Library Make and Do Camp

Laura Palmer enjoyed the back-to-school mindset of a Library Make and Do Camp.

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Library Make and Do Camp was a library camp with a difference.  Organiser Andrew Walsh of Innovative Libraries, known for his work on games in library instruction, billed the event as "having the same positive vibe [as a library camp]… but based around creating materials rather than just talking about stuff."  As a big kid who loves playing games myself, as well as a new LIS professional intrigued by their educational potential, I was excited to attend and produce some games that I could use to induct new HE students to the library this year.

Make and Do Camp was a two day non-residential in Manchester.  At the introductions it was interesting to find that this hadn't limited attendees to those from the North West area - almost half had travelled from further afield.  Without accommodation, the camp could be kept low cost, at just £50 a place.  In addition to this, a few free places were offered, and I was lucky enough to get one. 

The first day began with a group discussion of the resources we would like to make.  The original intention was for small groups to develop a single game together, but as all attendees had different learning objectives to fulfil, we found that we each worked on individual projects instead.  Everyone went away with a prototype game or draft activity. Projects worked on included an escape room style information literacy game , an afternoon tea themed essay skills session, a library induction treasure hunt, and a search keywords card game.  The camp atmosphere, structure and setting were key factors in the success of these individual efforts.

Participants were able to share ideas, advice and encouragement.  It was great to have others on hand to give instant feedback on your work and to suggest ways of solving problems you encountered during game development.  As a new professional, I was able to get tried and tested ideas from the more experienced librarians, as well as a number of useful contacts for sharing materials in future.  I came away with many more ideas than I had time to develop in the two days.

The structure of the camp helped with time management and provided a focus for activities.  At scheduled times, we paused to discuss our progress as a group.  I found this kept me motivated and on track, from the first review where we were to have decided upon the learning objectives our games would meet, to the final review, for which my goal was to have produced a prototype game.  In fact we were so motivated, that on the afternoon of day two, there were times when the room was silent except for the sound of scribbling and typing!

Finally, many attendees remarked on how useful it was to be able to fully focus on the task in hand away from the demands of the workplace.  Camp provided a setting where everyone could really concentrate on their project, with the equipment and materials they needed provided for them and others in the same position to discuss with.  Some attendees did need to finalise their makes back at work, to access the specific resources they were teaching, add branding or tie in with other teaching materials.  If you're thinking of attending a making camp it is recommended that you take a laptop with which you can access your work network or files.

As well as providing the time and space to prepare useful resources, this librarians’ retreat camp was invaluable mental preparation for the busy months to come in the academic library, providing a sense of achievement and positivity.

If you're interested in attending a similar camp, the next Innovative Libraries making camp is a residential escape room camp at Gladstone’s Library in November.  For more information see http://gamesforlibraries.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/a-residential-camp-to-make-escape-room.html


This is an edited version of a blogpost that appeared on the Library and Information Sector New Professionals Network blog.