18 Apr 2016

LILAC 2016

Guest post by Colin O'Keeffe

Ireland hosts the annual LILAC Conference every few years, 2016 is one of those years, and this year’s conference was held from 21st-23rd March at UCD’s O’Brien Centre for Science. Although hosting the conference in Ireland increases accessibility for Irish librarians it also diminishes the chance to secure funding to attend the full three days of events, a more likely scenario when travel to the UK is involved. That situation applied to me, I secured (a not unsubstantial) amount of funding to attend as a day delegate on Tuesday, 22nd March. This was to be my first LILAC, and as an Information Literacy Librarian, this conference was of particular interest to me. I booked in advance in order to avail of the marginally discounted early-bird rate but more importantly to secure a place in the parallel sessions that I wanted to attend. These sessions constitute the majority of LILAC’s programme of events and certain sessions are very popular, therefore it pays to study the full programme before booking to ensure a place.

From others’ descriptions I knew that the primary distinction between LILAC and the numerous other conferences that I have attended over the years would be the scale of the former. This year’s LILAC remained true to form, consisting of 93 separate events including three keynote addresses. Here are the sessions that I attended and my impression of them.

Keynote Address: Char Booth
The keynote address for day two was delivered by the current Library Associate Dean at California State University San Marcos, Char Booth. She has, to date written several books relating to library accessibility and reflective teaching, with the latter topic being the primary subject of her keynote, titled ‘Why Reflect? The Holistic Process of Stepping Back’. Char’s talk was engaging and well delivered, initially exploring the theory behind self-reflection, before describing initiatives that she has undertaken in order to assess and challenge both her own and subsequently her team’s teaching practices. The presentation then changed focus to examine the concept of ‘information privilege’, apparently many students are unaware that the access to information that they take for granted at university will cease on graduation. Additionally, students are unaware of the monetary cost of information. Char lauded the ever expanding open web and outlined how a group of her students edited a Wikipedia page for assessment purposes. Overall, Char’s enthusiasm, delivery, content and very polished slides made this particular keynote a very enjoyable experience. Slide are available here.

Parallel Session 1: Antony Groves
The first parallel session that I attended took the form of a workshop. It introduced and demonstrated Vine, a video sharing service that allows users record and share six second looped videos, created via a smartphone app. At the University of Sussex Library this has been utilised to show the physical location of the library, promote library training sessions and demonstrating of database filtering. Though easy to use, six seconds is a very limited amount of time to teach anything, though adequate time to advertise or highlight something to viewers. My group easily created and uploaded a Vine via smartphone; this service could easily be deployed on a library website, e-learning platform or display screen, though the looped nature of the video would require a full suite of Vines to ensure that content remains fresh to viewers. See Antony's vines here.

Parallel Session 2: Kimberly Mullins
The next session was a presentation on a new librarian/faculty partnership approach to integrate IL into academic courses; this is viewed as the most effective way to make IL relevant to students, which can sometimes prove challenging. Kimberly introduced IDEA (Interview, design, embed and assess) as a framework to integrate IL into academic courses. Librarian/faculty collaboration is considered the ‘Holy Grail’ in relation to IL delivery and IDEA ensures that IL outcomes and course outcomes are one in the same. IDEA is something I would definitely consider if I had faculty buy in. See Kimberly's presentation here.

Parallel Session 3: Fiona Mogg
I then attended a talk that outlined a project that saw Cardiff University Library, via school partnerships, provide critical thinking and digital literacy support to Welsh school students. The talk covered two initiatives undertaken by the library. The first was a MOOC, this was offered to level 3 students preparing for university in Wales, with the library providing a supporting role. The second initiative was a library/school partnership with a group of schools who are preparing students for the Welsh Baccalaureate. The library was tasked with providing support for both digital literacy and critical thinking. The projects seemed like very worthwhile initiatives that could be replicated in Ireland. Full presentation here.

Parallel Session 4: Philip Russell, Claire McGuinness, Jane Burns and Emer O'Brien
Next was a progress report on what librarians are doing, via the Task Force on Information Literacy (TFIL) to advance information and digital literacy in Ireland, especially in relation to lobbying government. The challenges that we face in Ireland in relation to promoting IL to government were outlined. The fact that references to libraries and information services were omitted from several recently released government digital literacy and ICT reports raised eyebrows. TIFL’s response and future plans were outlined. It seems that IL is still not on the radar of Irish government and will continue to play ‘poor cousin’ when compared to ICT and digital literacy/skills. The challenge continues. Access the full presentation via slidehare.

Parallel Session 5: Rachel Posaner and Emma Green
The final session described a distance learning project, undertaken via Moodle, to provide IL support to a large group of NHS students. In this initiative, four librarians utilised lots of tools to provide support to 1,500 students including online reading lists online forums for discussions and screen sharing technology. This one I felt was useful as the college where I work provides a library service to a group of Malaysian students, so online and distance support is the only feasible option for this cohort. We are about to re-launch our website using Libguides over the summer and already have online reading lists, so what the four librarians have been able to achieve in relation to IL support is feasible for this solo IL librarian. Full presentation available here.

Though I’ve attended many library conferences over the years, I’ve never been to one with the scale of LILAC. The amount of session choices, though fantastic, is somewhat of a double edged sword, you get to choose what you know you’ll enjoy, but you know you’ll miss out on a lot of good sessions. I attended 5 sessions, the maximum amount, out of 31 run on that day, but there were others that I would have really enjoyed also. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my day at the conference; to get others’ musings on the full three days I consulted Twitter, and there, via conference storyboards the consensus seems to be overwhelmingly positive for LILAC 2016.

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