12 Jun 2024

Western and Munster Regional Sections of the Library Association of Ireland Joint Annual Seminar 2024 ‘EDI in the Library’


Guest post by Tina Stagliano, MLIS, Electronic Resource Content Manager at Novartis

Last week, a unique gathering unfolded in the halls of the TUS Moylish Campus. This was the Western Regional Section's first in-person event since 2019, and it marked a significant milestone for the Munster Regional Section as their inaugural event since reforming in 2023. The Western and Munster Regional Sections of the LAI came together in person to reunite friends and old colleagues all with the same goal, to learn how to implement Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in their library.

Before settling into a day of learning, we had the chance to enjoy some refreshments while networking and catching up with friends. Having only moved to Limerick from Dublin myself a few years ago during pandemic lockdowns, I was especially delighted to finally have the chance to meet and socialise with other librarians from my new city and region. Working from home full-time has made it difficult to make these invaluable connections with my peers and I know I am not the only one who cherished this time.


Registration for the seminar at TUS Moylish.

The first speaker of the day was Marian Duggan, VP for People, Culture & EDI in TUS. Marian’s presentation, titled “EDI in the Library,” stressed the importance of her role and that of TUS itself in providing equal opportunity for all students. The library at TUS provides support to EDI endeavors by promoting awareness and providing books and other resources as needed for various events, such as International Women’s Day.

 Marian also explained how TUS has taken steps towards EDI that reach beyond those mandated by Irish Law. Currently, there are nine grounds in inclusion legislation (gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community) but TUS has expanded this to include two further grounds – socioeconomic background and membership of the Roma community.

The challenging work of Marian and the EDI team has already paid off, as TUS has just been named the EU Newcomer Gender Equality Champion for 2024 – an award presented to the university for their efforts to advance gender equality in education and research.

The next speaker was Nicola Beagan, Adult Dyslexia Coordinator with the Dyslexia Association of Ireland who gave a talk titled “Dyslexia Awareness.” Nicola provided an overview of dyslexia itself and then discussed how a library, or any space, can make minor changes to be more inclusive to those with dyslexia.

 First, Nicola began by emphasizing that dyslexia is a "learning difference" rather than a disability and is hereditary and lifelong. While it can affect working memory, long-term memory or both, individuals with dyslexia can manage their symptoms effectively with the right support. 

 Libraries can play a crucial role in supporting dyslexic individuals by providing audio recordings when possible, giving them extra time when checking out materials and using more visuals in the library such as videos, maps and infographics. Interestingly, individuals with dyslexia are often strong innovators and can contribute significantly to library layout and design. 

 Nicola also mentioned that there are several ways to improve signage around the library to be more dyslexia friendly. For example, use easy to read fonts such as Arial and Verdana, add more space between lines of text and place text on blocks of colour to give more contrast. Also, avoid using justified alignment on blocks of text as it can create extra white space on the page.  


Nicola Beagan, Dyslexia Association of Ireland.

After a break for lunch, the seminar continued with Elizabeth Kirwan, Assistant Keeper in the Department of Special Collections in the National Library of Ireland (NLI). Elizabeth presented “EEDI in the National Library of Ireland (NLI)” and explained the NLI's Diversity & Inclusion Policy. She noted that the policy was developed after a collaborative forum and was recently revised to stress the importance of diversity. The NLI represents a changing Ireland and is committed to ensuring that all voices are heard. For example, when the NLI was founded in 1877, it was illegal to be openly gay in Ireland and the library did not collect materials that represented LGBTQ+ voices. Now, the NLI proudly promotes their Irish Queer Archive, with materials dating back to 1951.

 The NLI's commitment to EEDI is evident in its strategic plan for 2022 – 2026, which includes working with the Irish Centre for Diversity to achieve the Investors in Diversity Silver standing. To achieve this standing, the NLI has conducted various trainings for staff, including addressing unconscious bias, bullying, being active bystanders and by promoting the use of JAM cards in their library. 

Erica Meslin, Education Manager of AHEAD Ireland, led the final discussion on Universal Design (UD). Her presentation was titled “UD-ing the Library Service” and  she explained that UD is the design of buildings, products, or services mindfully created for access, understanding, and use, regardless of an individual’s background. AHEAD names four strategic pillars to keep in mind when creating such an environment for students, which are:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Supports, services and social engagement
  • Physical environment
  • Digital environment 

AHEAD is also acting as Lead National Collaborator of a new initiative called the Altitude Charter, which involves the implementation of UD in institutes of further and higher education.

 The seminar concluded with a tour of the TUS Library, which gave us the chance to further share ideas on creating an inclusive library space for all users. It was interesting to learn that the university had recently remodeled their library to create an inviting entryway which includes a lowered circulation desk, making it easily accessible to wheelchair users.


Recently refurbished Circulation Desk at TUS Moylish Campus Library.

View of the refurbished TUS Moylish Campus Library.

Overall, the seminar was a powerful reminder of the role libraries can play in promoting diversity and inclusion. It underscored the importance of creating spaces where everyone feels welcome and can access resources without barriers. Unofficially, the seminar served as a much needed in person CPD gathering for all. The event was a tremendous success and I look forward to the next one.

 For the Western Regional Section of the Library Association of Ireland’s full report on the seminar, please visit: https://wrslai.wordpress.com/




Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Categories: ,

10 Jun 2024

Top 10 tips for prospective Library Association of Ireland (LAI) award applicants

Guest Post by Mairéad Mc Keown, Knowledge and Critical Capability Manager at Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board 

A woman holding a certificate
Mairéad McKeown holding her SALAI certificate

This Libfocus blog post will look at why you might apply for an LAI professional award, what type of awards exist and my top 10 tips for prospective LAI award applicants.

Why might you apply for an LAI award? The benefits:

All three awards signify that a member of the Association has developed:

  • An increasing level of personal professional practice
  • Continuing professional development
  • Contribution made to the library and information field at large
  • They also carry the right to use the post-nominal letters ALAI, SALAI and FALAI respectively and inclusion as an Associate, Senior Associate or Fellow in the LAI Professional Register

Achieving all three awards also:

  • Gives your career prospects a competitive advantage
  • Provides proof to current and future employers of peer recognition and of commitment to continuing professional development and practice
  • Creates an opportunity to be part of a network of active like-minded information professionals
  • Enables Associate awards holders to apply for a Senior Associate award at a later date and in turn enables Senior Associates to apply for a Fellowship award at a later date.

In addition, as the highest career level award, achieving a Fellowship award also signals:

  • Recognition of personal achievement at the highest possible level
  • Proof to current and future employers of peer recognition and career-long commitment to continuing professional development
  • Demonstration of a personal contribution made at a strategic level to the Association, nationally or internationally for at least ten years

What types of LAI awards exist?

There are three professional awards that LAI members can apply for, each will be covered briefly below:

  • Associate, ALAI
  • Senior Associate, SALAI
  • Fellow, FALAI

What is the ALAI?

The Associateship is an entry-level award, intended for early career professional librarians with a minimum two years relevant work experience. The award recognises personal commitment to ongoing professional development, evidence of reflective learning from such activity, and engagement with the Library Association of Ireland (LAI).

Prospective candidates looking to learn more about the ALAI, can click here for information on the application process, e.g. when and how to apply and what happens after your application is submitted (LAI, no date).

What is the SALAI?

The Senior Associateship is a mid-career award, intended for professional librarians with a minimum 10 years relevant work experience. In addition to length of service, the award recognises personal commitment to ongoing professional development, evidence of reflective learning from such activity and engagement with the Library Association of Ireland (LAI).

Prospective candidates looking to learn more about the SALAI, can click here for information on the application process, e.g. when and how to apply and what happens after your application is submitted (LAI, no date).


What is the FLAI?

The Fellowship is a senior-level award intended for professional librarians with a minimum of 15 years relevant work experience. In addition to length of service, the award recognises personal commitment to ongoing professional development, evidence of reflective learning from such activity and engagement with the Library Association of Ireland (LAI).

Prospective candidates looking to learn more about the FALAI, can click here for information on the application process, e.g., when and how to apply and what happens after your application is submitted (LAI, no date).


With regards to all three awards, ALAI, SALAI and FALAI, if you have particular issues that are not covered through the links above, send your queries to awards@libraryassociation.ie



Top 10 tips for prospective LAI award applicants:


In 2023 I achieved the SALAI and it was one of the most fulfilling and personally awarding highlights of my career to date. It has helped me to reflect upon my strengths, areas for growth and celebrate my professional practice, development and connection with the LAI and other library bodies. Based on my experience, the next section of this blogpost will share my top 10 tips for prospective LAI award applicants.

1. Don’t regret not applying for an LAI award – JUST DO IT!

The fact that you are here reading this blogpost already signals your curiosity and interest in LAI awards. Learn all you can about the awards, then choose the one that’s most suitable for your career level and go for it.

‘If you have regrets, make sure they are for things you did rather than did not do’ National Library Director Dr Audrey Whitty (Reporter, 2023).

2. Know the award guidelines, give yourself plenty of time and get early buy in

Research the guidelines for the awards and become familiar with what’s required. Once you’re committed, start at the beginning of the summer in the year you wish to apply. Do not underestimate the amount of time this will take (six to eight months). But don’t be put off by the time required either as this is a really worthwhile process. By practicing good planning and organisation skills, it’s well achievable. If you are seeking support for the application fee and time to devote to the award whilst at work, ensure you sell the benefits to your employer and get early buy in.

3. Think broadly about quantitative and qualitative activities/proof points

A good portfolio of evidence will provide sufficient information for the assessors to judge if the candidate has satisfied both the quantitative and qualitative requirements of the award. Quite often we fail to realise the broad depth of continuing professional development activities that we undertake. Reading this blogpost is an activity which you could include in your CPD tracker! To help you think broadly about qualitative and quantitative CPD activities and proof points, I’ve included a list of examples to consider below:

  • Training courses
  • Workshops
  • Seminars
  • Conferences
  • Knowledge cafés, conversation clubs, journal clubs
  • Publications
  • Academic qualifications
  • Internet-based learning such as MOOCs, online tutorials, webinars, newsgroups, email lists, blogs, other social media
  • Training received from industry suppliers, such as database providers
  • On the job learning
  • Shadowing people, job exchanges/rotations/secondments
  • Professional reading
  • LAI/other Committee membership
  • Informal networking opportunities
  • Reflective writing

4. Keep your C.V. up to date

All award applicants are required to submit an up-to-date C.V., so taking the time to continue to refresh your C.V. as you prepare your application will be time very well spent. Place a ruthless focus on demonstrating the breadth of your specific library experience and engagement with the profession.

5. Create an excel CPD tracker in the flow of your activities 

Complete your excel tracker in the flow of your CPD activities, doing this in real time will save major headaches down the road. It’s also a really good habit which encourages you to reflect and recognise small and larger CPD wins. Create tracker headings which will enable you to easily reflect on your practice when writing your reflective statement.

The headings I used in my excel tracker can be found below (these may be useful when setting up yours):

  • My name
  • CPD Activity Date
  • PKSB area (if using the CILIP PKSB Professional Knowledge Skills Base wheel)
  • CPD Activity Title
  • Who the CPD Activity was delivered by
  • Amount of time for the CPD activity
  • Reason for the CPD activity
  • What I learned from the CPD activity
  • How I will put what I learnt from the CPD activity into practice – further action as a result of it
  • Any further thoughts on the CPD activity
  • References to the CPD activity (where possible) E.g. a URL from a webinar, article etc. 

6. Stand on the shoulders of giants

You’ll need to create a reflective statement that’s unique and distinct to you, but at the same time the LAI advise taking inspiration from these reflective writing/practice sources:

Also, as previously recommended by Helen Fallon and Jane Burns, leverage the register of LAI award holders to identify award holders and make connections for peer to peer support - this was a great tip which was invaluable to me (Fallon & Burns, 2022).


7. Craft a reflective statement which embodies these three elements:

  • Concise yet comprehensive
  • Demonstrates that you have engaged in reflective practice as a means to continuous learning and professional development over time
  • Demonstrates that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning but that learning follows from deliberate reflection on such experience.

8. Seek letters of support:

Reach out to those who can aid your application and seek letters of support. I got letters from my CEO, my current director, former director and a vendor I worked closely with on a large project of strategic importance. When compiling your CPD tracker you will naturally identify prospective supporters that you can approach to aid your application.

9. Display proof of your award

As the professional landscape continues to evolve rapidly, the need for adaptability and learning has become crucial for individuals to thrive in the workplace. It’s no surprise that, adaptability was recognised as the “skill of the moment” in LinkedIn’s2024 Most In-Demand Skills list (Bessalel, 2024)

LAI awards demonstrate continuing adaptability and commitment to learning. Therefore, once you have achieved your award, I strongly advise displaying social proof of your achievement, e.g. create a celebratory post on your social channels. You can view my celebratory post on LinkedIn for ideas on how to display social proof of your award (Mc Keown, 2023). It’s also a good idea to add your award to the awards and honours section of your LinkedIn profile, include it on your CV and think about writing about your experience and sharing it.

10. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up and try again

If the Assessors do not recommend your application for an award, do not give up! Use the outcome and constructive feedback provided as a CPD learning experience. Then reflect and re-apply at a later date.

“If one has courage, nothing can dim the light that shines from within” Maya Angelou.


Now that you are armed with information on why you might apply for an LAI award, the three different types of awards and 10 top tips for prospective award applicants, I would encourage all LAI members who have not applied for an award to consider doing so. And for those who have already achieved an award, I would encourage you to set goals to apply for the next possible award. There is an award for every LAI member, no matter what stage you are at in your career. Why not begin your LAI award journey today to ensure you can never regret not doing it!

Contact details:

Mairéad Mc Keown Mairead.mckeown@bordbia.ie https://www.linkedin.com/in/maireadmckeown/


Bessalel, S. (2024) ‘LinkedIn 2024 Most In-Demand Skills: Learn the Skills Companies Need Most’, www.linkedin.com. LinkedIn, 8 February. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/business/learning/blog/top-skills-and-courses/most-in-demand-skills  (Accessed: 13 May 2024).

Fallon, H. and Burns, J. (2022) ‘Applying for an Award of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI)’, Libfocus. Libfocus, 26 April. Available at: https://www.libfocus.com/2022/04/applying-for-award-of-library.html (Accessed: 14 May 2024).

LAI (no date) Award of associateship candidate guidelines (no date) Library Association Of Ireland. Available at: https://www.libraryassociation.ie/award-of-associateship-candidate-guidelines/  (Accessed: 13 May 2024).

LAI (no date) Award of senior associateship candidate guidelines (no date a) Library Association Of Ireland. Available at: https://www.libraryassociation.ie/award-of-senior-associateship-candidate-guidelines/  (Accessed: 13 May 2024).

LAI (no date) Award of fellowship candidate guidelines (no date) Library Association Of Ireland. Available at: https://www.libraryassociation.ie/award-of-fellowship-candidate-guidelines/  (Accessed: 13 May 2024).

McKeown, M. (2023). 🎉Awarded Senior Associateship of the Library Association of Ireland!📚: I am thrilled to share the news that I have achieved the Award of Senior Associateship of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI), 1 November, [LinkedIn]. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/maireadmckeown_laiawards-libraryassociationofireland-professionaldevelopment-activity-7112346437937455104-Cq6Y/ (Accessed: 14 May 2024).

Reporter, P. (2023) National Library director dr Audrey Whitty: ‘if you have regrets, make sure they are for things you did rather than did not do’, National Library director Dr Audrey Whitty: ’If you have regrets, make sure they are for things you | Business Post. Available at: https://www.businesspost.ie/article/national-library-director-dr-audrey-whitty-if-you-have-regrets-make-sure-they-are-for-things-you/  (Accessed: 13 May 2024).

Posted on Monday, June 10, 2024 | Categories:

28 May 2024

Academic & Special Libraries Conference 2024 ‘Fair for all: creating Equitable and Universal Access to Information’ Report

Guest post by Beth Tyrell, MLIS Student at UCD, graduating this year.

The LAI Academic and Special Libraries annual conference took place on Thursday 21st March 2024 in the Aisling Hotel in Dublin. I was very lucky to be one of two people given a bursary to attend. This is a report of the day.

Decolonising Library Spaces

Lord, Lord, down O’Connell Street,” read keynote speaker Marilyn Clarke at the opening talk of the 2024 LAI Academic and Special Libraries Conference in Dublin’s Aisling Hotel. 

The theme of the conference was ‘Fair for All: Creating Equitable and Universal Access to Information,’ and Marilyn was asking attendees to consider: in our libraries, whose knowledge and history is preserved and collected? 

The poem she read for us is by a Jamaican born poet, Ferdinand Levy, who was probably the first black poet to be published in Ireland, according to Dr. Karl O’Hanlon of Maynooth’s Department of English who shared some of Levy’s poetry with Marilyn in advance of her talk. Levy’s book of poetry, Flashes in the Dark, was published in Dublin in 1941. 

Marilyn Clarke has worked at Senate House Library, Imperial College London, and Goldsmiths, University of London. She is currently the IALS Librarian at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. 

Marilyn’s talk brought home how much richness can be gained if we decolonise our library collections and reading lists and question our biases and skewed perspectives on who has intellectual authority. She shared how library spaces can be transformed in three areas – whose voices do we include and respect, who do we remember, and how do we resist the structural inequity that we have inherited. On that last point, she spoke of her reaction to the floor plan of the IALS library – a quick scan of the collections map shows that white-centric topics are stored on the floors with large windows and high ceilings, while collections pertaining to African and Asian matters are literally kept in the basement, a space she described as having low ceilings and no natural light at all. Why did it take a mixed raced librarian to see the harm in this, when it has clearly been accepted practice for years? Being very conscious of our own positionality is key if we want to recognise situations like this and make positive change, she said, urging the audience not to leave politics at the door of the library. 

We learned that, in practice, to decolonise a collection or reading list is not as simple as swapping out some writers for others. Not all voices are equally represented in published works, and this fact compelled Marilyn to start the Liberate! zine collection at the Goldsmiths library when she worked there, a practical way to include and amplify marginalised voices. 

Because she grounded her insight in examples of real transformative practices, Marilyn’s presentation managed to shift the concept of decolonisation from an unachievable task to a thrilling opportunity.  Decolonisation is an opportunity to light up our cultural identity and allow energy to flow through our collections in a way that will bring them to life and have them act as inspiration or invitation to library users of all diverse identities. By decolonising collections now, we lay the foundations for future collections to include all voices.  In Ireland we are blessed with such a rich poetic heritage – Yeats, Kavanagh, Heaney – but to have a canon of only men and only white men and only white men of a certain educational status is like having a body with one lung. With one lung you can breathe, you can sing, you can speak truth – but imagine what you could do with two. Imagine what you could do with a full choir. 

Marilyn Clarke, image courtesy of A&SL Committee

Tools for access

The case study presentation that sparked the most questions from the audience was given by Trevor Boland, Assistive Technology Officer, DCU. Perhaps because Trevor is not a librarian, he brought information that many audience members seemed to be crying out for, regarding simple, free, assistive technologies that he shares with students to help with common challenges. He also spoke very well about the necessity of creating an empathic bond with students by being willing to be vulnerable himself. The technologies he highlighted are all easily accessible and yet hidden in plain sight; much potential good could be done if all librarians were familiar with them. 

Eilís O’Neill, Outreach and Engagement Librarian at DCU, presented a case study on the implementation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in a library setting.  Eilís has studied UDL and is a member of the University Consultation Group on best practices regarding UDL. She told us that universal design is a set of principles regarding the design of buildings, products, and other environments to make them inclusive for people of all abilities. Universal Design for Learning takes these principles and applies them to all aspects of education. Eilís and her colleagues at the DCU Library implemented UDL principles in the design of their Live Wise Book Therapy libguide so that it now caters to the needs of a diverse group of learners; she shared insights into how they achieved that end. 

Diversifying Dewey

The case study presented by Dean Watters and Dr. Ruth O’Hara, members of the LAI Cataloguing and Metadata group, was an inspiring example of how the (voluntary) work of two dedicated people can make a real and lasting change to equity and access in libraries everywhere.  Irish Travellers face widespread discrimination and stereotyping and Dean and Ruth found that works relating to Irish Travellers were frequently misclassified. This group were not included in the DDC and existing OCLC Subject Headings were inaccurate and exclusionary. Dean and Ruth walked us through the steps they took, in consultation with Irish Traveller representative groups, to fix this situation. Now you can log on to web dewy and find ‘Irish Travellers (Mincéari)’ under: T5-91623. “Dewy is in need of decolonisation,” said Dean. “Marginalised groups deserve better.”

Why do we need ‘Open’ anyway?

When keynote speaker David Hughes took to the stage warned the audience that he was not passionate about his subject – the need for Open Access. He claimed to be merely enthusiastic. The presentation that followed was very convincing in every aspect except this – David’s enthusiasm would easily pass most people’s bar for passion, so perhaps, for the purposes of a professional conference, it was just as well that his passion was unprovoked. 

David is the Digital Systems Librarian for Education and Training Boards Ireland. He regaled the audience with the sordid history of academic journals (Robert Maxwell came in for criticism). Academic publishing, said David, is astonishingly lucrative, and he said, “we provide free labour.” In response to this, the idea of Open Access was born from a vision to make access to knowledge fair, equitable, transparent, and collaborative. Open Access does not only apply to scholarly publishing, but also to research, data, and educational resources. Unfortunately, this ideal has been turned on its head by the invention of the Gold Open Access model, which demands that authors pay Article Publishing Charges (APCs) in order to keep their article from getting put behind a paywall. David warned: “APCs are a licence to print money and we’re the fools being taken advantage of.” In this reality, transformative agreements are not actually transformative – they are a means to maintaining the status quo. 

Meanwhile, Gold OA creates an ecosystem where predatory journals can thrive, a situation that has encouraged the growth of a new practice of companies publishing white- and blacklists of journals in a purported attempt to protect academics from the predatory ones. But, said David, some of these list makers are themselves predatory, blacklisting perfectly good journals unless they agree to pay a fee. 

Additionally, the advent of APCs has inevitably led to the market being flooded with low quality eBooks and journals, and, said David, ‘good’ journals are not immune to this pressure and in many cases have joined right in with what has become acceptable exploitative behaviour. In a system where journal impact factor is the holy grail, self-citation has become a problem too. “The whole thing is rotten, I think,” said David, quoting Goodhart’s law that when a measure becomes a target is ceases to be a good measure. 

As an aside, David drew attention to our use of language: whitelist meaning good, blacklist meaning bad. He acknowledged how deeply embedded our inherit biases can be. These biases bleed into every aspect of work, including the world of publishing. 

So, David enthusiastically got the audience’s blood boiling, setting the stage perfectly for some inspirational women who have dedicated enormous time, energy and, I suspect, passion, to realising a solution. The solution seems to be Diamond Open Access. 

David Hughes, image courtesy of A&SL Committee

Diamond Open Access, two case studies

Jane Buggle and Marie O’Neill, Institute and Deputy librarians at IADT, have been working for years to establish and promote a culture and practice of Diamond Open Access publishing in service of open access as a global public good. The Diamond Open Access model requires institutional funding, but all content is fully open and there are no APCs. 

It was a relief, after David Hugh’s exposition on the “enshittification” of everything, to find that Jane and Marie’s case study presentation pointed to the transformative impact that Diamond OA library publishing can have. In her talk, Marie O’Neill quoted from a paper that she, Jane Buggle and Lai Ma wrote, that found library publishers are “more likely to take on controversial topics and perspectives, as well as emerging scholars who may be sidelined due to unconscious biases based on their affiliations and personal characteristics such as, for example, ethnicity, race, gender identity, sex and country of origin” (Read the full article here). Canada was highlighted as a particularly heartening example; institutional publishing in Canada is thriving to the extent that traditional heavy hitters like Elsevier (the cartoon villains of scholarly communication) hold a very small market share compared to their standing elsewhere. 

During their time working Dublin Business School , Jane and Marie established two Diamond OA journals - Studies in Arts and Humanities, and the DBS Business Review. They are currently in the process of starting one in IADT. If you are interested in their tireless and inspiring work, you should check out the LAI Library Publishing Group, the Irish Open Access Publishers (IOAP), the Library Publishing Coalition, and the IFLA Library Publishing Special Interest Group. 

In the same vein, Laura Rooney Ferris is doing amazing work for the HSE where she is the Library Resource Manager. While a lot of good research is apparently being done by HSE employees, the majority of them are not affiliated with an academic institution and therefore can’t benefit from transformative agreements. Most of this research is therefore going unpublished or isn’t shared beyond the immediate professional community of the researcher. To remedy this situation, Laura is working to establish a Diamond OA journal for Irish Health and Social Care researchers. She shared some of the significant roadblocks she has faced in this endeavour (HSE hiring freeze, among others) but her diligence and commitment to outside-the-box thinking bodes well for this project. HSE researchers are very lucky to have Laura Rooney Ferris as a champion.

Open Education, two case studies 

Paola Corti presented a case study for open education resources on a European level. Paula is the Open Education Community Manager for SPARC Europe. SPARC works to promote, advocate, and practically facilitate open education and open research across Europe. Paula told us about the good work that SPARC is doing in conjunction with The European Network of Open Education Librarians (ENOEL). ENOEL have a series of very insightful, practical workshops available on YouTube, focusing on various aspects of using and creating Open Educational Resources, all well worth a watch if you want to know more (here is a link to the latest workshop).

More locally, Ann Byrne and Emberly Davey have made an open educational resource for Hibernia College where they are Digital Librarian and Digital Library Assistant, respectively. Seeing a need for digital literacy skills in the student community, they worked together to develop an open course in digital literacy, with an aim to nurture digital citizenship. They talked us through the piloting, review and launch of the course and the tools they used to build it. Their course is available to anyone on the Hibernia Library website. 


The speakers at the LAI Academic and Special Libraries annual conference 2024 each brought and shared an integral piece to the puzzle of how to make libraries fair for all and create equitable and universal access to information. In her case study, Eilís O’Neill advised attendees to identify and tackle small, achievable tasks towards positive change. Seeing the good that all these speakers are quietly achieving certainly gives truth to Eilís’s advice. If everyone takes one distinct challenge and focuses on that, there will be a bright and equitable future for libraries. 

One aspect of access to Information that was not addressed in the conference was the very practical problem of making libraries accessible to people with physical disabilities. I worked in a library that has a ramp to a beautifully wide front door, but the door itself is not power assisted and is heavy to push open. Having eyes in my head is enough for me to know that there are members of the university community, both students and staff, who would experience the actual front door of this library as a barrier to equal access to information. I understand why this aspect of access was maybe not addressed – one, it is not possible to fix everything in one conference, and two, the conference had a wonderful focus on immediate, tangible actions that all library workers could take to improve access. And library workers are not engineers, they are not builders. I don’t know what the answer is, but if Marilyn Clarke can agitate for an entire restructuring of collections so that scholars interested in Africa are no longer sent to the dark, low ceilinged basement of her library, then I think we can start to insist that as well as the collections, the physical infrastructure of libraries be functional and accessible for all. 

This is the one  of two posts written by the winners of the A&SL Bursary 2024. The other post can be read here.

20 May 2024

Libfocus Link-out for May 2024

Welcome to the May edition of the Libfocus link-out, an assemblage of library-related things we have found informative, educational, thought-provoking and insightful on the Web over the past while.

Photograph of a woman, graphic of person standing on a library card reaching out for items, person in a headscarf looking at barricades, illustrations of a woman and a boy, painting of a man, graphic of a futuristic looking building, library buildings, cartoon character being chased by a paint roller covered in black paint, a logo that reads discover irish children's books
Images featured in this month's link-out articles

2024 Library Systems Report.
This Library Systems Report documents ongoing investments of libraries in strategic technology products during 2023.

Research Libraries Guiding Principles for AI.
A set of principles outlined by ACRL provide a framework for the ethical and transparent use of AI in research libraries.

The ARL/CNI 2035 Scenarios: AI-Influenced Futures in the Research Environment.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) have chosen to apply scenario planning to imagine a future influenced by artificial intelligence (AI) and to explore the range of uncertainty associated with AI in the research and knowledge ecosystem. The strategic focus and critical uncertainties highlighted in the scenarios were identified through extensive stakeholder engagement with the ARL and CNI membership during the winter of 2023 and spring of 2024 and involved over 300 people. Input was provided through focus groups, workshops, and one-on-one interviews.

The Cover-Up: Under Pressure, Some School Librarians Alter Illustrations to Avoid Book Challenges.
Andrew Bauld interviews librarians who have taken to altering illustrations to avoid book challenges. But by redacting images are they taking part in censorship themselves as a result? From breastfeeding to nudity, Bauld looks at some of the images being covered and why.

Arrests over cross-Europe thefts of rare library books.
Europol announce nine arrests of suspected book thieves that allegedly posed as academics to gain access to the books in order to make counterfeits of “outstanding quality” and later return to swap the copies.

Author’s ‘poisonous’ books removed from Paris library.
A collection by a Limerick author is among a number of – quite literally – poison pen volumes put in quarantine by France’s national library. The library this week removed two volumes of The Ballads of Ireland by Edward Hayes, published in 1855, along with two other 19th Century books, from its shelves on account of their emerald green covers likely being laced with highly poisonous arsenic.

Report Finds No Correlation Between Social Media Engagement and Content Readership.
Some important reading contained in this report if you manage your library's social media.

Discover Irish Children’s Books.
Children’s author Sarah Webb, recent winner of the LAI’s President’s medal is a passionate advocate of literacy, children’s books and Irish libraries. She is leading the Discover Irish Children’s Books Campaign, which highlights and celebrates Irish children’s books. Read more about the campaign and find out how you can become an Irish Children’s Books Champion.

In a Portland Library, Activists Fortify for a Standoff.
In the New York Times Kimberly Cortez and Mike Baker report on the occupation of Portland State University Library. It has been taken over by pro-Palestinian activists who include a mix of students, staff, faculty and community members.

Elisabeth Bik, expert in scientific integrity: ‘We need to slow down scientific publishing’.
The Dutch microbiologist and scientific integrity consultant on why we need to publish less frequently.

Libraries struggle to afford the demand for e-books, seek new state laws in fight with publishers.
A telling example from the US of how ebooks' pricing and licensing impact on public library budgets.

Implementing a Library Services Platform Using an Organizational Framework.
The Florida Virtual Campus (FLVC), a statewide library consortium serving 40 public colleges and universities in Florida, implemented a new integrated library system for all libraries in 2020–2021. The scope and scale of the project were highly complex, requiring robust communication strategies and mechanisms for success. FLVC worked with its member libraries and other stakeholders to create an organizational framework for the project. After the completion of the project, FLVC surveyed project participants to assess the effectiveness of the organizational framework. Overall results were strongly positive, while some areas for improvement were identified.


Posted on Monday, May 20, 2024 | Categories:

16 May 2024

Academic & Special Libraries Conference 2024 ‘Fair for all: creating Equitable and Universal Access to Information’

Guest post by Mona Power, Library Assistant at UCC Library

Early on the morning of the 21st of March, I was surrounded by sleepy commuters on the train to Dublin, some already starting their workdays on laptops and tablets. I was struck anew by the Doctorow quote about technological advances, which had caught my eye on the A&SL website several weeks prior:

Universal access to human knowledge is in our grasp, for the first time in the history of the world. This is not a bad thing.

My own journey to being an LIS professional was made entirely possible by the advances Doctorow refers to. I undertook the MLIS at UCD's iSchool during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and was able to attend lectures, access library materials, connect with fellow students, and even make lifelong friends - all entirely online.

Yet the access to information that I enjoyed during this time is not strictly universal. And it is not free. This injustice is damaging to global society on many levels, and something I’d not thought about very deeply until I began the MLIS. Becoming a qualified librarian has opened my eyes to the power and importance of universal information access. If we cannot collectively draw from it and contribute back to it, the global pool of knowledge is diminished. Knowledge is not a finite resource. By sharing it, we do not deplete it. By making knowledge access universal, we create the circumstances under which it can be built upon and furthered.

These thoughts carried me to the Ashling Hotel, the venue for this year’s Academic and Special Libraries Conference. I’d been eagerly anticipating the conference since the bursary winners were announced, and even felt a little nervous as I found my way to the conference room. This would be my first experience of an in-person conference, and all week my colleagues at UCC Library had been offering sage advice (chat to people from outside your own library, take some time to look at the posters, take lots of pictures).

The first keynote speaker of the day was Marilyn Clarke, who opened her talk, ‘Libraries as Liberatory Spaces: knowledge justice, sites of memory, and acts of resistance’ with a poem by Ferdinand Levy, Jamaican poet who had lived in Dublin in the 1930s. Marilyn used Levy’s poem, and the fact that he is not well known as a figure of literary history in Ireland, as a jumping off point for her talk. She focused on the question of who is and is not remembered – and who we do, and do not, study in the classroom. Marilyn’s talk was expansive and inspiring, and even as I took notes, I knew that I would have a challenging time doing it justice in this review. Four words that I underlined several times in my notebook are: Recognition, Reparation, Restitution, Representation. These are words, Marilyn says, that she comes back to whenever she needs to think about what she is doing, and in answer to the question “what does social justice mean to you?” Listening to Marilyn speak, it became clear to me that knowing your “why” - the reason or purpose behind your actions - is a deeply valuable compass for life.

The first of the morning’s three case studies, ‘Inclusive Technology is everywhere: Why is it then so hard to find?’ was presented by Trevor Boland, who, according toinformation gathered by the A&SL Committee, can crochet a pair of slippers in three hours. Trevor’s presentation took us on a whistle-stop tour of some incredibly useful Assistive Technology (AT) – from the glasses many of us wear on our faces each day, to document conversion systems like SensusAccess, and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology that can read text within a digital image.

Dean Watters and Dr Ruth O' Hara delivered the second case study of the morning, ‘Diversifying Dewey: Changing the DDC23 to better represent Irish Travellers’. This uplifting presentation was a brilliant real-life example of librarians challenging established systems and making positive changes. The presenters stressed the importance of doing this work not just because it is vital, but because it is work that inspires others and that people will build on in the future.

Eilís O' Neill concluded the morning’s presentations with her case study ‘Let’s take it outside (the classroom): Implementing UDL practices in non-teaching roles’. Eilís provided a compelling argument for undertaking a universal design for learning (UDL) course, and applying UDL principles to library work. She emphasised the importance of simplifying language and letting go of jargon.

The second keynote speaker of the day was David Hughes, who gave a rousing presentation entitled ‘Why Do We Need "Open", Anyway?’ David approached an answer to this question by introducing what he termed the “four horsemen of the library apocalypse”: Hyper-capitalism, academic publishing, artificial intelligence, and the fact that John Deere tractors now come with a remote kill-switch. David then launched into compelling arguments for each of his horsemen, citing Cory Doctorow’s "Entshitification" model, and the importance of true open access (OA) publishing. Some of David’s slides drew audible gasps from the audience, in particular his screenshots of blatantly AI-generated text that had made its way past the peer review process and into academic journals. For David, “open” is not just about publishing, but a philosophy and a rallying call. He urged librarians to lead by example and promote open educational resources and diamond OA.

The second round of case study sessions started with a presentation by Laura Rooney Ferris, entitled ‘Building a culture of Open Research for Health and SocialCare Practitioners’. Laura described the significant barriers to open publication for health practitioner researchers. A particularly powerful point that she made was that, in her own words, “medical research conducted on the public should be accessible to them.”

Jane Buggle and Marie O' Neill followed with their case study, ‘Diamond Open Access Publishing: Navigating the Impact of a Single Library Published Journal’. Jane and Marie made a passionate case for diamond OA, citing the destructive influence of the gold OA publishing model, and echoing David Hughes’ point that the truth is paywalled while lies are free. "We're not going away", said Marie, “this is only going to get better.”

Paola Corti’s case study, ‘Librarians as agents of change - SPARC Europe's Strategy to advance Open Education in Europe’, introduced us to the work of The European Network of Open Education Librarians (ENOEL), a network of academics advocating for open education in Europe. Paola praised the generosity of librarians for sharing their knowledge and encouraged anyone wishing to get involved with ENOEL’s work to become a member.

The final case study of the day, presented by Ann Byrne and Emberly Davey, was titled ‘Digital literacy for all: reflections on creating a Digital literacy OER’. Ann and Emberly described their journey of developing an open educational resource to improve digital literacy. Modelling the precise generosity Paola Corti had cited in her presentation, Ann and Emberly have made their course open to all.

The day's talks emphasised the vital role of libraries in promoting knowledge equity, in particular at the intersection of technology and social justice. These speakers demonstrate that the future of librarianship will be shaped by a commitment to inclusivity, openness, and dismantling barriers to information access.

For my part, I feel privileged to have attended the A&SL conference. The passion and generosity of these librarians is inspiring. It is a wonderful thing to attend a conference and feel that you are among “your people” - I am grateful to the A&SL Committee for awarding me this Bursary.

Image by A&SL Committee
This is the one of two posts written by the winners of the A&SL Bursary 2024 The other can be Read here.

13 May 2024

LAI CILIP joint conference overview 2024

Guest post by Amy Bond, Assistant Librarian and Information Specialist, Bord Bia Library

This blog post will give an overview of the LAI/CILIP joint annual conference in Newry. The theme of the conference was Building for the Future, and presentations focused on how libraries could work to maintain their relevance and usefulness into the future. Talks looked at how this could be achieved through innovative service offerings, and the leveraging of new technology. It would be impossible to cover the wealth and breadth of information shared within a blog, but I will outline some of the key insights that resonated with my own work, and hopefully these nuggets might be relevant to others too.

In his keynote talk on the role of AI, Dr Andrew Cox made clear that AI will play a key role in how librarians work in the future. We will have a part to play in developing AI literacy within our user groups, but it may also have potential for better collection management, better access to digital collections, and more insight into the data we are gathering. However, this will only be possible with access to proper resources.

While much of the conference focused on the importance of new technologies, and innovative service offerings, Sue Williamson, president of CILIP, emphasised in her talk that libraries are still about books, and shouldn’t lose focus on this traditional role of promoting books and reading. She noted that “if you read for pleasure, reading for purpose becomes effortless.”

Anthony Hopkins talked about his work as part of a working group in the UK looking to improve how eBooks are offered through public libraries. Rather than trying to go down the route of legislative change they are currently trying to work with publishers, and have found them open to discussion. Their focus now is a research project to build an evidence base so they can have strong conversations, based on robust data.

There were perhaps some surprising results from Dr Claire McGuinness and Dr Stefanie Halveka’s research into student perceptions of ChatGPT. Only 11% of students were using these tools quite often, and 55% were using them rarely or never. Students most see the benefits in help with research, with 34% of those using it saying it is for research, while 33% would be motivated to use it for help with research. This clearly shows a need for librarians to understand and work with this technology. Reassuringly, the majority see taking results directly from these tools as the same as copying from a website.

Jane Peden discussed the redesign of library spaces within Ulster University. This work was done with emphasis on enhancing student experience. There have been a number of shifts in how the library space is viewed; from collecting to connecting, and to seeing it now as a relational collaborative space. This has also been reflected in a shift in how staff engage with students; from service and support, to partnership and expertise.

Leona Burgess, of Louth public libraries, and Ruth O’Rourke, executive librarian in Our Lady of Lourdes hospital, discussed how they came together to create a project encouraging parents to read to their babies within the neonatal unit within the hospital. The success of the project showed the impact that can come from collaborating across library sectors, with minimal financial investment.

Ben Lee led an interactive workshop which brought to life the toolkit from CILIP’s Come Rain or Shine report. He explained the concept of future literacies, before taking us through how to work with different future scenarios for future planning.

Dr Maeve O’Brien from the Digital Repository of Ireland, gave an overview of the service, its value, and their collections. She noted that when ingesting collections from other organisations, they provided technical support, but ultimately left control over how collections are organised to their owners as they would have a much better understanding of their content.

When looking at how libraries can leverage machine learning, Daniel Van Strien noted the limits of using models not designed specifically for library use, but saw more potential in librarians coming together to build on open-source models to design tools built with libraries in mind.

Overall, the key takeaway from the conference was that librarians need to plan for the future, to maintain strong meaningful services. Time needs to be spent considering what the future might look like for your library. Consider different future scenarios, and how these might impact your work. How might your users change, and will this impact what they want from your service? How might technological shifts impact how you work, and the services you deliver? Do you need to upskill in any particular areas to prepare for these potential changes? We might not be able to predict the future, but we can prepare for it.

post-it note with light bulb pinned on board

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash