Information Pride

When I got off the bus for this years libcamp 2014 in July, the sun was shining and the Pride parade was about to kick off in the streets. This set the tone for my second unconference.
When I did my undergrad in Information Studies, it was impressed upon us from the start about the broad scope of being an Information Professional. One week we were learning about the science of information retrieval and the next we were discussing the psychology of colour design and typography. I returned to study with a vague notion of becoming a librarian and left university wondering what exactly a librarian was. These days I work in Digital Marketing where I spend a lot of time discussing/arguing with our content team about the principles that I learned as an information student. I don’t worry so much about what a librarian is anymore, but it was good to get back to talking about information access without worrying about how to sell stuff.

Lucky Elephant

Image Credit – National Library of Ireland

Unlike irelibcamp2013, I got to roam around all the pitches so I got more of a flavour of them this time. For those who have not had the experience of an unconference yet, a pitch is a chance to kickstart a discussion about anything of interest. They are informal and I really enjoy them because I get to listen to concepts and experiences that are often quite different to my own and they keep me connected to librarianship. Unconferences are ideal for covering a lot of different subjects and they have a really nice energy as the food is crowdsourced, the networking is casual and the learning is continuous.

I got to listen to Betty Maguire explore the concepts of access and intellectual freedom through the use of copyright. Jen O’ Neill led a pitch about employment, job-hunting techniques and non-traditional roles which brought up the thorny subject of internships. Laura Rooney Ferris expanded on the non-traditional roles and professionalism by leading a discussion on embedded librarianship while Marta Bustillo from DRI used the concept of  collaboration as one possible solution to some of those problems. Philip Cohen from DIT asked why we should join the Library Association of Ireland and he received a flipboard full of post-its with different answers. Ann  O’ Sullivan and Erin O’ Mahoney got me thinking about what sort of filters and feeds that I use to organise information for retrieval and avoid overload.

Always on the outside, looking in

Always on the outside, looking in

The reason I was roaming was because I was going to do a pitch myself about social media. There is a lot of fear and confusion around social media use out there. Some of it is warranted but a lot of it is unnecessary. I have seen social media guides and policies that are so rigid and dogmatic that they strike fear into the hearts of interns and send CEOs looking for lawyers. A lot of that confusion can be cleared up by putting people in a room and letting them knock heads together. I think that I learned more than anyone else there from actually doing this pitch and from conversations with people during the libcamp who shared their own experiences with me. That is what I really like about unconferences.

Cast in a Koreshan Unity play in Estero, Florida

Information Professionals with a unified and consistent voice
Image Credit – Florida Memory/Flickr


For my pitch I split the participants into groups, gave them a random institution and got them working together on language, tone, ethos and character.  This allowed them to generate a “textual moodboard” (thanks to a participant who coined that phrase for me) that they could all buy into and take ownership of. Then I asked them to create a positive interaction on an appropriate social platform and a response to a negative interaction. Ideally this should be done for every platform that a company or institution uses and it should be used as a guide for every new employee that logs on for your company or institution.


Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge Suspender Cables-October 7, 1914

Information Professionals fine tuning their tone
Image Credit – Museum of Photographic Art/Flickr

I was happy that each group managed to achieve their objective and I particularly enjoyed the personas that they created for their institutions (A grown-up Matilda for the National Library of Ireland, The Gruffalo for Macnas and Edward Snowden for Open Knowledge Ireland were a few of my favourites), but to be honest, I knew that they would be well able for the challenge.
Looking forward to Libcamp15!


Chocolate Picnic

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.