On Saturday I attended the very first Irish Library Camp. The venue, ‘The Chocolate Factory,’ was actually very apt when you saw the amount of chocolate and cake in attendance. Librarians are truly multi-talented, and they love cake! However, even though there were some truly amazing treats, by far the best thing about library camp was the informal setting and atmosphere which made it very easy to strike up conversation. From the minute I walked in I found myself chatting to people, many of whom I have ‘met’ on Twitter. It was great to finally put some faces to Twitter names. Some of my MLIS class were also in attendance so it was fun to catch up and see how people are getting on now that the madness of final assignments and exams is over and people are getting stuck into the various Capstone projects. In Ireland we know its a small world and funnily enough the first stranger I spoke to turned out to be from my hometown and there I was thinking I was the only librarian from my neck of the woods.
Before we all lapsed into a sugar coma, the first event got underway. Speed networking, a pitch by Helen Kielt, was the perfect way to start proceedings. It allowed us to mingle and meet people and gave us the opportunity to think a bit about how we present ourselves. I really enjoyed it; I chatted to people I know, people I have chatted to on Twitter previously but have never met and complete strangers. Everyone had really interesting things to say and the only downside was that the 2 mins we had to chat seemed too short at times. I think this activity was particularly useful for the students who are taking their first steps into the ‘real’ world. I know I personally find meeting new people extremely nerve-wracking but situations like this force you out of your comfort zone and build your confidence.
Another fun aspect of Library Camp is that you can choose the pitches you want to take part in and that means that people can take away completely different things from the day. There were so many Tweets!! And I’m sure there will be several blog posts and they might all have something different to talk about which is great. You can check out the Storify by LAI CDG here to get a big picture of the day. I chose to attend a pitch by Laura Rooney Ferris, Marie Cullen and Aoife Connolly in the first session. Laura spoke about the issues surrounding being a solo librarian. I think the most important things I learnt from her pitch were the importance of being able to advocate for your library and your position within the wider organisation, being able to find projects where you can make a difference to show your worth, being able to multi-task or priortise projects and the importance of having a network for support. The idea of having a network for support led nicely into Marie’s discussion about membership of the Library Association of Ireland. I liked her suggestions that the process should involve more personal reflection on your CPD. On a personal note, I have found this blog extremely useful in thinking about what I have learnt this year and I intend to continue to utilise it for CPD in the future. Finally, Aoife wanted to think about our titles. I have come across a few instances this year where it seems the word ‘librarian’ may be a problematic one but how do we change perceptions? Do we try to find another word or phrase that establishes what we do in a way people can understand? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer right now but it is a something I like to think about and I love to hear other people’s opinions on the subject.
After yet more cake, I chose to partake in the pitch by Emmet Keoghan which was looking at our qualification. I really enjoyed this chat because it made me look a little deeper at what I have learnt this year and what perhaps would have been beneficial additions to my learning. I think there is a case to be made that some things are omitted from library school that would be very useful, for example some business focused modules or a module that deals with the legalities of copyright and licensing etc. However, what I think is the biggest problem with the course, as far as the discussion we were having, is the different types of student involved and therefore the different needs or expectations of the students. Many students in the MLIS this year, like myself, did not have any practical library experience going into the course. Someone mentioned that all students going into the course should have 3-6 months work experience and then the modules could be better organised to provide more practical skills. I have to admit I think this is a brilliant idea; however, it is very very difficult for people trying to get into the library and information sector to obtain entry level positions without a Masters. The students of today are between a rock and a hard place in relation to getting qualified, getting experience and having the money to live. This applies to every student not just library students. Employers are expecting more and more for less and to be honest as much I would have loved to work in a library for free and get the experience I so desperately wanted, I couldn’t afford to eat and pay rent and pay college loans without working. Now I don’t feel sorry for myself, I’m very happy that I have been able to put myself through college. I have been lucky to get some work experience that is relevant in the last few months so I have achieved a great deal in a relatively short period of time and I’m happy with my progress. Would it have been better for me to have this experience before college? I’m not sure. Perhaps the Masters in SILS has changed to suit people trying to get into the profession rather than people that have been working in a library and are looking to up-skill. I know that my lack of practical experience hasn’t affected my ability to achieve very good grades. I know that as regards trying to get work after the course more experience would have been beneficial but I’m not sure if I could have afforded both low-paid or unpaid experience and a degree. I have enjoyed the Masters; I’m not sure how I’ll feel when I look back in a year or two after working in the area but one thing it has taught me is that I can adapt and I can learn. If the Masters has given me anything, it is confidence in myself and my abilities, the determination that this is the career I want to pursue and a thirst for more. To be quite frank I’m not sure how well any degree prepares a student for life in the ‘real’ world but I feel like if the degree gives them the same sense of confidence that their skills are relevant to their chosen career and makes them strive for more then surely it is doing something right. I understand that my views on this could be very different to someone who has worked in a library and has gone back to do the MLIS.
Anyway, after this chat, I stayed to talk some more and on my walk home I found I had a lot to think about. We were discussing how certain things were left out of the MLIS and someone made the point that things like budgeting and legal issues are not things that you are likely to deal with in your first library job out of college. I began to think that because CPD is so important it would be great to be able to learn about these areas after college and when it becomes relevant. There were suggestions of being able to complete courses at a modular level, possibly negotiating a lower rate considering the huge expense associated with college tuition. However, as I strolled along I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if librarians could collaborate with other groups to facilitate learning. Librarians have a lot to offer, we could help people with their information literacy skills, or with social media and very many other things while small business owners or lawyers or publishers could contribute with their expertise in budgeting or copyright law. By collaborating with others librarians could increase the profile of the profession and begin to change the outdated perceptions. The public library would be a perfect place to hold informal ‘learning camps’ and costs could be kept low enough if people had the attitude that it would be collaborative learning, people learning different things from each other. The difficulty would be that there would be no certification for anything learnt at an event like this and it might be very difficult to get up and running.
Anyway, that is just an idea but it goes to show that Library Camp was a success because I met other library and information professionals, took part in great pitches and I came away inspired and thoughtful.
Thank you very much to the LAI Career Development Group and the Academic and Special Libraries Section of the LAI for such a fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable day.