12 Apr 2018

A&SL 2018 Conference and Exhibition - Fail Better: Lessons Lived; Lessons Learnt

Guest post by Colleen Ballard. Colleen Ballard is studying MLIS at UCD. Special interests include books, manuscripts and ephemera. @cballard_biblio

A&SL programme
A&SL Conference Brochure

I had the pleasure of attending the A&SL Conference 2018 on Friday 9th March at the National Gallery of Ireland. Borrowing from Beckett, the theme, Fail Better: Lessons Lived; Lessons Learnt, endeavoured to prompt a shift from failure as negative to failure as a valuable learning pivot in a progressive profession. This resonated personally. I knew I could benefit from a positive approach to failure, and I felt both reassured and buoyed up to tackle my faulty perceptions.

Speakers candidly revealed failures. It was reassuring to discover in various levels of library and information service, failure is experienced. Colleen Burgess (HUC) stated how in the US regular events to discuss failure had resulted in a supportive culture of experimentation. John McManus (TCD) noted it is easy for a cataloguer to make mistakes, and, no escaping it, they are visible to all as illustrated by exposure of his own mistakes. He observed some difficulties within cataloguing could be addressed if the desire for perfection is challenged. Áine Carey (MU) highlighted how the best attempts to improve teaching provision can disappoint and not develop as expected. The importance of continuing in the discovery process and implementing plans to find what works was emphasised.

I particularly anticipated the keynote from Duncan Chappell (Glasgow School of Art) on the loss and restoration of the art noveau library designed by Mackintosh, and he did not disappoint. Happy to extract himself from the “disaster circuit” and into the calm of the NGI and A&SL Conference, he guided the audience through devastation, aftermath, recovery, and the value of a disaster plan. Residue of grief was palpable but so was excitement at the new incarnation in progress, a testimony to lessons learnt that will better facilitate user friendly engagement with a beautiful new space. Gauging audience response, many hope to visit when the library reopens in September 2019.

From tweaking titles to boosting blogs; papers, panels, and three posters conveyed failure as a formative learning process. The final presentation by Jane Burns (IHF) and Niamh O’Sullivan (ITB) – a duo which delighted many according to Twitter responses – addressed workshop woes with WOW’s (workshop on workshops), sharing a tried and tested checklist for success. Overall, specific words stood out emphasising the value of acknowledging and using failure to advantage: experiment, change, improvement, trying, growth. Or, drawing from the eclectic quotes displayed at the conference, as Yoda puts it, “the greatest teacher, failure is”.

Tweets confirm that the pleasing space of the National Gallery of Ireland was an appreciated new venue. The facilities were comfortable and conducive to concentration, and the atrium used for breaks beautifully enhanced the generous hospitality of the NGI and facilitated perfectly the chance to form new acquaintances. Andrea Lydon informed us the NGI has plans of its own and it is hoped, lessons lived and learnt, all their library dreams come true.

A quick directive how to move slides on would have avoided hitches – apparently it was not the usual arrow. Taking notes in the dark was a challenge!

This conference opened the conversation on failure, and suggests there is much more to discuss, indeed continue discussing, now and in the future. #ASL2018.

My personal gratitude to Bibliotheca for the bursary I received to attend this enjoyable event and A&SL for this opportunity.

Note: There will be a second review of the A&SL Conference published in the October issue of An Leabharlann.

16 Mar 2018

Attending non-library conferences

Guest post by Caroline Rowan.

As librarians, we attend seminars and conferences for a variety of reasons - for CPD, for networking, to learn about new technologies, to compare our activities against our peers and to be inspired with new  ideas.

While I am a regular attendee at LIS conferences and workshops, 2018 has been my first year to attend a non-library conference as a librarian. The Irish Network of Medical Educators held their annual conference in University College Cork from 07-09 February. The theme of the INMED conference was clinical supervision, but because it was about medical education, much of the content was directly relatable to what we do in librarianship. In fact, Professor Peter Cantillon (NUI, Galway), Chair of INMED, specifically noted that INMED is a meeting for people with “teacher identities”, which resonated with me particularly given that teaching is part and parcel of a health librarians role.

I’ll just touch on a few of the sessions to give you a flavour of the conference, (you can see the full list of speakers and content here.) but hopefully it will demonstrate to you that there is plenty on offer outside of our own particular field, which can still be directly relevant to our work.

Dr. Dorene Balmer, from The Children’s Hospital Philadelphia, spoke about the concept of entrustment, which was defined as “reliance of a supervisor on a trainee to execute a given professional task correctly, and on the trainee’s willingness to ask for help when needed”. Of course this doesn’t always work and can result in a matrix of possible engagements. Do we as teachers recognise when our students are capable of taking on tasks either with supervision or completely independently? Correspondingly, do our students recognise when they do not have the skills to deal with a situation, and the self-awareness to ask for help? Furthermore, do we reflectively evaluate our own teaching practices to see whether we in fact are operating to the ideal?

The next speaker was Prof. Pim Teunissen from Maastricht University, speaking about the issue of focusing on assessable outcomes and what can be measured. He argued that this obscures the value of the actual experience of learning and the development of unquantifiable skills. An educational assessment needs to combine assessment with an awareness of how people learn from work. Setting milestones isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, the be-all and end-all of a learning programme.

When it was time for the parallel workshops, I opted for the session titled “Interprofessional Education and Technology Enhanced Learning”. I was interested in seeing what kind of software and technology was being used in healthcare teaching. I found, however, that most of the talks focused on the interprofessional (AKA multi-disciplinary) teams, and there was less focus on new technologies than I would have expected from the title.

However, the presentations on team interactions and evaluations gave plenty of food for thought as well as some useful ideas for potential projects. One such project was the development of scenario-based learning videos to help supervisors give feedback to trainees. It’s an idea which could transition well to to any discipline, as could the feedback from another presentation that users preferred small-group learning to online learning.

In the afternoon, I attended a presentation on the SafeMed programme for stress management and building resilience, which has been made mandatory for 1st year medical students in UCC. Dr. Margaret O’Rourke, clinical psychologist, spoke at length about burnout, the frog-in-boiling water concept and the need for self-care, as well as the ability to say “No” when we do not have capacity to take on new work. This is something that many librarians could benefit from particularly where staffing numbers have been significantly reduced or where working as a solo practitioner.

On day two of the conference, I attended Professor Peter Cantillon’s “Getting Published” workshop. There were individual exercises, group discussions and then a shared learning piece as well as recommendations for those who want to publish. It was validating to note that healthcare professionals experience exactly the same challenges and concerns as librarians when publishing - motivation, self-confidence, selecting the appropriate journal, working with co-authors, establishing peer support, finding funding, dealing with rejection, and promoting your research among your peers all got a mention. I came away feeling inspired and motivated to make time for my academic writing, regardless of workload, and to commit to turning my various drafts into publishable documents.

After the workshop there was a talk on bullying in the healthcare system and particularly in relation to medical trainees. There were some horrific, but not surprising, statistics given for the rates of bullying and its impact on staff, as well as recognition that bullying impacts not just the direct victim, but also those who witness bullying.

After that we had two hot topic sessions: one on realist reviews and the other on a new feedback app developed by the College of Anaesthetists in Ireland. You can watch the video about the feedback app here. It might generate a few ideas for your own teaching and learning feedback, particularly those of you who are interested in app development.

The INMED conference may be aimed at clinical educators but there was plenty to be learned as a non-clinical attendee, even with the focus on clinical supervision. I would be very interested to see more librarians attending conferences like this. There is significant value in reaching outside of our library bubbles and evaluating our teaching and learning strategies against those of other professions. Attending non-library conferences is also an opportunity for librarians to build visibility of our profession and an understanding of what we can contribute within the academic environment.

Posted on Friday, March 16, 2018 | Categories:

14 Mar 2018

Pop Up Librarians

Guest post by Hilde Terese Drivenes Johannessen Research librarian for religion, philosophy and history and sociology and social work at University of Agder,  Norway

In 2011 Agder University Library (AUL) began our research support project. We saw that research support was carried out in different ways and was very dependent upon the liaison librarians. Also, the different faculties had different cultures when it came to use of the library. Our project’s main goal was to offer the same research support to all staff members in the university. Therefore, we decided that we shall contact all new academic staff members within a period of four weeks after they start working at the university. One of our ways of marketing this was making posters of each research librarian with bullet points of what they could ask the library, or the librarian about. This idea was inspired by an Erasmus stay at the Glucksman library at the University of Limerick in 2013. The posters were spread to new staff and displayed in the faculties and in the library.

Our research support project was successful, and most researchers know what the library can offer. However, our user survey showed us that few students knew about our subject guides, or that there was in fact a liaison research librarian supporting their subject. We decided to market ourselves again. This time with a younger, more whimsical approach to engage the students. We had avatars of the research librarians made and displayed these in the library shelves. The avatars are holding a poster with their names and the web address for the subject guides. As we are a small library with a limited number of staff, we try to make the students self-sufficient and decided to market the subject guides more than putting up contact information to the librarians. However, the website informs students that they can meet a research librarian in the help desk every day between 10 AM and 2 PM. We are excited to see if this will generate more use of our subject guides, and are also thinking about campaigns we could use the avatars for, like selfies/shelfies with your librarian, find your librarian etc.

To read more about our research support project, the following publications are suggested:
Daland, H. (2013). The Ph.D.-candidate as an information literate resource: developing research support and information literacy skills in an informal setting. LIBER Quarterly, 23(2), 134–155. DOI:

Daland, Hidle, & Hidle, Kari-Mette Walmann. (2016). New roles for research librarians : Meeting the expectations for research support (Chandos information professional series). Cambridge, Mass: Chandos.

12 Feb 2018

SLIP Ireland Conference 2018

Guest post by Helena Byrne one of the founding members of SLIP Ireland

The schedule for the SLIP Ireland Conference 2018 has just been released and has a bumper schedule of students, recent graduates, academics and practitioners well established in their careers. Tickets for the event are FREE and include lunch. This year’s conference theme is “To be or not to be an information professional, that is the question”

Conference Details
Venue: Dublin City Library & Archive, 144 Pearse St., Dublin 2.
Date: 24/02/2018
Time: 10:20-4:30

Student Librarians & Information Professionals Ireland (SLIP Ireland) is an independent group founded in 2015 to bridge the gap between theory and practice in Library and Information Studies and facilitate discussion on both theoretical and practical issues in the field. This is the third annual Conference and takes place at Dublin City Library & Archive, Pearse Street.

Attendees will include current Libraries, Archives & Records Management and Digital Humanities students, as well as librarians and archivists from academic, corporate and public sectors. A main feature of previous conferences was a panel discussion with the three heads of Library schools in Ireland (University College Dublin, Dublin Business School and Ulster University). This year we are extending the invitation to the two archive schools in Ireland. The question for the academic panel will be “Libraries and Archives, is there a difference?”

The question for the academic panel - Libraries and Archives, is there a difference? is something that as a new professional I got asked quite often from people outside the field and we think it will spark an interesting discussion and give attendees lots to think about and use when engaging with the general public.

The last session in the conference will be a panel of practitioners from a variety of information roles who are members of a of professional bodies that represent their sectors. The theme for the practitioner’s panel will be "what kind of information professional will you be?". We will be asking the panel about the professional body they joined, why they joined it and what benefits do they get from it? It is hoped that the new professionals attending the conference will then go on to join a relevant professional body for their field.

Although the call for presentations is only open to current students and recent graduates the conference is open to anyone information professional to attend regardless of what stage they are at in their career.

If you can’t attend you can still follow the events via Twitter through the hashtag #SLIP2018 

1 Feb 2018

CONUL Conference 2018 - Bursary announcement

We are delighted to announce that CONUL (Consortium of National & University Libraries) is once again providing funding for two enthusiastic individuals to attend its 2018 conference, with the theme ‘Transformative Experiences’, to be held in the Galway Bay Hotel on 30-31 May. This is a wonderful opportunity for those beginning LIS careers to attend an internationally regarded conference, with ample provision to attend sessions, network with delegates, and learn about key issues facing research libraries.

Two bursaries in total are available, one for each eligible category of applicant: 
1. LIS students currently studying a LAI accredited course
2. LIS graduates who have graduated from a LAI accredited course within the last 5 years
LAI Accredited courses can be found here and here.

CONUL 2018 bursaries will cover:
Full CONUL 2018 registration - entrance to conference sessions and sponsors’ exhibition, all conference documentation, lunch and refreshments, drinks reception and conference dinner on Wednesday 30 May
One night’s accommodation on Wednesday 30 May, with breakfast the following morning
Transport costs from within Ireland to and from Galway
Appointment of a mentor for the duration of the conference

To apply please email Michelle Agar (magar@tcd.ie) with a letter of expression of interest (maximum 500 words) that includes:
An outline of why you would like to attend CONUL 2018
Your anticipated learning outcomes, and why you would benefit from attending
Confirmation of your agreement to submit a report of the event to the Libfocus library blog within 4 weeks of attending the event, which may be published on both the Libfocus and CONUL websites (mandatory)

Successful applicants will be notified via email by Monday 19 March

In addition to attending conference sessions successful applicants will be required to:
Submit a report on the conference within 4 weeks of the event for potential publication on the Libfocus library blog and CONUL website
Be present at the conference venue in Galway for the full conference programme

*Closing date for applications is 17:00 on Wednesday 28 February 2018*