16 Mar 2018

Attending non-library conferences

Guest post by Caroline Rowan.

As librarians, we attend seminars and conferences for a variety of reasons - for CPD, for networking, to learn about new technologies, to compare our activities against our peers and to be inspired with new  ideas.

While I am a regular attendee at LIS conferences and workshops, 2018 has been my first year to attend a non-library conference as a librarian. The Irish Network of Medical Educators held their annual conference in University College Cork from 07-09 February. The theme of the INMED conference was clinical supervision, but because it was about medical education, much of the content was directly relatable to what we do in librarianship. In fact, Professor Peter Cantillon (NUI, Galway), Chair of INMED, specifically noted that INMED is a meeting for people with “teacher identities”, which resonated with me particularly given that teaching is part and parcel of a health librarians role.

I’ll just touch on a few of the sessions to give you a flavour of the conference, (you can see the full list of speakers and content here.) but hopefully it will demonstrate to you that there is plenty on offer outside of our own particular field, which can still be directly relevant to our work.

Dr. Dorene Balmer, from The Children’s Hospital Philadelphia, spoke about the concept of entrustment, which was defined as “reliance of a supervisor on a trainee to execute a given professional task correctly, and on the trainee’s willingness to ask for help when needed”. Of course this doesn’t always work and can result in a matrix of possible engagements. Do we as teachers recognise when our students are capable of taking on tasks either with supervision or completely independently? Correspondingly, do our students recognise when they do not have the skills to deal with a situation, and the self-awareness to ask for help? Furthermore, do we reflectively evaluate our own teaching practices to see whether we in fact are operating to the ideal?

The next speaker was Prof. Pim Teunissen from Maastricht University, speaking about the issue of focusing on assessable outcomes and what can be measured. He argued that this obscures the value of the actual experience of learning and the development of unquantifiable skills. An educational assessment needs to combine assessment with an awareness of how people learn from work. Setting milestones isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, the be-all and end-all of a learning programme.

When it was time for the parallel workshops, I opted for the session titled “Interprofessional Education and Technology Enhanced Learning”. I was interested in seeing what kind of software and technology was being used in healthcare teaching. I found, however, that most of the talks focused on the interprofessional (AKA multi-disciplinary) teams, and there was less focus on new technologies than I would have expected from the title.

However, the presentations on team interactions and evaluations gave plenty of food for thought as well as some useful ideas for potential projects. One such project was the development of scenario-based learning videos to help supervisors give feedback to trainees. It’s an idea which could transition well to to any discipline, as could the feedback from another presentation that users preferred small-group learning to online learning.

In the afternoon, I attended a presentation on the SafeMed programme for stress management and building resilience, which has been made mandatory for 1st year medical students in UCC. Dr. Margaret O’Rourke, clinical psychologist, spoke at length about burnout, the frog-in-boiling water concept and the need for self-care, as well as the ability to say “No” when we do not have capacity to take on new work. This is something that many librarians could benefit from particularly where staffing numbers have been significantly reduced or where working as a solo practitioner.

On day two of the conference, I attended Professor Peter Cantillon’s “Getting Published” workshop. There were individual exercises, group discussions and then a shared learning piece as well as recommendations for those who want to publish. It was validating to note that healthcare professionals experience exactly the same challenges and concerns as librarians when publishing - motivation, self-confidence, selecting the appropriate journal, working with co-authors, establishing peer support, finding funding, dealing with rejection, and promoting your research among your peers all got a mention. I came away feeling inspired and motivated to make time for my academic writing, regardless of workload, and to commit to turning my various drafts into publishable documents.

After the workshop there was a talk on bullying in the healthcare system and particularly in relation to medical trainees. There were some horrific, but not surprising, statistics given for the rates of bullying and its impact on staff, as well as recognition that bullying impacts not just the direct victim, but also those who witness bullying.

After that we had two hot topic sessions: one on realist reviews and the other on a new feedback app developed by the College of Anaesthetists in Ireland. You can watch the video about the feedback app here. It might generate a few ideas for your own teaching and learning feedback, particularly those of you who are interested in app development.

The INMED conference may be aimed at clinical educators but there was plenty to be learned as a non-clinical attendee, even with the focus on clinical supervision. I would be very interested to see more librarians attending conferences like this. There is significant value in reaching outside of our library bubbles and evaluating our teaching and learning strategies against those of other professions. Attending non-library conferences is also an opportunity for librarians to build visibility of our profession and an understanding of what we can contribute within the academic environment.

Posted on Friday, March 16, 2018 | Categories:

14 Mar 2018

Pop Up Librarians

Guest post by Hilde Terese Drivenes Johannessen Research librarian for religion, philosophy and history and sociology and social work at University of Agder,  Norway

In 2011 Agder University Library (AUL) began our research support project. We saw that research support was carried out in different ways and was very dependent upon the liaison librarians. Also, the different faculties had different cultures when it came to use of the library. Our project’s main goal was to offer the same research support to all staff members in the university. Therefore, we decided that we shall contact all new academic staff members within a period of four weeks after they start working at the university. One of our ways of marketing this was making posters of each research librarian with bullet points of what they could ask the library, or the librarian about. This idea was inspired by an Erasmus stay at the Glucksman library at the University of Limerick in 2013. The posters were spread to new staff and displayed in the faculties and in the library.

Our research support project was successful, and most researchers know what the library can offer. However, our user survey showed us that few students knew about our subject guides, or that there was in fact a liaison research librarian supporting their subject. We decided to market ourselves again. This time with a younger, more whimsical approach to engage the students. We had avatars of the research librarians made and displayed these in the library shelves. The avatars are holding a poster with their names and the web address for the subject guides. As we are a small library with a limited number of staff, we try to make the students self-sufficient and decided to market the subject guides more than putting up contact information to the librarians. However, the website informs students that they can meet a research librarian in the help desk every day between 10 AM and 2 PM. We are excited to see if this will generate more use of our subject guides, and are also thinking about campaigns we could use the avatars for, like selfies/shelfies with your librarian, find your librarian etc.

To read more about our research support project, the following publications are suggested:
Daland, H. (2013). The Ph.D.-candidate as an information literate resource: developing research support and information literacy skills in an informal setting. LIBER Quarterly, 23(2), 134–155. DOI:

Daland, Hidle, & Hidle, Kari-Mette Walmann. (2016). New roles for research librarians : Meeting the expectations for research support (Chandos information professional series). Cambridge, Mass: Chandos.