Thursday, 20 June 2013

Library Camp North East #libcampne. Saturday 15th June 2013

For those who have never attended a Library Camp before the premise is very simple. Rather than a structured timetable of events/speakers, the day is planned very informally with participants either pitching sessions in advance on a wiki or simply turning up with their ideas on the day and pitching a session ‘on the fly’. If things go to plan and enough sessions are pitched, organisers then draw up a mock timetable for the day – which usually means attendees can go to around five 45 minute sessions with a lunch break in between. Libcampne was held at Northumbria University in Newcastle.

The wiki for Library Camp North East can be found here, which has the full timetable of the sessions that ran on the day:

I attended the sessions on marketing and promotion via social media, the CILIP rebranding and image session and after lunch the supporting students and staff in shared services and the crowdsourcing solutions to big issues. I also ran the session on job hunting and creative CPD to tie in with the theme of my current blog on job hunting.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions I attended. The amount of attendees at libcampne meant that discussion groups weren’t too big and, for the most part, discussion could flow freely in the sessions with very little facilitation or need for structure. From other library camps I have attended in the past, sessions that have had big groups in attendance have become problematic and the discussion ends up being dominated by a few people and often ends up running away on a tangent. There was a good mix of people from different sectors and working in different roles at libcampne which meant that there was the opportunity to share opinions and ideas with people we might not necessarily meet in our day-to-day working lives. I was particularly interested in listening to people’s stories of how they tackle issues such as plagiarism in schools and how the librarians are trying to teach children from as young as year 7 about the importance of citing sources and using credible information in coursework. It was also refreshing to learn about various networks between librarians in the North East, both formal and informal. Librarians working in small teams or even alone in schools or health libraries are able to contact others in their sector for support and advice.

Job hunting and creative CPD

The session I ran on job hunting and creative CPD proved very useful and fostered some interesting discussion. I was also pleased that those who chose to attend ranged from those working at assistant level through to senior management, so we were able to get a diverse range of opinions from those applying for jobs and from those who have experience in recruiting. Below is a quick summary of what I felt to be particularly useful parts of the discussion. 

A big question that I wanted answering was HOW managers recruit and shortlist from large volumes of applicants when everyone has similar qualifications, similar experience and writes a good application meeting all of the essential criteria. One suggestion was that, rather than judge on the essential criteria, managers sort through applications by looking at the desirable criteria with the assumption that everyone meets the essential criteria at this first stage. It was suggested that some people fall down at the application stage because they fail to mention anything about the desirable criteria, therefore their applications simply don’t get considered. Another suggestion was having a competency based CV which is arranged around your skills and abilities rather than a chronological list of your previous employment. I think this is an excellent idea, as it is a great way to tailor your CV to particular jobs and also allow your application to stand out and look different to others. The discussion also reached the conclusion that a competency based CV is ideal for those who are looking to move sectors and draw particular attention to their transferable skills.

Many people in the discussion also highlighted the importance of being able to draw examples from other aspects of your life – perhaps a hobby or some volunteer work – that shows that you have gained skills from outside the workplace. A positive attitude is also crucial, particularly at the interview stage, and it is important to not say anything negative about your current/previous employer. This advice could also be used even if you are not job hunting but are attending conferences or events like Library Camp. You never know whether any of the people attending could end up being your future boss or future colleagues and it is important to create the right impression and have the right attitude. However, since Library Camps are full of people who like to attend networking events in their spare time I am perhaps preaching to the converted.

Another issue that came up as part of the discussion was: how do you let your employer know you are job hunting? I am currently in the lucky position of only having a weekend job, therefore I have not been shy about the fact that I am looking for additional work and have enlisted the help of many through Facebook and Twitter and through my blog. It’s been great to have this freedom because many people have sent me links to vacancies that I may not have noticed and I’ve found through my job hunting that I also come across vacancies that I think may be suitable for friends or family who are also looking, so you end up with a network of people looking out for each other and helping with job searches. As part of my session at libcampne we discussed how this might be more difficult for those currently in full-time work who do not want their boss/colleagues to know they are looking elsewhere. One way of approaching things is to perhaps organise a meeting with your manager and explain that you are interested in furthering your career and building on your current skills and experience. If you have a supportive manager, they may be able to help organise work shadowing within your organisation or perhaps even secondment opportunities. Managers taking part in the discussion emphasised the importance of ALWAYS remaining positive and reflecting on what you want out of your career or your current role before asking for further opportunities. In some cases you may find that a workplace is just not right for you and it becomes necessary to leave or you may just want a complete change and a new challenge, but many people in the session believed that supportive and encouraging management meant that they were more likely to be happy in their jobs.

I also wanted to find out how those in the group found their current jobs or where they look if they are job hunting. Local papers seemed to be a popular option, particularly for charities, smaller companies or jobs in schools, and also the guardian jobs site: Corepeople was also mentioned for those looking for agency work, as this particular agency is based in Durham: NRG is also a good site for agency/temporary work in the North East: There was a sense that other popular agency sites for information professionals are very South East orientated and were not particularly useful for the local area. Others which I have also been looking at extensively are , and keeping an eye on all of the North East university websites and local councils and colleges. Many organisations are saving money by only advertising on their own websites so it is beneficial to sign up to job alerts in they have that facility.

Overall, I was very pleased with the outcome of my session and the discussions I took part in throughout the day. While some of the issues raised seemed like common sense or were not particularly new or groundbreaking ideas, I don’t think that this is the point of a Library Camp. By far, the best part of the whole experience is the opportunity to network and meet other like-minded professionals. Personally, I was very grateful for the opportunity to meet so many great people who all share the same enthusiasm for their profession. Having relocated from London very recently, the concentration of professionals in such a big city makes you feel like it is the only place in the world for professional networking but that feeling couldn’t be more wrong. For me, libcampne was a big success because the attendees were all positive and shared enthusiasm and ideas throughout the day. Considering it was the first Library Camp based in the North East, I would like to say a big thank you to the organisers for making it an enjoyable and worthwhile day. The people in the Library and Information profession are by far the most important thing about it and I can safely say that, despite its smaller numbers, the North East is full of driven and ambitious professionals and I’m proud to be a part of the area.


  1. Also, a great storify of some of the tweets on the day. Not made by me, but a fellow professional who was there on the day:

  2. Yay! (sorry, getting a bit over-enthusiastic here!!)
    Thanks for this great write-up of your session; I couldn't be in two places at once (who would have thought) so it's nice to be able to catch up with what happened in the other groups.