I think the first useful thing I said to a group of librarians here in Cambridge was at an event at the English faculty – after giving a lot of marketing blah that was probably OK, but maybe not that fascinating – I was getting frustrated by comments from the audience about the barriers that were apparently in place to stop them as librarians from developing and learning. Some people there were actively looking to, and waiting for, the UL to somehow be able to wave a magic wand and cater to their every need rather than grasping the nettle themselves. In essence what I said was that they shouldn’t wait for such assistance and that everyone “must help themselves” or words to that effect (I subconsciously knew as I said it that I was paraphrasing Tom Baker’s Doctor Who circa 1976 when he famously said the same thing to a bunch of hapless humans who were busy being threatened by a monster of the week!) My then recent horrendous experience of centralisation at Oxford had made me a bit outspoken about not waiting for the same process here in Cambridge to solve problems as, however well its done, its more likely to add new problems to your list rather than solve old ones. Besides if you wait to be told how to do something and don’t find out for yourself, then you miss out on a crucial part of the process which not only affords you a deeper level of understanding but also helps you to apply it directly to your own work context.
For me Cam23’s greatest strength is just that, the opportunity through a self-directed programme to have an explore and a play and see what tools work for you and your library (and which ones don’t). I’m a big fan of its voluntary basis, of its requirement for personal application. In the words of Reggie Perrin’s CJ “I didn’t get where I am today by waiting around for someone to show me how something works!” On a broader scale the Cam23 project itself came about out of good ol’ DIY enthusiasm – a casual tweet something along the lines of ‘shouldn’t we have a 23 things programme in Cambridge?” By the following month, after a few hours creating the blog (how long ago does that feel Emma?!), Cam23 was born. A programme ‘out of nowhere’ buoyed up solely by the enthusiasm and goodwill of a handful of people. Yay us.
Admittedly us project team members had a slightly harder time of it than participants having to research and write main blog posts and carry out a bit of administration and support (blog registration, drop-ins, the launch) as well our own personal posts , something that has occasionally made me a bit twitchy when complaints about the time involved have reached my ears! It has been a bit of a slog. But as I knew I would, I’ve learnt a huge amount. I think I’d used all 23 things before but I’d never explored them in as much detail. And blogging about them really helped me to think about them and evaluate them in a way that I just know I wouldn’t inside the comfort of my own head!
So how exactly has Cam23 changed things for me? Well for a start, I’ve got to know 5 other librarians very well indeed (and my suspicions that they were good people have been 100% confirmed) as well as heaps of other librarians from the Cambridge Libraries community. I’ve started to use Google Docs regularly. We’re currently creating our own mini-motion picture as a result of my research for podcasting week – watch this space! I’ve integrated my personal and our Library team Google Calendars – a huge operational boon. We now have an all-singing and dancing Delicious collection of free business information resources. And most importantly of all, Cam23 helped me to decide to move our Library Service to a blog (http://cjbsinfo.wordpress.com/– the woodland image is temporary, we’re waiting for a new logo).
I’m going to end with a quote because I’ve been reading too many Cam23 blogs not too! This Mark Twain quote sums up the Cam23 ethos for me:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”