Andrea, Carolin and myself had previously visited Horsforth Library Ballroom and the Sandbar in the town. So my sense of place and geography was, unusually for me, of use. The early morning drive over was fantastic, the roads clear and the sat-nav successful. I’d looked forward to this breakfast since our last visit to the Sandbar and it’s kitchen. As the campers began to arrive and fill the table waiting for us in the garden, we joked about abandoning the Ballroom for Horsforth Hall Park. The joke lasted for about twelve seconds before the decision was unanimously passed and we’d created the first outdoor library camp.
Over the next hour or so more campers turned up, some left to check on the library, to speak to Carole who’d liaised with Carolin and the team in arranging the day. A big thanks must go to Carole for putting up with us and going above and beyond the call of duty, in staying behind to help us tidy and lock up behind us. When I got into the hall I knew the day was going to well. The assorted crowd was renewing acquaintances, and already forming into groups and sub groups and sub, sub groups etc.
When we’d decided to begin the proceedings and abandon the cake, for the moment, I was anticipating talking for a while to ease and encourage the collective mind. After a few housekeeping rules I offered my “What’s yours’ called?” session and was about to start another explanation of the basic idea when I was pushed off the stage by Millieshoes shouting “C’mon!” where she then proposed her session and jumped off the stage to let 14 others step outside of their comfort zone, offering to present a session.
With the sixteen sessions agreed upon, cake was consumed and the four groups began to form in the corners of the room. Each corner to host two sessions before lunch, with another two sets of four sessions in the park after lunch.
The first session was the session I got the most from. Penny offered up the subject of EBooks. I have a growing interest in this subject, stemming from documentaries about peer-to-peer networking and copyright. “Steal This Film”, “Good Copy, Bad Copy” and “RiP: A Remix Manifesto” were blatantly biased, yet accessible and powerful commentaries on current copyright law. It is becoming apparent publishers have, to put it mildly, the upper hand. How best to respond to this challenge without a national collective bargaining agreement was central to the talk. A few bright spots on the horizon were mentioned, publishers willingness to appropriate libraries with subscriptions to digital magazines. Why the willingness to co-operate with libraries, can anyone say advertisements?
The last session of the day, took place in the park. I thought it sometimes in danger of spilling over from debate to complaint. Too many negatives and not enough positives. I blame myself here more than others. I, can, have a seemly endless list of obscure complaints covering diverse areas: observations about ‘pigeon hole-ing’ borrowers, what to call them, what is unacceptable behaviour, common experiences with marketing and other departments, staffing and maintenance of buildings and, most importantly, TOILETS!
In Peter Hoeg’s:”Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow”. The titular Smilla explains….There’s one thing that is forbidden on journeys by sled, and that is whimpering. Whining is a virus, a lethal, infectious, epidemic disease. I
refuse to listen to it. I refuse to be saddled with these orgies of emotional
pettiness…..We all have a tendency to feel sorry for ourselves, apart from Smilla, her stoic determination struck me as an ideal when I first met her and is still an aspiration today.
Attendees of What’s Yours’ Called rarely need much encouraging to elaborate on topics. I felt I could have made more of an effort to drag solutions, even attempts at solutions, out of the collected campers. The best plan for dealing with a council departments I could offer was, a simple “Do it, it’s easier to apologise, than it is to get permission”. I do genuinely believe that, but I’m disappointed in myself for offering such clichéd, obvious support.
Unacceptable behaviour is much more of an issue in public libraries than the academic or professional, closely related to personal hygiene. Both affect other members of the library. I’d like to find a sure-fire way of solving these problems. I suggested librarians tend to be intolerant of kids messing about annoying others, yet would be uncomfortable chastising someone about their body odour, doubtless offensive to many. Uncertainty of policy was mentioned here for both cases of unacceptable behaviour. Feeling that you were supported physically as well as institutionally, obviously important.
As I have no doubt that the elephant in the library, is the toilet. My certainty that, the smallest room will frequent other sessions, leaves me with no choice but to leave this discussion alone. Proof that the apparently incongruous can have far-reaching consequences. An example of the unconference’s random, anarchic manner.