Radical Library Camp

This weekend, despite waking up with the evil yearly start-of-term cold, I made my way over to Bradford for the first Radical Library Camp. I’d never been to a Library Camp before, just conferences, which are usually marked by loads of interesting if predictable sessions on how to do my job better, lovely buffet lunches and a shed load of freebies to cart back home with me and divvy up amongst my colleagues.

RLC was different from the start in that you had to ‘pitch’ a session, so the program was completely made up on the day. This was great as it meant I could make my own mind up of what to go to based on how I was feeling at the time and who I wanted to talk to-rather than turning up and thinking ‘what did I think sounded cool four months ago when I registered for this thing?’.

Library Camp sign

The day itself was held in The Bradford Resource Centre, an easy ten minute walk from the Interchange and a lovely community centre venue with a kitchen, different spaces of varying sizes and a real co-opy feel. Everyone chipped in for lunch, with a massive tureen of dal that instantly cured my cold, lovely fresh bread and salady bits, and enough tiffin to swim in. So much more informal and friendly that a buffet (though I LOVE A BUFFET, bring-a-dish meals, such as the ones at Sacred Harp meets, are def my new way of eating).

The sessions varied in their radical-ness from Libraries as a Monoculture, neoliberalism with Libraries, and LGBT provision. There were four sessions throughout the day with plenty to choose from.

Library Camp timetable

I attended sessions on library design, which was wonderfully informative and gave me a lot of food for thought (is comfort empowering? Is me sitting behind a desk necessarily adding to the amount of conflict I experience each day?-that one especially has made me want to experiment with not sitting down all day, though I strongly suspect I’ll just end up poking students and getting years behind my cataloguing).

Next up was BDSM resources in libraries, which is a subject I never thought I’d be discussing with other professionals but in light of censorship issues, our duty as educators to provide information about all sexualities and the misinformation provided by the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon it turned out to perhaps be one of the most practically helpful workshops of the day. I’m now compiling a list of local charities to request resources from, for example, and thinking a lot about how collection development policies can be used to defend anti-censorship.

In the afternoon I attended two very angry talks about how copyright is dead-which included finding out about IFLA’s campaign on re-working international copyright law to better suit the needs of library users, and Libraries as Monocultures, which was run by @pennyb, who I’d never actually met and was wonderfully sweary and passionate.

Perhaps my favourite thing about RLC was getting to meet other people working in libraries, or who had an interest in libraries, and being able to not worry about being Amazingly Professional, not wearing a suit, not small talking, not worrying about being a spy in the camp. It was so relaxed, but also informative and inspiring and environment to be in and really felt like the beginnings of a movement of the future. I really really felt, ‘These are my people, and I’m in the Right Job’, which I feel a LOT but is always nice to have it confirmed!

I’ve volunteered myself to put together a zine of the day, which I will have to do in November after Lit Fest Season, but shall be nice and ready for Christmas.

I loved RLC, and really hope there is a next time!

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