All roads led to Dublin two weeks ago for Irelands first library unconference. An unconference is the collective term for a gathering of librarians let loose from their normal workplaces. It was also Badass Librarian Day, which was another first for me.
The venue was unusual. A chocolate factory that no longer makes chocolate, taken over by cake-eaters. The room was sparse and cleverly designed by @LAICDGroup and @ASLIBRARIES. It had columns which symbolised the 7 pillars of information literacy. In the corners were piles of random objects, cordoned off from the main area with danger tape. Collections Management librarians circled these areas with a wistful look in their eyes. One lone book shelf stood along the back wall with random objects placed on it to represent the library profession – a row of identical books, a profile picture of a stern looking woman and what looked like a scrubbing brush. On one of the pillars hung a medieval looking door. A staircase went nowhere. In a corner was a free-standing aluminium sink with an industrial shower head. Upstairs was a bongo band and an urban garden which I assume represented the changing nature of library spaces. In the midst of it all, librarians mingled.
First we had the speed networking.
This was surprisingly fun. I met students with interesting capstones and cataloguing people that helped me get over my fear of acronyms. AACR2,RDA and FRBR give me the heebie jeebies. I imagine that cataloguing is like surfing. One day I will just do it and go oh my god why did I not do this earlier. Until then I shall stand on the shore looking at the waves and the cataloguers bobbing up and down in the distance like seal-people and I will shake my head and go for an ice-cream and collect random pebbles to bring home and put on the bathroom shelf.
The journal pitch was facilitated by Mish Dalton (@mishdalton) and Jane Burns (@JMBurns99). I view journal articles as online insects that scurry about in the academic world. They have bodies, heads, footnotes and identifiable DNA codes that show their evolution. My view, as usual, was back-to-front and focused on the end product. Articles start with people and their questions. I have to say, I missed that side of it. That is why I like unconferences. I am the sort that needs to hear twenty different viewpoints before I understand what one person is talking about. Both Jane and Mish were able to bring it back to the human picture, Jane by talking about a colleague who gathered newspaper clipping as a research method and Mish by coming up with this concept of having our very own research journal. And why not? Somebody has to figure out why Game of Throne-heads upload their responses to character deaths onto YouTube.
Next pitch was facilitated by Helen Kielt (@HelenKielt) who was talking about Health in Mind NI, a Northern Ireland lottery-funded initiative which links mental health charities with public libraries. Claire Mckeown (@Mckeonbear) spoke about her positive experience hosting the initiative in her library.The project also promotes laughter yoga, mindfulness, reading aloud groups and knitting circles. We discussed how our own employers look after mental health. I used to work in a place where we did Tai Chi every day before work. I miss that. There was talk about walking lunches, work choirs and foodie fridays. All examples of employers promoting a sense of well-being among workers. Why should a library be any different? The discussion moved on to ways of attracting men to libraries (Makerspaces and Mens Sheds) and the information needs of people with mental health difficulties.
All in all, an interesting afternoon. I met lots of nice folk and stayed away from the brownies.