Last month I attended a library camp with a difference.  Catching my eye on the LIS-Link mailing, organiser Andrew Walsh of Innovative Libraries had described ‘Library Make and Do Camp’ as “having the same positive vibe [as a library camp]… but based around creating materials rather than just talking about stuff.”¹  Andrew is well known for his work on games in teaching, especially in libraries.  The basic idea is that getting students to play games and learn actively improves their understanding and retention.²  This is an area that interests me – I’m a big kid and love playing games myself – so I was excited to find out how I could use games in my workplace (a small HE campus library) to deliver library inductions and information literacy sessions to our new students this September.

Now I must confess, I’ve never actually been to a traditional library camp.  I did almost attend one at the new Library of Birmingham just after it opened, but was kept away by torrential rain and horrendous traffic on the M6.  So although I can’t compare the two for you here, I hope by describing it you can make your own judgement!

Make and Do Camp was a 2 day non-residential in Manchester.  It was fairly 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.  I thought I might see a few familiar faces, but at the introductions on day one, it was great to find that almost half the attendees had travelled from outside the North West area to attend.  It’s always interesting to meet and share with different LIS professionals from further afield, as well as those from your neighbouring institutions.

We kicked things off by discussing the resources we would like to make.  The intention was to work on a game in small groups, but as we all had different objectives we actually ended up working on individual projects.   However, all the time we were working we were sharing ideas, advice and encouragement.  Everyone was positive and helpful and it was great to have others on hand to suggest ways around problems you met or to give the thumbs up to your ideas.  As a newbie, I was able to get feedback and tried and tested ideas from more experienced librarians, and came away with plenty of ideas for later development, as well as useful contacts for requesting advice, materials and session plans in future.

For making our games, plenty of resources were provided such as laptops, books, games, cards, dice and the all-important coloured pens and post-its (of varying sizes I noted with glee as a stationery geek!).  By lunchtime all the tables were covered with colourful notes and lists as we planned and experimented with our makes.

Developing a library escape room game at camp. Photo courtesy of Andrew Walsh.

At set times throughout the camp, we took a break from activities 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 on the learning objectives we wanted our games to provide, to the final review at the end of day 2, for which my goal was to have produced my library search game for freshers so that the others could review it.  In fact we were so motivated, that on the afternoon of day 2 with the end of camp in sight, there were times when the room was silent except for the sound of scribbling and typing!

Everyone went away with at least a prototype or first draft of a game or lesson plan.  I ended up with not only the game I needed but posters and handouts too.  I know I would never have achieved that back in the library, even in the summer holidays!  Many attendees remarked on how useful it was to be able to fully concentrate away from workplace distractions.  Some needed to develop their makes further back at work, to access specific resources, add branding or tie the game in with other teaching materials.  I would recommend to anyone thinking of attending a make camp to take a laptop which you can connect to your work network or files.

Returning to work from my “librarians’ retreat” I felt enthusiastic about the start of the new academic year.  As well as having prepared useful resources, the camp was invaluable mental preparation for the busy months to come in the academic library.  For the sense of achievement and positivity I took away, I’d quite like to book myself in for 2 days every month, but I think my institution might object!

If you’re interested in learning more or attending a similar camp, here are some useful links: – the next make camp is a residential escape room make camp at Gladstone’s Library in November which sounds fun (sorry, I mean useful for incorporating games into your instruction!) – a few online courses on designing library teaching materials and games – Games in Schools and Libraries podcasts – some useful ideas and links to further information


¹ See

² For more on this, see Walsh, A. & Inala, P. (2010). Active Learning Techniques for Librarians. Oxford: Chandos Publishing.

Featured Image courtesy of Rachael Hunter.


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