24 Apr 2012

LAI/CILIP Annual Joint Conference 2012 in Belfast

The LAI/CILIP Annual Joint Conference 2012 took place at the Merchant's Hotel in Belfast from Thursday, 19th April - Friday, 20th April.

Over 120 delegates mingled in the magnificent surroundings of this former bank with its mix of Victorian architecture and Art Déco interior. I attended as a day delegate on Friday, so missed out on the reception at Stormont and the dinner the night before, which by all accounts had been very enjoyable and impressive.

The topic this year was "Transforming Libraries and Information Services". Its subtitle "radical ideas and innovative programming to transform libraries, recharge librarians and change lives" set the tone for the presentations. For me, the three morning papers certainly achieved this goal.

Margaret Hayes, City Librarian, Dublin City Public Libraries, kicked off the day with a awe-inspiring overview over the work that goes on everyday in the 4th UNESCO City of Culture. The sheer amount of projects that Dublin's public libraries are engaged in both nationally and internationally is truly remarkable. A third of all tourists who visit the city can be classed as "cultural tourists", so even from an economic point of view these initiatives are very important. Margaret talked about the impact "one city, one book" and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary award had on writers and readers alike. They really do change lives.

Radical ideas were the focus point of Debbie Shorley's paper. She is Director of Library Services, Imperial College, at the University of London and, of course, a former President of CILIP. She challenged the audience to think about what our users really need. The mantra of old, where "bigger is better" when it came to stock in academic libraries, is no longer valid. On the contrary - she emphasised that we were at a point in time where physical collections were shrinking due to financial constraints and a sharp increase in the costs of serials. So how can we as professionals survive? She offered the following options
  • by providing an even more personalised, value-added service to our customers
  • by becoming part of the changed world of scholarly communication including publishing
  • by engaging with other libraries and organisations through research; and
  • by promoting unique collections through collaborative digitisation.
She also saw a role for academic librarians in developing expertise in the management of the huge amount of research data that was inaccessible at the moment. Often discarded by busy researchers, but immensely valuable for future use and paid for by the taxpayer. Debbie concluded by giving us her vision of the future: more space for students, less stuff (physical collections) and empowered staff, who need to do what they need to do, not what they have always done.

Nicky Parker, Head of Transformation, Manchester City Council, gave a passionate speech on the power of change. She outlined how the public library system, which had been neglected in Manchester for some time, became the driving force of cultural, social and economic renewal in the city. Nicky had been involved behind the scenes from the very beginning. The team invested not only in their staff who have become more empowered to develop new ideas, but also in their customers. By offering library spaces and services to often disadvantaged communities, frequently in partnership with commercial entities or other service providers, they succeeded in establishing the library as a central part of that community. Joint buildings with supermarkets, a local health centre or a school benefit from increased footfall. The libraries have become a one-stop service point and community hub engaging in access to e-government projects, health information, entrepreneurial start-up support and lifelong learning initiatives.

The afternoon sessions were split into two blocks which ran concurrently. My own paper centred on some of the findings of a research project I had been involved in on the continuing professional development of one-person librarians in Ireland. Some members of the audience shared their own experiences as solo librarians, which was extremely helpful for me.

Dr. Maria Souden's presentation looked at professional development 2.0 and transferable skills for information professionals. She emphasised the role reflective learning should have in our everyday practice. Drawing on her experience as lecturer she suggested using e-portfolios, which could either take the form of blog (as her students do) or more specialised software, such as PebblePad or Mahara.

Overall, I came away with plenty of new ideas and a feeling of having "recharged my batteries". It was nice meeting colleagues from different institutions and countries. There was plenty of time to check out the stand of exhibitors and sponsors. The only regret I have is that I couldn't attend all sessions. Looking forward to the next Joint Conference!

If you're interested: some of the presentations and biographies of speakers are now available online.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a lot for the overview Eva - it certainly looked like an excellent line-up.