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.


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