22 Jun 2017

The CONUL Bursary winners reflect on #conulac17

For this year's CONUL Conference CONUL decided to award two bursaries to current LIS Students. Below are the reflections from the two winners, Louise Wasson and Sophie Lynch, on the application process and the conference itself. And a call to LIS students to apply for any bursary that comes up. A call that we at Libfocus wholeheartedly echo - when you see a Library Bursary, apply for it! Though it may take up some of your limited and precious time, the reward, if you are successful, more than makes up for the effort.

Sophie Lynch is currently an MLIS student at University College Dublin and holds a BMus (Hons) from the CIT Cork School of Music.

My name is Sophie Lynch, and I am currently a full-time Masters of Library and Information Studies student at University College Dublin. Prior to my MLIS, I completed my Bachelor of Music at the CIT Cork School of Music. While in Cork I had the pleasure of completing a summer internship at the CIT Cork School of Music Fleischmann Library and was also afforded the opportunity to visit the main CIT Bishopstown Library. These experiences were my first proper forays into the world of librarianship and gave me the confidence to pursue this career path. After I moved to Dublin to further my studies, I began working as a part-time student shelver for UCD Library working in both the James Joyce Library and the Health Sciences Library respectively.

I first heard about the CONUL Student Conference Bursary through Twitter. At the time, I was absolutely swamped with assignments and deadlines to meet and did not pursue it further because I felt that I did not have time to write an application. It was only when the deadline for applications was extended that I decided to apply. At this point, a few of my lecturers had encouraged my class to apply. One of the main reasons I decided to apply for the bursary was that as an MLIS student on the verge of graduating I wanted to learn first-hand about current developments and research in the profession. I also wanted the opportunity to research potential career paths by listening and speaking to established practitioners. Above all else, I was intrigued by the topics that would be covered under the conference theme “inspiring and supporting research.”

At the CONUL conference, I experienced what it was like to be part of a social media team for such a large event. I gained some insight into the inner workings of the conference while also having the opportunity to speak to delegates. This meant that I was constantly engaged and not simply passively listening. At each of the presentations I attended, I always felt that I learnt at least one interesting piece of information or discovered a new resource that I had never encountered. In addition to this, as I knew very few people at the conference, I was forced out of my comfort zone having to speak to more people. From carrying out tasks behind the scenes to speaking to people during breaks, there were many natural opportunities to network. As a result, I have had many stimulating conversations and have made new professional contacts.

I would highly encourage other LIS students to apply for the CONUL Conference Bursary. The application process was straightforward requiring only a one-page letter, and it did not take me as long as I expected to complete my application. I was initially a bit intimidated at the thought of applying for a bursary to attend one of the most prestigious library conferences in Ireland. However, I need not have worried as the CONUL Conference is one of the friendliest conferences I have encountered for newcomers and students.

Sometimes as an LIS student I become so immersed in my studies (particularly around deadlines) that I lose sight of what was going on around me. I find it difficult to keep up to date from afar on new research and exciting projects that are happening in the library and information profession. For this reason, I think that going to conferences and seminars encourages you to learn more about what is happening in your profession and can also help you stay abreast of new developments and trends. After the CONUL Conference, I felt inspired by the professionals I had listened and spoken to and was brimming with ideas for the future.

Attending conferences can be very expensive. As a student, without the help of the CONUL Conference Bursary and the support of my lecturer Jane Burns I would not have been able to attend this conference. My main piece of advice when it comes to applying for bursaries is to make time for your application, be brave and apply!

Louise Wasson currently works as a Library Assistant in the Queen’s University Belfast Medical & HSC Library.

Having now completed my PG Diploma in Library and Information Services Management by Distance Learning with the University of Sheffield iSchool, I was only too delighted to step away from my laptop and final assignments in order to make the journey down to Athlone for this year’s CONUL conference on the theme of Inspiring and Supporting Research.

Having already undertaken an MA and PhD in Medieval Literature, research support is an area which I have a vested interest in, and so this was an invaluable opportunity to meet established and experienced information professionals and learn from their ‘on the ground’ perspectives.  I certainly was not disappointed.

Like many LISM students, I completed my library qualification while working full-time.  Despite the numerous challenges associated with this method of study, the main drawback to distance learning was always the lack of face-to-face interaction which could at times be quite isolating.  Therefore, the opportunity to meet other bursary winners and LIS professionals was incredibly appealing and a great incentive to apply for the CONUL conference bursary.

Over the course of the conference I spent an enjoyable two days chatting and engaging with librarians at all levels and stages of their career, and from a range of different professional perspectives.  For example, the opportunity to engage with publisher representatives was particularly useful and insightful as my current role as library assistant does not require or allow for this sort of networking.  Therefore, the combination of formal and informal networking opportunities provided by the conference was an ideal way to ease into what could otherwise have been a potentially daunting situation.  Nevertheless, the friendly, welcoming atmosphere and hospitality from the CONUL social media team, organizers and delegates was evident from the outset and throughout.

As one of two lucky bursary winners I was delighted (and pleasantly surprised!) to be given some immediate responsibility for live tweeting the conference sessions from the official @CONULconf account (as well as my own personal account), and also for recording Periscope videos and short sponsor videos.  The opportunity to ‘learn on our feet’ so to speak was one that I really appreciated and would highly recommend.

The freedom to choose parallel sessions of interest was another bonus as this ensured that while all sessions were covered, each person could choose sessions of specific professional interest.  Particular highlights were the innovative Day 1 ‘Show & Tell’ presentations, Day 2 Keynote from Danny Kingsley, ‘Presentation Skills for Researchers’ and closing Open Access Panel Discussion.

Having attended previous conferences outside of the LISM field, energy and enthusiasm often tends to wane on Day 2.  This was not the case at CONUL 2017.  Lively and engaging discussions and ideas characterized the entire conference and provided the opportunity to take away new ideas and perspectives about ongoing challenges facing the profession.

Although it might be overwhelming to add bursary applications to the long list of administrative activities already undertaken by those working full time and completing their library degree, I could not recommend the experience enough.  Professional posts will involve significant competitive funding applications, report writing etc., and so any practice in producing this sort of documentation will be invaluable in your future career.  While it might be tempting to presume that conference bursaries will be oversubscribed and too difficult to obtain, I would strongly encourage LISM students and early-career professionals to apply and make the most of all available opportunities, as the exposure to different practices in different institutions may well be one of the best and most useful CPD opportunities you will encounter.

Overall, the experience was thoroughly enjoyable and insightful from start to finish with a rich programme of speakers and a wide range of expertise across a spectrum of relevant, timely and challenging issues.

A fantastic conference with an impressive online following and presence, I look forward to returning in the coming years and remaining a part of lively and important discussions.

21 Jun 2017

Reflections on CONUL 2017 (Athlone)

Guest post by Jesse Waters,  Library Assistant, John Stearne Medical Library, Trinity College Dublin

I recently attended the CONUL Conference at the Hodson Bay Hotel in Athlone. I highly recommend attending the conference to anyone in the profession. There was a wide variety of library staff present, from directors and senior management to those who have graduated in recent years. As a library assistant, it was very beneficial to get a higher perspective on the issues and dangers currently looming over libraries. Discussions focussed on the potential for these issues to swallow the profession whole in the future, and the solutions that could be put in place to prevent this from occurring. It was also an opportunity to gain a better understanding of current topics such as Open Access and Research Data Management. Furthermore, it provided a platform to meet friends and past-colleagues from other libraries that I have not seen for a while, and to meet some very interesting librarians for the first time. With that in mind I would like to comment on some of the presentations which struck a chord with me, the majority of which were focused on the theme of change and adaptation.

Dr. Danny Kingsley, Head of Scholarly Communication at the University of Cambridge, delivered the keynote address, or warning, ‘Emerging from the chrysalis – transforming libraries for the future’ on the second day of the conference using a children’s story- Tadpole`s Promise, to great effect. She bounced back and forth between the story and her slides to deliver a compelling and entertaining analogy on the evolving relationship between libraries and publishers. A relationship which evolved in symbiosis until a certain point, after which libraries were overtaken. The narrative depicted a once smitten, but now disgruntled caterpillar, unhappy with its partner because they were transforming from a tadpole into a frog. One day, the caterpillar had enough and left the tadpole, only to evolve itself and return later. Alas, at this stage it was too late and the now-frog simply ate the butterfly. The caterpillar represented the library, the tadpole was the publisher. Clearly, there is a need for libraries to catch up to the fast-changing landscape caused by publishing companies, who are already migrating into other research support services outside making available and providing access to content. She questioned the role- “are librarians support staff or research partners?”, and advised that we should be collaborating more within the research communities that we currently provide for.

In the presentation “The network reshapes the research library collection”, Lorcan Dempsey of OCLC spoke about modern academic libraries and how they have changed. Historically, libraries were defined by their collections. Nowadays, the physical and digital collection has transitioned from the core of what libraries do to a service that they offer. As such, academic libraries are no longer the only “information space”, but have become a part of a much greater and easily-accessible information space. He spoke about the concept of the “inside-out library”, collective collections, and how libraries have begun to market their unique individual identities by highlighting special collections in their possession, citing “Label This” a wine label transcription project at the UC Davis Library in California. Interestingly, this is something which has already risen to prominence in Irish university libraries such as Trinity College with the long-established Book of Kells exhibition, University of Limerick with its recent investments into the Kate O`Brien letters, and UCD renovating their special collections space last year.

Simon Bains, Head of Research Services and Deputy Librarian at the University of Manchester University Library, delivered a poignant reflection on a project undertaken titled ‘A journey of discovery: investigating student publishing at the University of Manchester’. He described how the Library set out to collaborate with, whilst providing for, their student community more effectively as part of a University initiative to develop its pedagogy. The initial aim of the project was to establish a publishing platform for taught students of the university, responding to the University’s commitment that taught students should develop research skills as part of their experience at Manchester. However, their research revealed that demand was unconvincing and sustainability was a concern given the costs and the transitional nature of student editorial teams. They recognised an opportunity (or necessity) to adapt, and opted to invest in publishing training materials which would benefit more students and be less resource intensive to manage. It was inspiring to hear how the library changed the scope of the project in such a radical fashion in response to its findings. It was interesting to hear how this was set within the context of an organisational structure which has moved entirely away from subject librarians to a “functional librarians” model in the wider areas of research services, teaching and learning, and academic engagement. This meant that these new publishing materials slotted neatly into an existing set of services encompassing bibliometrics, management of research data, and Open Access scholarly communications. The online modules produced by the project can be found here.

The presentations delivered by Kingsley and Bains highlighted the severe need for a radical change in academic libraries, whilst Dempsey articulated external changes that have already occurred. The adaptation they advocated needs to occur in regards to staffing, the relationship of libraries and their wider institutions and publishers, and the role that librarians occupy in the research process. I think this is most definitely the case as students and researchers have become self-sufficient, and there is a need to market our resourcefulness and to upskill into new avenues. The depth and breadth of presentations at the conference highlighted that library staff can most-definitely help our communities to maximise their research through our existing services and training sessions, or in the case of functional librarians described by Simon Bains by modifying the services we offer to meet the changing needs of our users.

As I was reflecting on the conference whilst travelling back to Dublin on the train, a passage from a Rage Against the Machine track from their self-titled debut popped into my head that I think summarised the overall theme of CONUL 2017:
“The rage is relentless
We need a movement with a quickness
You are the witness of change
And to counteract
We gotta take the power back

1 Jun 2017

Review of the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC), 10-12 April 2017

Guest post by CaitrĂ­ona Honohan (MSc ILM MA BMus ALAI ) is a Subject Librarian at Trinity College Dublin and Secretary of the Academic & Special Libraries Section (A&SL) of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI). Her email address is: caitriona.honohan@tcd.ie

I attended LILAC for the first time this year at Swansea University Bay Campus in its beautiful setting right beside the beach. When I submitted a proposal for the Call for Papers back in October, it seemed like a distant possibility. I had recently received a Bursary from the Cataloguing & Metadata Group (CMG) of the (LAI) to disseminate the research from my Dissertation The Information-Seeking Behaviour of Advisers to Policy-Makers for Homelessness in Ireland and so I was delighted when the proposal was accepted for a Short Paper, details of which can be found here. The Bursary and the support of the Library of Trinity College Dublin enabled me to attend and present at this great conference, and I’d like to acknowledge both for this opportunity.

The conference was very well-attended, with over 270 delegates from all over the world. In each Parallel Session slot there were six choices, so some quite difficult decisions had to be made. After a plane, bus, two trains and a taxi, we arrived at the venue. The food was excellent, and the Conference Team couldn’t have been more friendly and approachable, easy to spot in their Conference T-shirts. And so to the content - below is a brief snapshot of the key points which I took away from the sessions I attended. For a more comprehensive overview, I recommend the video recordings of the Keynote Speakers and the slides from all presentations, which can be found here.

Josie Fraser is a Social and Educational Technologist, and her Keynote The library is open:  librarians and information professionals as open practitioners presented a brief history of Open Educational Resources, a term adopted by UNESCO in 2002, the same year as the first Creative Commons licenses were released. 2017 is the Year of Open. She discussed the concepts of Free versus Open, and outlined the definition of Open Educational Resources: free learning resources that have been openly licensed or are in the public domain and can be used or reused for free. OER formats can include text (print or digital), audio, video or multimedia. The key is that resources should be as open as possible. She gave the example that all TED Talks have CC BY licenses so that they can be freely used as long as credit is given. She encouraged us to investigate the website of Right Copyright, a recent campaign calling for “freedom to teach without breaking the law” and calling for “a law that recognises museums, libraries and NGOs as having an educational function”.

Barbara Allan is an Independent Consultant and her Keynote Making an impact beyond the library and information service encouraged us as librarians to think beyond the usual networks and expand our circles beyond the library. She discussed decision making in universities, highlighting that different universities have different power structures and different groups have different priorities, so the more we think beyond our own department the more effective we can be. She encouraged librarians to make an impact in these ways: Link our work to strategy; Enhance our skills and techniques; Join boards and volunteer to chair committees; Make an impact on small scale projects working with range of stakeholders; Publicise projects internally and externally and Apply for external funding and national awards.

Alan Carbery is Associate Library Director at Champlain College, Vermont, and his Keynote was entitled Authentic information literacy in a post-truth era. At Champlain College, there is embedded information literacy instruction reaching every student seven times throughout their undergraduate studies. This programme of instruction relies on fifteen unique separate information literacy classes. Alan encouraged us to think about how we can introduce authentic information literacy to our own students, considering the real-world context of information today for students’ lifelong learning. He illustrated examples of showing historical documents to students to highlight ideas of power in gender and issues of social justice as expressed through information. He referenced Eli Pariser's TED Talk on Filter Bubbles, and said that 2017 is the year the filter bubble chicken came home to roost! He recommended IFLA's Guide to Spotting Fake News, and encouraged us to encourage students to ask more questions to enable them to become more informed global citizens.

Jess Haigh’s Parallel Session Embedding interventions for better critical writing and reading described her research with Jane Mullen on the difficulties some undergraduate students have in reading and thinking critically. She highlighted the "vocational" backgrounds of some university students, and the fact that some students have very little experience of academic sources. She described how these issues often become apparent with final year students, and so they have created interventions placed into the second year curriculum at the University of Huddersfield. She described various technologies that she has investigated, eg Kahoot!, Videoscribe for creating whiteboard-style animation videos and the interactive presentation software Mentimeter. She demonstrated the interactive classroom tool Nearpod for an exercise on finding resources using keywords, synonyms and related terms, focussing on enabling students to think about language in context. She stressed the importance of using subject specific examples that students can relate to.

Lorna Dawes’ Parallel Session Dissecting informed learning: a birds-eye vew of information literacy in first year college courses outlined her research investigating how faculty members experience the teaching of information literacy. Her interviews included asking faculty members to think of key concepts or big ideas that they think their students struggle to understand, and to describe their approach to teaching and how they evaluate their teaching. She believes that we as librarians need to facilitate students to make the connection that authors write in different formats e.g. in journals and also in blogs, explaining that her research showed that faculty members are generally more interested in content than format. She also found that faculty members evaluate information literacy teaching by assessing how the students demonstrate what they’ve learned in their papers.

Assessing first-year medical students’ information-seeking behaviors: implications for instruction was presented by Sa’ad Laws. He and his colleagues Ross MacDonald and Liam Ferneyhough are based at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, and teach Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) Instruction on the Medicine, Patients and Society course for first-year medical students. Their recent research has focussed on the types of resources that students are using for Background Questions, enquiring if they use online resources that are aimed at patients/consumers, at medical students or at medical professionals. They also investigated the quality of resources as measured by Information Literacy standards and by clinical standards, and discussed how the two correlate. Preliminary findings have shown that 57% of their students are using Medical Consumer resources, 24% are using Medical Professional resources and only 19% are using Medical Educational resources.

Charity Dove’s workshop The instrumental instrument was completely different from all the others that I attended as we were on our feet for most of the session, practicing vocal exercises and moving around. There was a lot of laughter, and I think everybody enjoyed it as much as I did! Having had singing lessons in the past I was familiar with most of the vocal techniques as practiced for singing purposes, but using them to maintain the speaking voice as a teaching librarian was a very interesting concept to me and I learned a lot from the session.

Melody Chin’s Parallel Session Do faculty and librarians see information literacy in the same way? A study of alignment described her research in the Singapore Management University in a collaborative project with Daniel Walker at Bond University, Australia. 63 Faculty and 22 Librarians with a teaching role took part in the study investigating how faculty and librarians perceive the concept of Information Literacy. Their survey was structured around the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, and the results showed that faculty members placed Research as Inquiry as the most important Frame, while librarians placed Searching as Strategic Exploration on top. Authority is Constructed and Contextual was ranked as being least important by both groups. When asked about the ways that Information Literacy training has impacted on student performance, academics responded that improved references, more thorough research and better quality assignments have been noted. Librarians have noted better reference questions.

Pip Divall’s Writing for Publication: using training and blogs to promote publishing in a hospital trust discussed a Writing Club at the University Hospice in North Wales, set up by Pip Divall some years ago and revived recently. The Writing Club consists of sessions on a number of topics, e.g. Writing up Case Reports, Statistics, Systematic Reviews and How to make best use of Social Media. There are also informal peer review sessions for people to share experiences about their writing. She holds two-hour workshops on Writing for Publication, sharing tips such as having friends/colleagues write an abstract for your paper, to ensure clarity. The recent Write Case Reports sessions were aimed at junior doctors but were actually attended by more senior researchers also, e.g. clinical chemists, pharmacists and biochemists.

Lorna Dodd’s Parallel Session Embedding information literacy through critical skills and a new curriculum focussed on the new undergraduate curriculum at Maynooth University and how the library has been instrumental in embedding Information Literacy within it. She described the process of how the library designed three critical skills modules for the new curriculum and explained that librarians not only deliver sessions themselves but also train the other tutors who deliver the sessions, working closely with the Critical Skills Co-ordinator Dr Brian McKenzie. The curriculum thus has a key focus on critical skills to prepare students for work, life and citizenship, including problem solving, critical thinking, analysis, reflection, communication skills, understanding academic standards and ethical responsibility. Information Literacy has become the centre of the critical skills modules and thus has become truly embedded in the curriculum.

Syrian New Scots information literacy wayfinding practices: phase 1 research findings was presented by Konstantina Martzoukou. Her research with Simon Burnett has investigated the information needs of "Syrian New Scots" (the preferred name for refugees in Scotland), their information literacy practices and the barriers and drivers they encounter. The research included holding focus groups and focussed on the Information Literacy dimensions in Health, Employability and Welfare Rights, Education, Communities and Social Connections and Housing. Preliminary results have shown that concepts of a shared rhetoric / common communication space are very important and that interpersonal encounters are generally preferred over technology-based information. Konstantina facilitated a discussion on how public libraries can help, and directed us to the report Ambition and Opportunity : A Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland.

The final Parallel Session I attended was Russell Hall’s “The real world”: information in the workplace versus information in college. His research focussed on workplace information literacy, specifically how recent graduates use information in their daily work lives. He conducted interviews with 35 alumni of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College (PSB) and investigated the information techniques/mindsets that they brought with them from their undergraduate studies to the workplace. His research showed that people-based information is more important than text-based information in the workplaces of the participants. Several of his interviewees also reported that peer-reviewed research is often not available in the workplace because of the high cost of access, a point that also came across in my own Dissertation research.

After the three days, I returned home with my head buzzing with ideas, and it wasn’t until I came to prepare this review that I had the time to fully reflect on the learning, from memory and my combination of typed and handwritten notes. I also followed the Twitter feed at various points during and after the conference. All in all it was a very positive experience, many thanks to the Conference Team and I definitely hope to attend LILAC 2018 in Liverpool!

Posted on Thursday, June 01, 2017 | Categories:

25 May 2017

Universities, Research and Public Engagement

Guest post by Dr. Richard Scriven. Richard is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Geography, UCC, researching pilgrimage in Ireland.

In his post he uses an exhibition he curated as a platform to examine the idea that public engagement is fundamental to both research and universities

My exhibition, Journeys of Belief and Belonging: Modern Irish Pilgrimage in the UCC Library, explores the pilgrimage tradition and how it is manifest in contemporary Ireland. It illustrates how pilgrimage is a vibrant cultural phenomenon that inspires millions of people annually to leave home, go on a journey, and try to connect with the more meaningful aspects of life. An evocative account of the activity is presented through quotations from research participants and images from some of Ireland’s main sites Lough Derg, Co Donegal; Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo; Knock, Co. Mayo; and, a holy wells in Munster. I am also running public seminars on the topic to encourage public discussion and further conversations about the role of pilgrimage. The project is funded by the Irish Research Council and UCC Library.

The exhibition is a form of ‘public engagement’. This is the idea that researchers need to communicate their work not only to others in their field – usually through peer-reviewed journal articles and conference presentations - but also to a broader range of audiences. My public engagement programme aims to inform and educate the public about the role of pilgrimage, while also highlighting the importance of socially and culturally relevant research. It uses several platforms to present fieldwork images and the experiences of pilgrims, with context and commentary added to prompt new considerations.

The idea of public engagement is fundamental to both research and universities. As Moseley (2010, p.109) points out ‘although producing knowledge for its own sake is good, many commentators would argue that information should also be produced for the betterment of the human condition’. This speaks to the role of research more generally as a means of contributing to society. Comparably, universities, as public educational and knowledge-based institutions, have underlying purposes to communicate ideas and to add to civic discourses. Indeed, UCC’s motto of ‘Where Finbarr Taught, let Munster Learn’ captures this sentiment, referring to the people of the region as a whole. Within my field, this approach is sometimes called ‘public geographies’ which is ‘about bringing a disciplinary perspective into a broader conversation with the public’ (Moseley 2010, p.109). It highlights the importance of good research which studies relevant and significant issues, and then ensuring that the findings enter public discussions, and where applicable lead to policy and societal change.

There is, however, a gap between these ideals and the realities of research and university life. Furco (2010, p.375) contends that ‘community-focused public engagement activities are not typically found at the forefront of the academy’s work’. The combined pressures of the research and university environment, which prioritise peer-reviewed publications and quantifiable impacts tend to down-grade the role of public engagement.  Instead, institutions and funders need to ensure that civic engagement projects are recognised as valuable activities in funding and job applications. We need to strive toward more active approaches in which ‘community engagement is integrated into the research, teaching and service mission of higher education institutions’ (Furco 2010, p.387). It is only from such a position that findings and discussions will reach general audiences and flow towards societal change.

Fortunately, my emphasis on public geographies was seen as being an important component of my work by the Irish Research Council and UCC. I included a strong public engagement programme as part of my funding application for my fellowship. UCC prioritises external engagement as one of its strategic goals.  In addition, the UCC Library were extremely enthusiastic about my idea for an exhibition, which is being run as part of their regular exhibitions for the general public. This type of institutional support is essential to nurture an environment that prompts and furthers community engagement practices.

Consideration has to be given to how researchers communicate with the public. It is not just a matter of agree on the value of civic engagement, it is also about the form and effectiveness of these programmes (Stilgoe, Lock & Wilsdon 2014). Academics are used to writing and talking in certain ways, drawing on concepts and acronyms which are unfamiliar to those outside their fields. The challenge is to learn to ‘to focus on presenting, or "framing," their messages in ways that connect with diverse audiences’ (Nisbet & Scheufele 2007, p.39). In effect, we must ‘translate’ our work, using everyday language to ensure to reaches a broad range of people. For example, the UCC Postgraduate Showcase is an annual event that encourages researcher students to ‘develop innovative ways to communicate their research to non-specialists, and to present a compelling story around their thesis topic’. As part of this process, we must be conscious of our target audiences and how best to effectively make an impact (Stilgoe, Lock & Wilsdon 2014).

Public engagement will continue to become an important part of the research and university landscape. Institutionally, it requires support, while researchers need to meet this challenge to communicate to public as well as their peers. For me, the exhibition and public seminar are an integrated part of my postdoctoral fellowship. They are one of the main pillars on which I centre and assess my work. Hopefully, this will encourage others to reflect on how they can communicate their research to broader audiences to help improve society.

Furco, A., 2010. The Engaged Campus: Toward a Comprehensive Approach to Public Engagement. British Journal of Educational Studies 58, 375–390.

Moseley, W., 2010. Engaging the Public Imagination: geographers in the op-ed pages. Geographical Review 100, 109–121.

Nisbet, M., Scheufele, D., 2007. The Future of Public Engagement, The Scientist 21, 38–44.

Stilgoe, J., Lock, S.J., Wilsdon, J., 2014. Why should we promote public engagement with science? Public Understanding of Science 23, 4–15.

The exhibition Journeys of Belief and Belonging: Modern Irish Pilgrimage is running until the 24 June 2017

17 May 2017

Review of an Exchange

Guest post by Lisa Spinder. Following her receiving of an MA in American Cultural History and German as a Foreign Language Lisa started as a student of Library & Information Services, at  University of Applied Sciences for Administration and Legal Affairs in Munich 

In March 2017 I had the opportunity to spend an entire 4 weeks at the Boole Library of University College Cork. Everyone at the library was very welcoming and made sure I would gain as much insight into their work as possible.

My schedule had emphases on three main areas, which were Archives, Special Collections and the Online Repository. Additionally, I got to spend a few hours in most of the other departments of the library, thus getting a pretty good picture of how the library functions as a whole, what the current challenges are and how the library is integrated into the library system and into academia nationally and internationally. I learned a lot about libraries and librarianship in Ireland in general, which was great because this made it possible for me to see similarities as well as differences to libraries in Germany.

In the Archives and Special Collections departments of Boole, archivist Emma Horgan and Special Collections Librarian Elaine Harrington introduced me to their unique collections and made sure I became familiar with a variety of their materials.

Working my way through quite a few old plans, maps and other outsizes from the Bantry collection, I discovered how the holdings of the Bantry estate changed during the first half of the twentieth century and learned of fishing restrictions that were marked in sea and river charts of West Cork. Depending on the state they were in, the maps had to be wrapped in mylar and/or acid-free paper to ensure their conservation. Due to their sizes, the flattening of some of the maps before they could be wrapped provided quite a challenge that could only be met with the help of lead snakes and weights.
In addition to the landed estates that make up quite a few of the Archives’ collections, the library holds a number of collections by scientists, scholars and authors that are in any way connected to Boole Library, most notably George Boole himself, the inventor of Boolean Algebra. He is responsible for the Boolean operators that form one of the bases of every library catalogue or database search.

A challenge every library faces today is the shortage of storage space. One of my tasks was to check the printed holdings of serials in the reference collection of the Special Collections reading room against their online availability. Whichever serial is available online would be a candidate to be moved to the closed stacks, thus gaining some space on the shelves in the reading room.
Elaine also showed me how she introduces students to Special Collections. Depending on the focus of the class, she chooses fitting examples from the various collections. Using these examples as props, she familiarizes the students with the extra care in handling some of the material requires, and makes them see how they can make use of the many resources in Special Collections.

The emphasis the library puts on the services it provides for the students is great. Talking to the liaison librarians I learned of their work in teaching classes on information literacy, always making sure to cater to the specific needs the students of particular subjects might have. In addition to that they are responsible for all sorts of online content that helps the students improve their research skills. I especially liked the libguides that make it easy for students to get started with their research. For each field, there is a libguide online that brings together the most important resources for that field, such as the major databases and online journals. I liked the role of the liaison librarians a lot. Liaising with the academic staff is important to any academic or research library and it seems to me many libraries ought to put a little more effort into it. It also makes sense to me to put a great emphasis on teaching information literacy in classes and individually, since it is one of the core skills an academic (or pretty much everyone) should have and the effort will definitely improve research output sustainably.

Boole Library has taken it upon itself to promote (green) open access among their researchers and scholars. Breeda Herlihy introduced me to the department of Research & Digital Services and the workflows in getting open access content into their online repository CORA. I was able to learn hands-on how to handle metadata and how to feed it into the repository as well as getting more familiar with the Dublin Core standard and the handling of csv-files.

I also had the opportunity to spend some time with the librarians working in acquisitions, in cataloguing and in collection development & management. The workflows there reminded me a lot of those I know from German libraries. The only major difference is that Germany integrated their acquisitions and cataloguing workflows a few years ago.

The challenges libraries face with the high prices for journal subscriptions and consequently most of their budget going into serials seem to be the same everywhere. Processing purchased as well as donated books and keeping track of legal deposit copies also works rather similarly. It is interesting to see the close link to the UK – the Irish Copyright Act entitles the British Library as well as four other libraries in the UK to receive one copy of every book published in Ireland.

A highlight was when Martin O’Connor and Ronan Madden let me sit in on their radio show Shush! – Sounds from UCC Library on UCC radio during my last week. Even though they didn’t make me talk into the microphone (which I was very thankful for!), I was able to engage via Twitter, learning a little bit of social media use hands-on. A library radio show is definitely something more libraries should consider. Shush! is on every Monday from 11-12 and a podcast of the show is available afterwards.

I want to thank everyone I met from the Boole UCC Library staff, especially Martin, Emma, Elaine and Breeda, for making my four weeks in Cork an insightful and rewarding experience.

12 May 2017

Four librarian seminars in May and June

Once again I trawled the Web for some free Webinars that might be of interest to you too. The first of the four listed below considers the possible impact of artificial intelligence, shopping trends and live game streaming on library services. Number two discusses case studies in academic libraries that have highly impacted service provision and patron outreach. The third Webinar reports on innovation initiatives of public libraries driven by their constituent communities. The last online event is a mini-conference on Fake News within the context of digital literacy competencies.

High-impact library services & outreach: student success to systematic reviews
Thursday, 18th May, 4pm – 5pm IST
In this Webinar librarians share their inspiration and process for developing high-impact library services. The head of research and instructional services at a university library will discuss how she and her team are aligning library instruction with high-impact educational practices to increase engagement and retention. The head of a medical library serving a spectrum of healthcare professionals will describe the development and evolution of a systematic review service. And a law librarian shares how he helps faculty increase productivity and get published faster using an open access repository of abstracts and preprints/working papers.

Emerging Tech Trends in Libraries
Tuesday, 23rd May, 10am 8pm – 9pm IST
Topics for this part 7 webinar include:
  • How Artificial Intelligence continues to surprise us (Corporate audits, corporate directors, Pinterest, Humanitarian use, Legal and health care, Predicting what you’ll buy)
  • Shopping trends (Omni and multi-channel shopping, Even more mobile, Uber-ization of deliveries, Goodbye wallets)
  • Live game streaming, Video is the new blogging, Sensors, Data storage gets really, really cheap, 3D printing is exploding
This webinar will be of interest to staff in all types of libraries interested in emerging technology trends and how they might affect libraries and/or their patrons.

Libraries as Innovation Hubs: Community Driven Design
Wednesday, 31st May, 11am – 12pm IST
Public libraries are hubs for innovation and community engagement. Library workers must listen closely to community needs to design programs and services responsive to continuous changes in technology and fluctuations in funding. This free webinar will showcase two examples of collaborative design events used in public libraries to generate ideas, build community, and solve problems.

Library 2.017: Digital Literacy & Fake News
Thursday, 1st June, 20pm – 23pm IST
In this Library 2.107 mini-conference, we start with the foundational relationship of libraries and librarians to media, information, and now digital literacy, and then we ask some pointed questions. How should library and information professionals address the issues of fake news, propaganda, and biased research? What technical skills are required for critical thinking in the digital age? As learners increasingly move from just consuming information to also socially producing it, what are the new requisite skills of critical thinking and decision-making? What are appropriate uses for social media when conducting research? What is digital citizenship in a global, globally-diverse, and often globally-fragmented world? What work on digital literacy is available, what frameworks already support these efforts, what are the perspectives of the leading thinkers?

5 May 2017

Learning, Teaching and Student Experience (LTSE) conference - Review

Guest post by Sarah-Anne Kennedy, Dublin Institute of Technology. Sarah-Anne holds a BA (Hons) from the National University of Ireland Maynooth (MU) in English and History and a Masters of Library and Information Science from University College Dublin (UCD). She has been with the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) since 2006 and is currently supporting the College of Business, the School of Media and the School of Law. Sarah is interested in engaging and supporting students through blended learning and looking at new ways of bringing the Library to the student.

The 6th annual Learning, Teaching and Student Experience (LTSE) conference took place in Bristol, the UK on the 25-26th April. The conference is organised by the Chartered Association of Business Schools who are also based and operate across the UK acting as the “voice of the UK’s business and management education sector”. This conference offered a great opportunity to learn how our academic peers in the UK are engaging with students. It also offered an opportunity for me to learn what the similarities and differences are between the Irish and UK higher education landscape.


I had an opportunity to present a poster on ‘Bringing the Library to the Student using an Online Marketing Tool’. (see images attached) So, with my poster in hand, I travelled to Bristol for the day to attend day two of the conference.

The opening session, by keynote speaker Phil Race, set the tone for the day and was one of the most interactive, engaging and funniest keynotes I have ever attended. Phil’s biography is distinguished and long but he introduced himself as an author, scientist and educational developer.

Phil’s keynote focused on Making Learning Happen. He advised on not focusing on old or traditional methods of teaching but encouraging new ways to teach in the classroom or lecture hall. He advised us not to exclude mobile phones and laptops from the classroom. However, he reminded us that in the exam hall students are on their own, with no internet access (for the time being anyway) so we have to teach them to stand on their own and be confident in their learning. Phil does not support the idea of learning styles, however he agrees that one size of assessment does not fit all. So how do we tackle this? How do we get students to engage?

Phil argued that teaching and learning don't really work on paper alone or online alone. Students also want to see evidence. “What does a good assignment look like? What does a bad assignment look like?” Students also learn by doing so learners need to have room to make mistakes. We need to create a constructive environment for them to do this. Feelings are important so students need praise to gain confidence. Feedback needs to be timely and they need to see what’s in it for them. If they can see the benefit they will invest.
Phil presented us with five of the seven factors that underpin learning:
  • Learn by doing
  • Learn from feedback
  • Learn from wanting to learn
  • Learn from needing to learn.
  • Making sense –‘getting one’s head round it’

What are the remaining two factors? We ran out of time so you can visit Phil’s slides from the keynote to find out. Thus, Phil provided an opportunity for our own learning after the conference.

The conference offered a large range of themes which can be viewed in more detail here. Over the two days 80 plus sessions were delivered, each of which reflected one of the 13 conference themes. As you can imagine from that long list, it was difficult to choose which breakout sessions or workshops I wanted to attend. In the end, I decided to focus on the following themes: Employability, Employer Engagement and the Practice based Curriculum and Student Engagement.

Employability is well established in the UK and this was evident from the range of breakout sessions offered on this theme as well as the number of posters that included this topic in their content. The first breakout session (‘Supporting business schools to drive learning gain & employability’) outlined how in partnering with academic institutions, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) are tackling the notion of a student becoming an accidental manager for example. Engaging with future employers allows the institutions to enrich the curriculum. Master classes are offered to students online from leaders of industry. Mentoring programmes allow students to build relationships with professionals. CMI offers free employability support to students upon graduation and they are aligning their partnership to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

The second breakout session (‘User experience (UX) design and employer involvement that improves student engagement’) also looked at employability. The University of East London (UEL) have partnered with Pearson to develop an online platform called ‘Your Way’. This partnership allows UEL to offer a sophisticated online platform that provides students with an opportunity for self-directed learning. Competencies are developed with employers. Students choose their competencies based on their needs, which in turn allows for a personalised journey.

It was evident from the sessions that partnering with employers had allowed the institutions to provide sophisticated and student-centred online spaces to support employability and teaching and learning. Employability, in its current UK state is new to Ireland. DIT Library Services recently collaborated with our Career Development Centre in developing Job Space. The Library’s contribution is showing students how they can transfer their existing IL skills to research companies and potential employers. In turn giving them the edge over other candidates who may not have these skills or resources. Is there scope for growth in this area in Ireland? I left the sessions wondering would partnering with industry leaders encourage our own students to engage with IL? Would master classes delivered by industry leaders and professionals allow students to see the importance of IL in their learning journey?

The third breakout session (‘‘Student engagement: active learners through the co-creation of content’) looked at how the teacher can become the facilitator of student learning. Students are provided with the freedom to explore materials independently. While it was agreed that not all students like this degree of freedom or lack of defined structure, in the end students could see the value of the process. Their learning wasn’t just about the end result but the learning process. The benefits included job satisfaction for teachers, making students more responsible for their own learning and seeing students learning and not just attending. This type of learning environment was offered to postgraduate students with an average age of 30. I struggled to see how it could work with our undergraduate students or indeed international students where rote or directed learning is the norm in their home country.

The fourth breakout session (‘How can we integrate students’ use of mobile phones and interactive technology within the lecture lesson plan in order to improve engagement?’) tackled the frustrating issue of the ‘distracted generation’. Phones are in the classroom so instead of asking for them to be put away we should harness mobile technology. Some of the technology mentioned was nothing new to me, Socrative, Office 365, Pole Everywhere, Twitter. However, it was interesting to learn how students were enthusiastic about the use of phones in the classroom. They did not see it as an encroachment on their personal space and it allowed for the opportunity to mix things up and provide an interactive learning environment. One takeaway that I felt was important was that by embracing technologies that are used in industry and using them in the classroom, students’ digital skills were developed and they could see the benefit in getting to grips with this technology in a safe environment.

The last session of the day was a panel discussion on Getting Published in Teaching and Learning. The panellists were experienced editors and authors with lots of practical advice to offer. Their tips included:

  • Never write anything without a publication aim in mind, be it slides, a presentation, a report etc.
  • Any publication is better than no publication so don’t be snobby or choosy
  • Collaboration can help
  • Getting published is hard so critique and support can be a motivator
  • Time can help improve your writing and knowledge
  • Don’t let inexperience deter you
  • Small scale evaluative case-studies are more likely to be published in Teaching and Learning journals
  • Hot topics are sometimes helpful in getting you published but is this the right way to approach it? Look at the trajectory on previous conversations on a topic. The top themes can lead but ultimately you should go for what interests you.
  • Writing allows you to connect with your students -you can identify with their struggle to write their assignments.

My ultimate takeaway from the day was how employability is well established in the UK. While it does have its detractors, e.g. are we simply creating workers instead of learners? Is education simply to provide a workforce? It was impossible not to see how partnering with industry had allowed academic institutions to enhance their own curricula and teaching and learning resources. Is there scope for partnering with industry to demonstrate to students the importance of engaging with IL? Overall, I was pleased to see that our some of our teaching and learning practices and experiences weren’t too different from what was happening in the UK. My other take-away was that, to the best of my knowledge, I was the only Librarian with a poster presentation or even in attendance on the day. What does this say about our role in teaching and learning and how we, as a profession, see ourselves in the higher education landscape? Hopefully the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’s funded project L2L: Librarians Learning to Support Learners Learning will work towards addressing this issue and show us that, as Librarians, we have a place at the teaching and learning table.

The full 2017 LTSE programme is available here

19 Apr 2017

CONUL Conference Bursary - Call for Applications

We are happy to announce that CONUL (Consortium of National & University Libraries, Ireland) is providing funding for two current LIS students, who are studying on LAI accredited courses, to attend this year’s CONUL Conference, on the theme of Inspiring & Supporting Research, taking place in Athlone on May 30/31.

The Bursary will cover all registration costs for the conference. This includes the following:
•    Entrance to the Conference Sessions
•    Entrance to the Exhibition
•    Conference Documentation
•    Lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday
•    Tea/coffee during official breaks
•    River Shannon Drinks Reception & Conference Dinner on Tuesday 30 May
•    One night’s accommodation in the Hodson Bay Hotel on the night of 30 May

To apply for the Bursary please email martin.oconnor@ucc.ie with a letter of expression of interest (maximum of one typed page) that includes:
•    an outline of why you would like to attend;
•    Your anticipated learning outcomes and why you would benefit from attending 
•    a short overview of your experience using social media, including links to relevant websites or examples of your work in this area (e.g. twitter handle, blog URL, guest blog posts etc.)

LAI Accredited courses can be found here and here:

This will be a great opportunity for somebody at the start of their LIS Career to attend an internationally regarded conference. There will be an opportunity to attend sessions and to network with delegates.

The selected candidates will primarily be assisting the Social Media team in covering the event. This will involve attending sessions where you will be expected to live tweet (and other related activity). Selected candidates may also be asked to help out other committee members.

Selected students must be available to be at the conference venue in Athlone from 09.00 on Tuesday 30th May until 17.00 Wednesday 31st May.

Please note that students will need to cover their own transport costs to and from the venue.

Closing Date for Application has been extended and is now Monday 8th May 13.00

12 Apr 2017

Fake news is an Oxymoron and a LibGuide won’t cut it - review

Guest post by Siobhan McGuiness. Siobhan is part of team @uklibchat & @rudai23 for 2017. Siobhan has recently been appointed Chair of SLA Europe Digital Communications
Photo by Siobhan McGuinness 
Fake news is an Oxymoron and a LibGuide won’t cut it, was the title of Alan Carbery’s very popular talk recently held in the Royal Irish Academy. The talk was organised by the Library Association of Ireland
Alan began his inspirational talk about the many changes, good and bad, he has seen happen in Ireland over the last few years. His place in a liberal arts college in the U.S. allows him to keep abreast of issues such as homelessness, the marriage referendum, and abortion.

In a world where all these serious issues are at the forefront of every country, I have questions, for instance; What information is the next generation absorbing? How can teachers and librarians make sure these kids are getting the right information and a are getting a balanced view on these issues? Is the technology we are all using doing more harm than good? 

In a world where the President of the United States uses tweets to inform the world, tweets that are in so many ways contradictory, how are these kids meant to know what is true, false or even fake?

Teaching students today about credible sources needs to be more than about how to search numerous databases. Teaching students today should be about illustrating that credible and popular are two very different things. Get the student to think, are the authors credentials making it a credible source. In the same way, because it is a popular source is it a credible source? Each student should be given the tools to critically analyse the source and to be able to make that decision. Alan states that we could make Information Literacy meaningful and genuine by placing it within a real-world context. We can take our library tools and real world knowledge and use the two for good IL practice. 

So, let’s look at those real-world problems. Alan shows archival documents dating back to a time where the language used in policy documents surrounding the topic of immigration was discriminatory. He then points out how in today’s world with “a Muslim ban” being enforced in the U.S., how policy documents today are also showing this same discrimination. Showing this important information to students and allowing this conversation to take place is how we teach our students information literacy in the era of fake news.

However archival documents are not enough today. We also need to look at social media  tools like Twitter - a force / source of information that spreads ideas and knowledge - to see how we can use these tools to look at information relating to issues such as gender inequality. 

Alan sees that students want to talk about the issues that surround them. For example, explaining to students how the Spanish version of the White House website was removed soon after President Trump came to power shows them a live relevant information literacy topic in action. It shows a real-world issue of how one ethnic group is being treated in the U.S.Other examples like this can be found to teach students information literacy.

Again, students are challenged with technology. With filter bubbles they only see what the search engine thinks they want to see. This gives a narrow unchallenged view of the world. We all need to see all sides of an argument before we decide where we sit. If students are getting most of this information from the internet then how are they making informed decisions based on that information?     

The onus is on teachers, librarians, educators to bring the real world and critical information literacy together to teach our students how to make informed decisions about the information they are seeing and the issues surrounding their society.

Photo taken by @ibelle

6 Apr 2017

Invisible librarians have contributed to the post-truth era: a debate

Below is a verbatim account of one side of a debate which proposed that 'This house believes that invisible librarians have contributed to the post-truth era'.

Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow debater, moderator and distinguished guests I am here to convince the house that invisible librarians have contributed to the post-truth era.

When it comes to invisible librarians, I can literally say ‘I wrote the book’ which is on sale tonight at a bargain price, come and talk to me later – sales pitch over!

I feel I need to clear up a few concepts here.  Invisible meaning ‘not seen’.  Post-truth era meaning circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.  The president of Harvard University Drew Faust described it just last month as an era when “evidence, critical thinking, and analysis are pushed aside in favour of emotion and intuition as bases for action and judgment”.  Much talk of fake news has amplified the fear around a post-truth era. We are living in unprecedented times where there have been significant social and political upsets, in the USA a president was elected with no previous political experience or political position.  He is, in the words of Noam Chomsky “a showman”.  In the UK the people voted to leave the European Union.

Both upsets are linked to fake news, where the ultimate headline ‘We send the EU £350m-a-week let’s fund our NHS instead, vote leave’ was everywhere and was believed to be true.  Such headlines gave people hope and people vote for hope.  Some people and some politicians are opportunists and they have always lied and will continue to lie.  Post-truth, misinformation, disinformation and propaganda have fuelled many political campaigns, however the difference today is that the Digital Age we are living in has allowed the news and the story to be amplified.  Fake news is churned out as fast as it is retracted, but nobody reads the retractions.  One exception to this is a French newspaper, Le Canard Enchaine, whose editor refuses to make the paper digitally accessible.

The editor argued that when the Internet came along other newspapers made content available online and pushed out alternative facts only to retract them later.  They found that it was the only way to keep sales figures up, by selling fake news.  Le Canard continues to be only available in print. This is in a country which values freedom, equality and democracy.  A country which brought us the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789, a fundamental document in the history of human and civil rights with a major impact on freedom and democracy.

Last year at a health conference I heard a professor of organisational behaviour and a leadership thinker (Gianpiero Petriglieri) state the following: “Whoever controls the story, controls the people”. If we take democracy to be an acceptable and equitable way that people have a say in how they are controlled, by casting their vote and by electing a government to represent them, then what we all need to ask is “who is controlling the story?"

The story is largely controlled by the press, the media, journalists.  Who controls them?  Big business and government.  According to Forbes 15 billionaires own American's news media companies.  According to the EU Commission, Ireland is exposed to a "high risk" over its concentration of media ownership.

Professions in academia and in the press are exercised about the post-truth era.  Why?  Because it is touches our values.  What has any of this got to do with librarians?  We share values with scholarship and the press – the value of intellectual honesty – in other words - truthfulness and we have a social responsibility to uphold our values. 

“We are living in a time of universal defeat when telling the truth is a revolutionary act” (G. Orwell).  Librarians have largely been invisible and apart from the fact that it is leading to the demise of the profession, it is also leading to the distortion of the truth.  The truth is something that cuts to the core of our profession. Veritas is our raison d’ĂȘtre. Librarians are defenders of intellectual freedom, of rational decision making and of democratic values.  We are defenders of the truth. If we remain invisible, and if we remain neutral, arguably so will the truth.

We are invisible in the following ways: by remaining neutral, through staffless libraries, by having low social media presence and by continuing to market the ‘library’ over the ‘librarian’.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT… NEUTRALITY. There is nothing neutral about librarianship, as Wendy Newman a Senior Fellow at the University of Toronto has said ‘Librarians are anchored in values’ and our values are democratic, not neutral. She says librarians are rooted in timeless values. I agree with David Lankes, Director of the School of Library and Information Science at University of South Carolina when he says "Good librarians aren't neutral: they are principled".  The underlying principles of both journalism and librarianship are to be truthful.  According to the IFLA Code of Ethics, we have a social responsibility to society and to individuals to assist people in finding information, factual information, peer-reviewed research.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT… SOCIAL MEDIA. Many Librarians in Ireland are invisible on social media. I can count on one hand how many health librarians are on Twitter. My esteemed colleague and immediate past president of the LAI is equally invisible on Twitter. I found a Philip Cohen intern but I don’t think that was you. There is no excuse left in the book for librarians to remain invisible on Twitter, believe me I have heard them all.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT… STAFFLESS LIBRARIES. Let’s be clear that a library without any visible staff is a reading room. Equally a digital library without any visible librarians is just a gateway. The link is not being made in the general public or among the majority of library users/non-users about what it is that librarians do and the library – be it physical or digital. Our skills are largely un-communicated, misunderstood and invisible. We need new service models where the visibility of staff and staff skills are clear for all to see and to understand. It is not just our skills but our values and we need a revolutionary act to start communicating what these are.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT... MARKETING. Why we continue to market the library over the librarian is beyond me.  Certainly in the case of public libraries I can see a rationale, but not for other types of libraries. Yes I’m talking about academic libraries, yes I’m talking about special libraries, yes I’m talking about health libraries. The shift in emphasis needs to move from ‘library’ to ‘librarian’ otherwise our profession and the values that we hold high will remain invisible. We need to guide people to the truth through education and empowerment. Information literacy is one of our core skills, we need to start telling people this is what we are about. The ALA defines IL as “The ability to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." This is where we add value, this is part of our social responsibility, this is most likely one of the reasons we became librarians in the first place. If people don’t know about what it is that we do, if they can’t see it, they won’t value it. And we want people to value the truth don’t we? And we want people to value librarians, don’t we? 

Michael Moore who brought us the film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ said ‘I didn’t realize librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group. They are subversive.  You think they’re just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything.  They’re like plotting the revolution, man”.

Our revolution is to hold our values high, to take part in revolutionary acts, in this time of deceit and to rebel against untruths and most important of all, to be visible. 

We need to market our skills, talk about our value, become highly visible and defend the truth.  We must empower people with the skills to critically appraise information and give them the confidence not to believe everything that they read.

We have heard about grey areas, but the truth is not grey.  It can be ugly and it can be beautiful, but it is never grey.  The truth illuminates, the truth is worth defending and upholding.  As librarians we have a unique position in society to speak the truth, to uphold the truth, to defend the truth and ultimately to control the story.

21 Mar 2017

Library Directors.org

Guest post by Alex Lent, Director of Milis, Massachusetts Public Library

Alex Lent contacted me and asked would it be possible to bring to the attention of Library Directors everywhere a group called The Library Directors Group. With that in mind could you please RT this post, share with those you think it might interest. And even copy and paste and share on any LIS mailing lists you think might be interested. The resource looks invaluable, and, I would argue, not just of use to current library directors, but those who would like to be in that position down the line.

Hi Everyone,

Last year, I started the Library Directors Group, which exists to facilitate communication, collaboration, and continuing education for library directors, especially for those library directors who are in their first five years on the job.

This group is the resource I wish I had had on my first day as a library director and it has been a huge help over the past year. I'm writing to tell you about the group because I think it could be useful to you as well.

We have a website, which has a list of resources other library directors have found useful, a blog which will soon be posting a steady stream of original content from a number of authors, and a link to a list of library director job postings. We're also on Facebook (facebook.com/librarydirectors) and Twitter (twitter.com/libdirectors). One of the projects we're working on right now is gathering as many state-produced manuals for library directors as we can. We've reached out to COSLA to help with this and the manuals have started to trickle in. Ultimately, we hope to have as complete a list as possible of these sorts of manuals.

We are also working to have a presence at as many library conferences as possible, hosting round tables for directors (and anyone who is interested in library administration) to discuss the challenges they face, share their experiences, and build a network of other directors who they can rely on for advice. I've been leading most of these round tables, and I'm hoping to convince other people around the world to lead round tables in the same format at their local conferences (although, if you want to fly me to Ireland to lead round tables or workshops, or give conference presentations, I would LOVE that).

But our most active platform is our listserv, which you can sign up for at librarydirectors.org. We have over 300 members from all over the United States and Canada and are looking to expand overseas. We've had questions on Friends groups, contracts, fundraising, mentoring, and a wide variety of other topics. Librarians are a question-friendly bunch and this listserv has proven quite useful.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, please sign up at librarydirectors.org. If you have any questions, you can email me at at alex@alexlent.org.


Alex Lent