtesy of CILIPS, SLA and various school library suppliers.

The day itself went well, though we had a disappointingly low turn-out which reduced the number of session pitches. Despite this, seven successful sessions were held during the day: Stock development; E-books in schools; Reader development; Job security; School vs library management; Twitter tips and a brilliant session from Glasgow University PhD students on their study of children’s literature. I decided to make the last session of the day a general discussion about what groups had covered and to allow for any further points to be raised.

We concluded the day in true Library Camp style with a raffle-ticket-under-a-seat prize of gift books (kindly donated by Waterstones) and homemade cake. The day received very positive feedback, with delegates enjoying the informal, user-led style. There were some requests for shorter, more focussed sessions to allow more movement and variety – a style to be considered for a possible School Library Camp 2.


#GLTU12 – Travelling Librarians

17 Mar
Michael Charlton and Kirsten McCormick

Michael Charlton and Kirsten McCormick

22 librarians gathered in the Saltire Centre, Glasgow Caledonian University, last Wednesday for Travelling Librarians, an event hosted jointly by GLTU and the newly reformed CILIPS West Branch. Heather Marshall (@macmarsha), CILIPS West Secretary, organised excellent hospitality and Robert Ruthven (@Bgbop), both CILIPS President and CILIPS West Chair, extended a warm welcome. We had two great speakers in Kirsten McCormick and Michael Charlton, and afterwards 16 of us repaired to Masala Twist on Hope Street for a warming curry and a chat.

Kirsten McCormick – Australia

Kirsten is Librarian, General Services, at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library. As the recipient of the CILIP / ESU Travelling Librarian Award for 2013, she spent a month travelling around Australian libraries researching ways in which they record major sporting events and their legacies for the social record. This experience, which has had an immediate beneficial impact on her professional development and on the work that she does at the Mitchell, particularly with relation to the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, was described in the first part of her talk. In the second part, Kirsten gave tips on applying for this year’s award (closing date 28th April). She’s very happy to help anyone who wants to apply – her contact details are in her slides.

Michael Charlton – Peru

Michael is Head of Research at Mildwaters Consulting LLP. In 2012, he spent 5 months in Zapallal, Peru, where he created a library and learning centre for the 40 children, aged 5-18, who live in the Project Peru children’s refuge. The children at the refuge come from communities of extreme poverty and where there is no culture of reading for pleasure and studying for educational and vocational purposes. Michael told us about his experience working with the children and the community of Zapallal, and showed how the library developed from an idea into a real place of learning and fun. He also made an impassioned plea for help with Project Peru by donating or volunteering – as Michael points out, a room full of books needs a librarian to become a library. Michael’s talk can be viewed on Prezi.

The curry

A curry has become almost obligatory as part of a Glasgow tweetup. This was a good one! Here’s a room full of librarians anticipating their dinner:

And here is some of what we got!

Thanks to everyone who came and made this such an enjoyable event.

Visits: RCPSG Library and Bridgeton Mediatheque

4 Mar

I went on a couple of visits with other organisations recently. SALCTG visited the RCPSG Library (Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow) – some beautiful historic books and artefacts (including an amputation set and a 19th century enema kit) in an equally beautiful and historic building. Read more on the SALCTG blog.

With MmITS, I went to Bridgeton Library, specifically to learn about the Mediatheque, but we toured the whole building. In the Mediatheque’s purpose-built booths you can access a digital jukebox of over 2000 items from the BFI Archive, including Scottish material. Read more on my own blog, Adventures of a Retired Librarian.

Do either of these sound good for future tweetups? Ideas always welcome!

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