29 Jun 2018

Reflections on CONUL Conference 2018 (Report number One)



Robert Alfis is a Library Assistant at Dublin Business School Library He was the winner of the CONUL Graduate Bursary to attend the 2018 CONUL Conference. These are his reflections on the conference.


I had the great privilege of receiving the graduate bursary to attend this year’s CONUL conference held on the 30th and 31st May in the Galway Bay Hotel, the theme of which was Transformative Experiences. This theme is particularly pertinent to the changes that the field of academic librarianship is undergoing especially surrounding new and evolving technologies, metrics for measuring library impact, and means of improving user experience. The many aspects of this theme were reflected in the variety of speakers, lightning talks and poster presentations. The full programme of events can be found online as well as the slides and video recordings of the presentations. With such a full and fantastic line-up, it is just not feasible to give a detailed account of every session I attended and so this report will provide an overview of some of the conference highlights.

The first of the keynote speakers, Jim Neal, served as the perfect start to the conference, wonderfully encapsulating all aspects of the theme, discussing a range of areas from the importance of preserving born digital content to the new and changing roles of the library such as the aggregated, publisher, consumer, educator and advocate.  He ended his talk by stating that libraries are perhaps undergoing a phyletic extinction; they are not disappearing but rather are evolving into something new.

There was a natural flow to the plenary presentations. Gobnait O’Riordan stated that even though many libraries are developing collaborative learning spaces, the demand for traditional study areas is huge. She ended her talk by saying that in designing libraries, you must align yourself with the goals of your institution. This segued into John Cox’s presentation, “Have Academic Libraries Transformed Their Position in the Institution?”, in which he discussed the misalignment of libraries’ strategic plans with those of their institution. He suggested that libraries are perhaps not doing enough to demonstrate their value, focusing more on service provision rather than on activities; as the second keynote speaker, Vivian Lewis, later said “We provide service but are not servile”.

The lightning talks, show-and-tell sessions, and parallel papers really highlighted the innovative nature of the speakers. Niamh Tumelty discussed embedding a librarian in a research project which provided more examples of new and changing roles. Danielle Cooper and Siobhán Dunne spoke on their evidence-based approach to a user centred library. Eliška Komárková really highlighted the need for specialised training for special collections librarians in Ireland.

Vivian Lewis, gave a fantastic talk titled “Building on strength: preparing the academic library workforce to support transformation” in which she advocated for library leaders to develop their own staff over hiring new members,  to support staff when developing new skills and going into new roles, and to celebrate staff success. She spoke from her own experience in developing new roles for new times in her own institution. She finished her talk on an inspiring note, calling for the audience to be confident, courageous and audacious.

The panel discussion “Disruptive Changes: Transforming to Meet New Opportunities” served as the perfect end to the conference. The panelists looked to the future, discussing various and potential threats and opportunities facing the profession. Leo Appleton called for library staff to develop a deeper rather than a broader skillset. Lucy Byrne was a great addition to the panel as a non-librarian. She discussed the need for open research and open data and the role the library can play in providing necessary information skills. Jim Neal rather amusingly named 2018 the “period of polygamy” in which libraries are looking to every possible partner.

The conference highlighted how the CONUL libraries position Ireland as a centre for scholarly activity, as well as contributing to pivotal developments on an international level. Listening to the talks over the two days really illustrated the role the library plays in both scholarly output and brand.

26 Jun 2018

Adventuring into the LIS world...

Figure 1 from Pixabay.


Guest Post by Lisa O'Leary, who recently accepted a place in DBS for the MSc Information & Library Management course.

We wish Lisa all the luck in the world. And welcome her to the world of Library and Information Studies.

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle." - Steve Jobs

Embarking on something new is typically a mixture of excitement and nervousness and my first steps into the Library and Information Services (LIS) world were no different. Prior to beginning this journey I had limited knowledge of what working in the LIS world was like or what was involved and had not considered it as a possible career.
By choosing to do a BA degree, majoring in the study of religions and minoring in psychology, (which covered a diverse range of topics each, in their own way, relevant to our world today) broadened my mind and gave me an alternative view of society and the way people interact with each other and the world. I went on to complete an MA in contemporary religions, being the study of the people of religions, which further developed those thought-provoking ideas connecting various different areas and topics including society, race, gender, and class.
During this time I began thinking about my future career – I had come to the decision that an academic career was not for me, but what else could I do?
And with reflection, began the idea of working in a library grew from abstract thought to a tangible idea.

"Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending." - Carl Bard

My first foray into the LIS world was my work experience in UCC Library which began on October 2017 and finished December 2017.

With fellow Libfocus team member Martin O’Connor as my coordinator I began a part-time ten-week work experience which was a crash course in the workings of UCC library. Throughout my time I was introduced to the library’s system, online presence and databases, the collection and stacking of books and helping students.

I also visited many of the different departments within the library to gain a better understanding of how each worked, these included the Main Desk, Collection Development and Management, Cataloguing, Instructional Design (this department is housed within the library and was interesting and informative in relation to developing and redeveloping library spaces), Electronic Resources, Acquisitions, Repository, and I visited two satellite libraries attached to UCC – Brookfield and CUH. I spent a large portion of my work experience in Special Collections where I was shelving a new collection, and I also spent a few days in Archiving.

There was so much to take in during my time at UCC library, and each new area I was introduced to gave me an appreciation of how all the different elements and departments within a library worked individually and concurrently with each other.

Prior to starting the work experience I was dubious about it being a requirement for my college application but having completed it I found it to be invaluable. As I was coming from a place of no prior understanding it not only allowed me to experience what it would be like working in the area but I developed a whole range of new perspectives and an awareness of the LIS area that I did not have before.

For example, I attended a handful of seminars, including ‘Next Generation Learning Spaces Seminar’ and ‘Beyond the text: aspects of the manuscript and the printed book in Ireland and Europe’ giving me a great foundation and introduction to the different types of cross-disciplinary conferences that exist within the LIS area. I found the ‘Next Generation Learning Spaces Seminar’ particularly interesting not only because of the specific content of the seminar but because of the general topic.

The idea of learning spaces was something new to me. As a student, I had spent many hours in the library reading and writing for all my various assignments during my BA and MA, however, in all that time I had never actually considered the space that I was in. This seminar was eye-opening not only because I was suddenly aware of and considering the space around me but also because my new understanding of how important that space is for learning was growing.

 “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” - Milton Berle

During my work experience, it was recommended that I take part in the Rudai 23 course, which I did and have since received all badges. I feel I should mention that I am not a particularly outgoing person and so completing Rudai 23, particularly setting up a blog and writing posts was quite daunting for me and challenged me to step outside my comfort zone. At times I felt like I was somewhat at a disadvantage (concerning my lack of knowledge and experience) while doing the different Things, however, the tasks were designed in such a way that I was able to overcome this difficulty and complete them.

Rudai 23 occurred at an opportune time for me - just as I was starting my library work experience; beginning them both at the same time (and continuing on with Rudai 23) has been the perfect combination of introduction to and experience in the LIS world. In completing both I have learned a great deal over the past several months. As someone who is an outsider to the LIS profession (not working or studying in the area) they have given me a grounding and foundation from which I can develop - the different communication tools I can use, networking with other professionals and building an online brand, thinking more critically about the information I consume and produce, and how to get more actively involved in the LIS profession. If the work experience was the practical side of my introduction to the LIS world than Rudai 23 was the theory side. Rudai 23 was very instructive and in a way, for me, it perfectly culminates this phase of my adventure into the LIS world as it introduced me to the mechanisms of working within the LIS profession.



 “Take pride in how far you've come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don't forget to enjoy the journey.” - Michael Josephson

So, what does the future hold? Well, the next phase of my adventure involves going to college and next September I will be starting my Masters. It has been quite a journey so far but I think the clearest example of how, through both my work experience and Rudai 23, I have developed and progressed on this journey into the LIS world is the fact that I have written this post. If someone had told me a year ago that I would be writing a professional blog post I would not have believed them. For anyone beginning or considering a career in the LIS world, I cannot recommend completing a work experience programme and Rudai 23 highly enough as they provide the perfect introduction to the area from both a theoretical and practical standpoint. My adventure into the LIS world has been one filled with growth, development, and learning; and I suspect I will have much more of all three in the future!
Figure 2 from Pixabay.



19 Jun 2018

CONUL Training & Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2018

Libfocus is delighted to host the winning entries of CONUL 2018!

The winner is ...

 The 2018 CONUL Training & Development Library Assistant Award required entrants to submit a blog post on any library related topic.  Entrants could opt to blog about any aspect of their current work for example training activities they undertook; a development in their own library or an item in their library’s collection.  The prize winning and highly commended entries will be published shortly on the Libfocus blog.

Award winners 2018:

Joint 1st Prize:
A Tale of Heartbreak:  The Day I Lost the Inter Library Loans by Victoria Archer, Queen’s University Belfast.
Lessons in Invention from a Medical Archive, by Ronan Kelly, RCSI [Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland].

2nd Prize:
Cleaning shellac records in the DIT Conservatory Library by Sharon Hoefig, Dublin Institute of Technology.

Joint 3rd Prize:
Library Anxiety by Maolsheachlann O Cellaigh, University College Dublin.
Preserving Irish Voices:  The Irish Poetry Reading Archive by Laura Ryan, University College Dublin.

Highly Commended Entries:

Poetic Outreach: Facilitating Poetry Workshops in DCU Library by Eilis Ní Raghallaigh, Dublin City University (DCU).

The Digital Butterfly:  Managing our Social Media Presence in a time of change by Emma Boyce, Maynooth University.

If you snooze, you don’t lose-introducing EnergyPods at Maynooth University library by Maureen Finn, Maynooth University.

Conservation of a Gaelic manuscript at Maynooth University Library by Sarah Graham, Maynooth University.

Developing Snapchat at Maynooth University Library: The Story So Far by Edel King, Maynooth University.

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About CONUL Training & Development
CONUL Training & Development seeks to provide co-operative training and staff development opportunities, which are in support of CONUL’s strategic objectives. These opportunities are identified by staff in member libraries, the CONUL Board and CONUL Sub-Committees & Groups.

Posted on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 | Categories: ,