Exeter Start Up Weekend 20th – 22nd November 2015

Exeter Start Up Weekend is an exciting, informative and daunting challenge to set up a business in 54 hours. It is very well organised with links to information and videos about pitching, business planning, weekend schedule, etc sent beforehand. I with Sophie, another Business Champion at Exeter Library, wrote and practiced our pitch. We took advantage of a 1:1 pitch practice session with Matt Morley of Tickbox. Lots of helpful tips and a recording of our pitch sent to us!

Exeter Library business pitch

The Book Chooser start up idea one minute pitch

7 teams were chosen from the 30 pitches. Our pitch got lots of votes but unfortunately there weren’t enough tech attendees and as our idea was more technically difficult than others the Exeter Start Up Team could not pick us to go through. Still we came to learn so joined different teams where our interests and expertise could be of best use. I chose an accessible events platform as I have many years experience of teaching children with additional needs and supporting people to access library resources.

After team introductions it was all about the website to match accessible performances with people who have additional needs.  What was the value proposition? What did the website need to be able to do so that the amazing Tycho from Koncept could do the tech work on the website (while also doing the tech work for another team at the same time)? We booked mentor slots for the next morning so what questions did we want to ask them? 11pm and the Exeter University Innovation Centre closes.

Innovation Centre

Team Canvas, Value Proposition & Business Model Canvas templates

8.30am back at the innovation centre. Mentor support great so we now have a name and tag line: Cushion – making events more comfortable. Michael and Louise out and about doing face to face customer validation while Toby and myself on our laptops. I make my first Survey Monkey survey and reach out to my contacts in support organisations to disseminate it to their users. I use the local theatre and cinema websites to find out what accessible performances they are putting on for the website. I collect data from Exeter City and Devon County Councils about the number of people with additional needs to get statistics to back up our customer validation. We pull everything together and its 10pm and the innovation centre closes.

Michael making himself comfortable

My Social Media photo: Cushion – making events more comfortable

8.30am Sunday and it’s all about the pitch. The 5 minute pitch must be structured: MVP, validation, execution, business model and growth. The slide presentation will now have to show screen shots, not a working model of the website, as Tycho has flown off to Spain early this morning (he does have company offices there). Matt Pocock, the voice coach who won the previous Exeter Start Up Weekend, gave us some really helpful advice about our pitch. We alter the wording of the pitch and reduce the words on the slides for more impact.

Cushion Team

Toby, Louise, Me and Michael = the Cushion Team

It’s time to go up in front of the 5 judges. The pitch goes smoothly and we answer all the judges’ questions expanding on the information we had left out of the pitch. We are the people’s choice winners of the attendees and we achieve 2nd place from the judges.

I learnt so much and had so much fun. Different caterers set up outside for meals and snacks. The table tennis competition was hotly contested. The weekend was exciting and exhausting at the same time. Thank goodness I had booked Monday off!




Library Camp SW 2014 at Exeter Library 5th July 2014

Library Camp SW is a day of discussion, inspiration and networking with others interested in libraries and information. Each year a new team hosts the event at a different venue. I enjoyed the first 2 Library Camps at the University of Exeter and the University of Bristol so I suggested that this year it would be a good idea to hold it at the new Exeter Library. Luckily networking really does work and others came on board to make up a brilliant and diverse team from Exeter Library, Tiverton Library, Tiverton High School Library, Westexe Technology College Library and University of Exeter Libraries. Having never put on a conference before or organised a team from different workplaces I researched project management. This research was very useful as I found out about different types of action plans, Social Media marketing, etc and also how to set up and use a Wiki for information sharing and Eventbrite for tickets. The previous team were also very helpful sending on the links to what they had done and answering any questions. I acquired a better understanding of project management from my learning and planning, enjoyed working with people from different library sectors, enjoyed the challenge of organising the event and gained a sense of achievement. The Wiki statistics show over 2400 visits to the Library Camp SW 2014 Wiki.

People who attended the event were from a wide range of public, school, college, university, health etc libraries and from linked occupations which encouraged broad ranging discussions. A Library Camp is an unconference so participants pitched their session ideas on the Library Camp SW Wiki and at the start of the day. While 2 of the team ran a networking session the rest of us quickly matched numbers of interested people and sessions with rooms and tours to make a timetable for the day that allowed the participants to attend the 5 sessions that most interested them.

Library Camp SW 2014 Fab Lab intro

As Exeter Library had only been open for 6 weeks the new library tour was a popular option so we put on 4 tours. The tour of the Exeter Stack (staff only access library of older stock and collections) with a handling session of some of the beautifully illustrated Devon Collection of Children’s Books was also popular so we timetabled 3 sessions. There was lots of interest in the new Fab Lab and the minicomputer Raspberry Pi Jam being held that morning. I led 2 sessions with everyone asking numerous questions, taking lots of notes and all were very pleased with their 3D printed mementos.

There was loads of information sharing and useful tips in the wide range of discussion sessions: Technology in Libraries, Libraries as Community Hubs, Engaging Teenagers, Author Visits, Partnerships with Business, Library Users’ Expectations, Moving Sectors, Customer Service, CILIP Qualifications and Networking. There were also masses of interesting discussions during the delicious Bring and Share Lunch. The sharing of experiences and enthusiasm of the participants made a really enjoyable day.

For more photos and information see http://libcampsw2014.wikispaces.com/. Thanks again to all the team and all the participants. The 2014 team really enjoyed the experience of putting on the event so if you would like to run Library Camp SW 2015 at your library then please email libcampsw@gmail.com.

Visit to the Library of Birmingham 7th February

I visited the Library of Birmingham on 7th February.  I had 2 particular reasons for the visit.  Exeter Central Library has been under £4.5 million redevelopment for 1 1/2 years and reopens on 22nd May.  Therefore I wanted to see what had been achieved at the Library of Birmingham (for 188 million), good practice and what the difficulties had been.  The new Exeter Library will have a Business and Intellectual Property Centre for the first time and I will be part of a team of 4 with responsibility for the centre so I wanted to learn about the Business and IP Centre at the Library of Birmingham and how it worked, the databases they used and which were most useful, any difficulties they had and what they would like to change. 

Yvonne Barker, Business & Learning Manager, gave a very informative 2 1/2 hour tour of the 11 floors of the Library and a good insight into the thinking behind each area.  Having seen many images of the library I had this picture in my mind of a cube covered in metal rings and hadn’t realised this iconic building was actually in 3 tiers.  This had been planned to allow for 2 gardens, the Secret garden on floor 7 and the Discovery Terrace on floor 3.  I thought that the outdoor space to read, relax with friends and enjoy the views was very relevant to the new Exeter Library where a new entrance to the rear of the building has been made to allow access to the park behind.  A lot of thought has gone into the outside areas in Rougemont Gardens but the visit has inspired more creative thinking about the balcony area on floor 2.  The Shakespeare Memorial Room, Skyline Viewpoint, Book Rotunda and Ampitheatre were amazing but for me the most significant impression I have is of half empty or completely empty shelves.  The shelving length was designed to equal the books that had been bought for the new Birmingham Library and of course with over half the stock out there are these huge gaps and no money to buy more stock.  As part of the stock team for Exeter Library I will be discussing extra stock and where to store it with the team.  In addition to the worries over cuts to services in Birmingham Yvonne had a big problem with IT.  There are still rooms not in use as the outside company who has the one million pound annual IT contract for the library hasn’t completed the work yet.  When we moved into the temporary library I put forward that it was essential that IT be done early so that it could be tested and any problems solved and this visit has reinforced this necessity for the move back into the redeveloped library.

On the Business and IP side I learnt that not all planned activities were in place yet.  Yvonne explained that some, such as the Learning Suite not yet up and running, were due to the IT not being completed but others due to time.  The first month after opening on 3rd September staff spent all their time on crowd control and it wasn’t until November they really started to get business and IP activities going.  This demonstrated to me the need to have everything not only in place for the opening of the new Exeter Library but to have organised the next few months after opening.  Yvonne also discussed impact and signage as you walk into the Business, Learning and Health floor and ideas on how to improve what they had at present.  This I found significant and was a timely reminder to step back and look at the Business and IP Centre from the customer’s viewpoint, particularly is it professional and does it give people in business/job hunting confidence in the expertise of the library.   I then had an instructive session with Carol Wallace, the Business Co-ordinator, about the Business & Learning databases the library subscribes to.  This included popularity, uses of the different databases, costs, etc.  This information is very important to Exeter Library as there is a lot of discussion at senior level about which databases to open the new Business and IP centre with.

I took lots of photographs of the interesting and the amazing and the more mundane notices, signs, leaflets etc to feedback to the development team.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/soolibabc/sets/72157640653172654/  Taking the photographs helped me focus on what I was seeing and caused me to think about why I was taking that photograph and what I wanted to achieve in showing it to the development team.