16 Apr 2019

CONUL Training & Development have launched the 2019 Library Assistant Blog Award

CONUL Training & Development have launched the 2019 Library Assistant Blog Award which is open to all staff at library assistant and equivalent grades in the CONUL member libraries.

The award prizes are:

1st prize           €200
2nd prize          €150
3rd prize           €100

To apply for the award, you must submit an article on a library related theme in the form of a blog post. 

You could opt to write about any aspect of your work, a topic of interest, a project you have worked on or are working on, a project the library team is engaged in, a new service idea or maybe an idea you have for improving current services.  The post should be written in a lively style and be visually appealing to engage readers.  The word count for the post is 500-800 words, excluding links and references. Sources should be cited correctly.

The article should be saved as a PDF file and emailed along with your entry cover sheet to your CONUL T&D library rep http://www.conul.ie/membership-and-roles/  by 1700 on Wednesday 15th May 2019. 

Full information and links which may be of interest are available at here http://www.conul.ie/training-development-awards/#Library-Assistant-Award .
Posted on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 | Categories:

14 Apr 2019

Review of the LAI / CILIP Joint Conference 2019

Photograph by author

The LAI and CILIP certainly know how to choose a hotel in which to stage their Annual Joint Conference. They chose the stunning Kilashee Hotel in Naas for this years conference. 

The issue with choosing such a wonderful venue is that it may overshadow the conference itself. This was not the case in this instance. #laicilipire19 was one of the best, most enjoyable, conferences I have attended in the last few years. And what was surprising for me, as an academic librarian, is that some of the best papers, for me, came from public library speakers as opposed to the academic libraries. 

The theme of this years conference was ‘Inclusive Libraries’, a theme that applies to all libraries, and the breadth of speakers was wide and came equally from public and academic libraries.

There were three keynotes speakers, all excellent speakers and papers – entertaining and informative. 

Erik Boekestejin took us on a whistle stop tour of his travels around the world working with libraries and provided us with many examples of how we, and our buildings, can be more inclusive and help us as we engage with our users. 

Rosie Jones also used her extensive personal experience to show us how libraries can be, and must be, more inclusive. A particular take home for me was how impressive and essential an organisation the Open University is. Another was this new definition of Information Literacy by the CILIP Information Literacy Group :

‘Information literacy is the ability to think critically and make balanced judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to develop informed views and to engage fully with society.” 

In today’s world of fake news, echo chambers and blatant lies from those in power this is what we as libraries need to be teaching.

Unfortunately, due to train timetables I had to leave early and miss some of Traci Engel Lesnicki’s paper on library design and how essential the design of a space is to how the user experiences that space

A common theme that ran through the keynotes and many of the papers over the two days was the importance that playfulness plays in terms of design of the space and engagement with the user.

Before the conference I tweeted out that I was suffering from FOMO – fear of missing out – because of how many great looking papers there were on the conference programme 

As it is, I chose carefully and all the papers I saw in the breakout sessions were excellent. Too many papers to elaborate on so I now provide a very brief overview of the sessions I attended and papers I particularly enjoyed.

Firstly, Jane Burns paper looking at graphic medicine as a pedagogical tool for Health Information opened up to me an area I knew little about before hand and I can see this means of teaching as working across all disciplines and subject areas.

As I have a soft spot for anything to do with Chinese Librarianship I was particularly looking forward to James Molloy paper recounting his personal experience of teaching Information Literacy in China. I was not disappointed. 

A particularly powerful paper was that of Elaine Chapman and Sarah Anne Kennedy exploring the benefits of employing staff with disabilities in libraries. It was pointed out that this is a very much under-researched area. I was particularly pleased to see Elaine Chapman get perhaps the warmest most heartfelt round applause I have heard at a conference. 

Mark Ward’s paper, working from his own research, on the library as a Queer Space was particularly interesting and delivered by Mark in his by now familiar warm engaging relaxed style. For somebody with a background in sociology of sexuality and language I found this a particularly necessary important paper and area of research. 

Robin Stewart’s paper about a music appreciation club run in Co Meath Library appealed to the Shush! Sounds from UCC Library librarian in me and has me thinking, could we bring something like this to UCC Library.

Laura Connaughton spoke about an initiative at Maynooth University where the library organised a competition modelled on the TV Programme The Dragon’s Den (but with nicer dragons) where students would pitch their idea to the library for something that would improve the library for them. It was a great way to engage the student population and really listen to them.

Robert Whan, in his paper,  Armagh Robinson Library: A Case Study of Inclusive Engagement told us about two programmes, aimed at different ends of the age, that the library has. The first is a programme at elderly living with dementia and their carers. The second is aimed at under five years of age children.

An interesting approach to teaching was discussed by Ainé Carey and Catherine Ahearne in their paper Actions Speak Louder than words: co-delivering activity based classics at MU Library. 

Niall O’Brien told us about how Maynooth tackled the issue of orientation so as to make it more inclusive and actually more useful to the students themselves.

I was speaking in the session Research or Studies exploring inclusiveness in Libraries and Maria Ryan and Joanne Carroll’s paper looking at the steps the National Library of Ireland has been taking to make the library more inclusive and diverse was a great and interesting distraction before I went up to speak about The Transition Year Work Experience Programme and DEIS Schools... The Experience from UCC Library.

As was Ann Cleary and Philip Cohen’s paper looking at lessons learned from their National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education funded research project L2L Librarians Learning to support Learners Learning.  

Though I enjoyed all the papers I saw the stand out paper for me was Sheila Kelly’s paper Your Local Library: A Space for Everyone. Sheila, of Dublin City Libraries, spoke about the amazing, life changing, work that she and her colleagues do with Dublin’s homeless. Her paper for me was a powerful reminder of the power of libraries and a damning indictment of a society that permitted this homelessness situation arise and, worse, to continue.

And finally, there was one more highlight for – this conference contained the best poster that I have ever seen in competition. The poster  AIT Library Facilities: Engaging and Informing Students with Disabilities: Inclusiveness and Information– by Mary Mulryan  was a simple but utterly effective poster that any library could adapt for their own needs library. I am very to say that Mary won the best poster competition as it really is an amazing poster and it shows that there can be justice in the world. 

Photograph by author

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed and was inspired by this conference. The mix of libraries and librarians was great and to see people from different sectors mixing and sharing ideas was great. Here’s hoping that some interesting collaborations between our academic and public libraries emerge.

As an aside – the organisers did remarkably well when it came to the sponsors. There were so many I had never seen before. I would recommend that our academic conference organisers take a look at the list of sponsors and consider them as possible sponsors for future events you may be organising,

On the form of this year the LAI CILIP looks like it will become yet another must attend library conference – along with the ASL Conference and the CONUL Conference. I personally look forward to seeing what #laicilipire20 will bring.

And I will leave it up to a tweet from keynote Rosie Jones to sum up the conference and main themes. 

11 Apr 2019

Just the same but brand new

Post by Michelle Dalton, Librarian, Institute of Public Administration, Ireland

As I look through the tweets from some of the recent library conferences, it’s interesting to see that many of the themes and issues being discussed have been circulating around the library world for quite a long time now. The LAI & CILIP joint conference this week looked at how our libraries can support and promote inclusivity. UKSG covered a breadth of issues as always, but the cost of publishing and journals was a prominent motif in many talks, whilst last month’s LAI Academic & Special Libraries conference questioned the role of the library as a “Space, Place, or State of Mind?”.

These themes and challenges are not new in a lot of cases, and indeed many emanate directly from the core values and missions of libraries, so this is not surprising. For example, @hughtweet recently drew my attention to the fact that serials costs and cutbacks have been a challenge faced by libraries since, well, possibly forever:

Similarly inclusion has always been an intrinsic value held by libraries and librarians, as has the importance of the library as a place, in all its forms. What has changed of course, is the context. Right now, the cost of scholarly publishing is framed very much within the discourse of Plan S which has added a new dimension to the debate. Inclusivity has also taken on a new significance within society more generally, and today libraries have an opportunity to be a leader in this area, and perhaps to broaden the discussion to look at our own library staffing and structures also. The way we look at our library spaces has changed now too. The transformation in both the physical and digital environment has sparked an increased emphasis on user experience and a growing need for libraries to consider sustainability in how they deliver services and supports, and as a result we are having some very different conversations when we talk about the library as place today.

Whilst it is not all that surprising to see the same themes resurfacing over time given the enduring nature of some of the challenges we face, it is refreshing to see these same discussions approached with a new energy, a different perspective and real creativity. It is not simply the case that we are rehashing the same arguments (though to some degree this is unavoidable at times), but instead libraries and library staff are embracing opportunities to question what we do with a critical eye, and to open up the conversation to new areas. We may not always have the answers of course, but it is far more problematic when we stop asking questions in the first place.

*With thanks to Annie Clark for the blog post title

Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2019 | Categories:

3 Apr 2019

Review of #ASL2019 - "Library; Space, Place, or State of Mind?"

#asl2019  Brochure cover 

Guest post by Sinéad Hanrahan. Sinéad is a member of the Library Information Desk team in the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick. She recently qualified as a librarian with Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen and is interested in student engagement and how libraries can support researchers.

It was an early start on Friday 29th March as I made my way from a foggy Colbert Station in Limerick to attend ASL 2019. This year the theme for the annual conference of the Academic and Special Libraries section of the Library Association of Ireland was "Library; Space, Place, or State of Mind?"

As I set out on my journey I could not help but reflect on this theme and my own sense of place within the library profession. As a freshly qualified librarian, still completing their master’s thesis while also working as a library assistant in a very busy academic library, I often find myself straddling many different spheres within librarianship yet never quite feeling grounded to any one place. As the day proceeded, I would learn that this was a feeling shared by many of those in attendance.

The day kicked off in the beautiful Wood Quay Venue, Dublin, with the first of the Case Study Sessions. It seemed that every presentation resonated with an experience I had in a previous position or with work I am currently undertaking in the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick. That should have been my first indication that I was much more grounded within this profession than I had earlier believed!

Eilís Ní Raghallaigh and Grace O'Connor from Dublin City University took us through the transition the Information Service at the Cregan Library had gone through as it was relocated and redesigned.

Gerard Gregory from the Irish Management Institute spoke about how the influence of all stakeholders factored into the design of the newly refurbished IMI Library.

Elaine Harrington and John Hough from University College Cork shared their fascinating project, "Sound Out! Connecting the Library and City through Space, Time & Sound" A collaboration between UCC Library's Special Collections and the Department of Music, which explored the relationship between sound, space and history.

The final talk of the morning sessions was by Laura Connaughton of Maynooth University who linked up with the Department of Anthropology in Maynooth to design and implement a UX study.

Following some refreshments and some particularly lovely pastries, we launched into the first keynote speaker of the day, Christian Lauersen, Director of Libraries and Citizen Services in Roskilde Municiplaity in Denmark. There was so much of Christian's talk, "A room is not just a room: The Library as place and brand in communities," that resonated with me, not least his infectious enthusiasm for what libraries are and what they represent. However, his comments on how libraries give people a sense of belonging and act as nurturers and upholders of communities really struck a chord with me.

After a beautiful lunch I wandered around the posters which highlighted topics such as "Information literacy to support transition: The development of a digital badge for schools" by Patricia McKevitt of DKIT, "An ode to the mobile library" by Grace Hills of DCC, "Reference management clinics: Utilising the library space to provide meaningful support" by Niall O'Brien of UCD and "Making a difference: Mainstreaming the reading list at the University of Limerick", the eventual prize winner on the day, by Micheál Ó hAodha and Michelle Breen from UL.

The afternoon kicked off with the second keynote speaker, Karen Latimer from IFLA Library Buildings & Equipment Standing Committee. Karen's talks, "Around the World in (less than) eighty libraries: plus ca change..." brought us on a tour of some of the most innovative and beautifully designed libraries around the world and how they serve the needs of its users. One point raised by Karen that stood out was how staff can sometimes be forgotten in the design of library spaces.

Mark Ward from South Dublin Libraries got the ball rolling with the second batch of Case Studies with his illuminating talk, "The Library as a Queer Space: Investigating the access and provision for LGBTQ+ patrons," about how we can better support our LGBTQ+ patrons in libraries.

The penultimate talk of the day came from Siobhán Dunne from Trinity College Dublin. Siobhán's talk, "Knowing Me, Knowing You: States of mind and inclusive communities," raised the question of how well we know our users and their needs and really how clear our perceptions of ourselves are, too.

Finally, the last talk of the day came from Jane Burns who is the Institute Librarian in Athlone Institute of Technology. Jane gave an uplifting talk entitled, "Athlone IT: Is It Alone In The Midlands? A review of the perceptions and geographical identity of a third-level institution in the centre of Ireland."  It was gratifying to hear how Jane is challenging these perceptions with her work with her team.

The day was drawing to a close when Niall O'Brien was announced as the winner of Best Tweet of the day and I had a lovely surprise of winning the Sponsor's Quiz, which I must admit was a team effort between my colleagues from the University of Limerick, Louise O'Shea, Jesse Waters and Michelle Breen.

As I strolled down the quays on my way back to Heuston Station thoughts of how libraries can act as an antidote to loneliness and create a sense of belonging and community among its patrons were swirling around my head. I could not help but think back to Karen's comments about how library staff can be forgotten as well as my own feelings of being at sea earlier that morning. This was a point that was touched on a number of times during the conference in different capacities and so I cannot help but think that if a library and its staff can create a sense of belonging for our patrons, then it is surely something we can also create for each other, too.

Indeed, having spent the day in the company of my fellow librarians and listening to them so kindly and enthusiastically share their stories, it is something I am certain of.

If you have the chance to attend this conference next year, I urge you to do so; you will be the better for it.

19 Mar 2019

Strategic Thinking for Academic Libraries Using Appreciative Inquiry – Part 2

Ronan Cox (@ronancox2) - Business Librarian, Dublin City University

Appreciative Inquiry as a Strategic Process
Developed by David Cooperrider, appreciative inquiry (AI) is an approach that only shows up in library literature within the past decade (Dole, Dabbour & Kott, 2017, p. 471). To my mind, the power of this approach lies in the fact that while social organisations such as libraries need to demonstrate value to several stakeholders, this value is not in monetary form and therefore requires a different strategy. Unrepentant in its aims, with a focus on strengths-based practice, and the search for the best in people and organizations as a way to create organizational innovation and transformation (Orr and Cleveland-Innes, cited in Openo, 2016), AI provides a platform to capture and accentuate the positive and good that libraries are doing. At the risk of sounding alarmist, I think the latter is something many academic libraries may not yet fully leverage. Libraries continuously innovate and break new ground, the time to speak up and speak out is now. Remember, the visionary strategist considers the environment not as a given but as something that can be moulded to your advantage. But only if you are willing to make the leap and stay the course!

As mentioned previously, academic libraries gauge their value in ways other than monetary. Cox (2018b) referred to this at the DBS Library seminar, citing examples including; information literacy impact on students, open access citations, archives engagement, and scholarly collaboration. As a result, AI maps particularly well to strategic planning because of its focus on a desired future state, achieved through reflection exploration of the ‘best of what is’ and focusing on internal strengths, values, sources of pride and positive experiences. This information capture can be used to identify emerging strategic areas and inform the creation of the strategic plan that is unique to the library, yet also encompasses institutional priorities. From a strategic purpose perspective, this might seem like the pinnacle. However, we must keep in mind that a purpose can never be fully reached. The best organisations continuously adapt and evolve to meet environmental demands.

AI Models
There are several AI models, including, the 5-D cycle, 4-D cycle, and the strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results (SOAR) model. The most commonly used is the 4-D cycle (see Figures. 2,3).

Figure 2: 4-D Cycle (Wikmalm and Wikmalm, 2009)

Strategic Planning Stage
4-D Cycle Stage
Environmental scan, identifying important values
Creating a vision
Creating a structure to implement the plan
Sustaining the change
Destiny (or Delivery)-Sustaining
Figure 3: 4-D Cycle mapped to strategic planning process (Dole, Dabbour and Kott, 2017)

Dole, Dabbour & Kott provide an excellent case study of the benefit of using an AI approach as a basis for strategic planning in academic libraries. Of particular value in their case was the ability to include both internal and external stakeholders in the discovery and dream stages. Rather than simply taking an introspective view, the Library Strategic Planning Task Force actively engaged the services of students, faculty and staff when seeking data collection. For the discovery process, the aim was to capture the ‘best of what is’. Participants were asked to examine the current mission, vision, and values statements of the library and determine what they would retain for the future strategic plan. In addition, they were asked to describe a high point in their experiences with the library. Following this, participants generated ideas on how the library could contribute to student, faculty and staff success in the future, thereby fulfilling the dream stage. At the time of writing, the design and deliver stages had yet to be completed. The reason I refer to this study is to provide an example of what an AI approach could look like within academic libraries and to stimulate the thought process with regard to your own organisation.

AI Problems
To paraphrase Roosevelt - nothing worth having is easy. Given the complexity and scale of academic libraries, it would be naive to paint a simplistic picture of AI integration. Like any change initiative, to gain support and traction requires a considerable cultural shift, a departure from the current way of doing things, most notably a change in existing values and beliefs. The AI approach is not intended to be the solution to all strategic approaches within libraries, it is simply another to consider. Perceived weaknesses have been documented (Egan and Lancaster, 2005, p. 42 cited in Kelly, 2010; Preskill and Catsambas, 2006, p. 27 cited in Openo, 2016), including;

  • difficult interpersonal situations are overlooked
  • feelings of anger or frustration may not be voiced
  • dissatisfied organization members may retreat and withdraw from the process
  • the process overlooks or ignores existing problems
However, several authors have argued that AI does not ignore problems or issues; rather it looks at them in light of current strengths and successes. Whitney and Trosten-Bloom (2003, p. 18, cited in Kelly, 2013), argue that AI ‘does not dismiss accounts of conflict, problems or stress, it simply does not use them as the basis of analysis or action’. Upon reading this quote for the first time and without being aware of it previously, I immediately understood this to be my default thought process. Through the lens of AI, problems and conflicts are viewed as lived experiences, and subsequently re-framed as a positive inquiry, thus requiring a shift in how we think. Kelly offers the example of a common complaint that the academic library is undervalued. Rather than fixate on this, the AI process would extrapolate the positives and investigate the most effective ways to demonstrate the value of the library service to stakeholders.

Shining a spotlight on the shifting issues and trends that affect the position and perception of academic libraries and library staff within the wider environment is something we all need to consider. Rather than viewing the situation as a negative, I have offered the opinion that we need to recognise our current operating environment and look both inward and outward to discover what our collective strengths and opportunities are and how they might best serve us when mapping our future. This involves the development of methods that allow for the recognition and further progression of these strengths and opportunities, not just through internal means but also via collaboration with external stakeholders such as staff and faculty. The literature has shown that one such method is the application of appreciative inquiry to library strategic planning.

While perhaps not the ‘silver bullet’ solution many might hope for, at a minimum it provides a starting point to begin these important conversations. To finish with a business-related reference - in such a competitive environment, the use of such a method bears striking similarities to the very effective Blue Ocean Shift strategic model proposed by Chan Kim and Mauborgne (2017). Within this, they suggest five steps to open up new ideas and space for organisations:

  1. Get started
  2. Understand where you are now
  3. Imagine where you could be
  4. Find out how to get there
  5. Make your move
Have you started yet?