14 Apr 2019

Review of the LAI / CILIP Joint Conference 2019

Photograph by author

The LAI and CILIP certainly know how to choose a hotel in which to stage their Annual Joint Conference. They chose the stunning Kilashee Hotel in Naas for this years conference. 

The issue with choosing such a wonderful venue is that it may overshadow the conference itself. This was not the case in this instance. #laicilipire19 was one of the best, most enjoyable, conferences I have attended in the last few years. And what was surprising for me, as an academic librarian, is that some of the best papers, for me, came from public library speakers as opposed to the academic libraries. 

The theme of this years conference was ‘Inclusive Libraries’, a theme that applies to all libraries, and the breadth of speakers was wide and came equally from public and academic libraries.

There were three keynotes speakers, all excellent speakers and papers – entertaining and informative. 

Erik Boekestejin took us on a whistle stop tour of his travels around the world working with libraries and provided us with many examples of how we, and our buildings, can be more inclusive and help us as we engage with our users. 

Rosie Jones also used her extensive personal experience to show us how libraries can be, and must be, more inclusive. A particular take home for me was how impressive and essential an organisation the Open University is. Another was this new definition of Information Literacy by the CILIP Information Literacy Group :

‘Information literacy is the ability to think critically and make balanced judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to develop informed views and to engage fully with society.” 

In today’s world of fake news, echo chambers and blatant lies from those in power this is what we as libraries need to be teaching.

Unfortunately, due to train timetables I had to leave early and miss some of Traci Engel Lesnicki’s paper on library design and how essential the design of a space is to how the user experiences that space

A common theme that ran through the keynotes and many of the papers over the two days was the importance that playfulness plays in terms of design of the space and engagement with the user.

Before the conference I tweeted out that I was suffering from FOMO – fear of missing out – because of how many great looking papers there were on the conference programme 


As it is, I chose carefully and all the papers I saw in the breakout sessions were excellent. Too many papers to elaborate on so I now provide a very brief overview of the sessions I attended and papers I particularly enjoyed.

Firstly, Jane Burns paper looking at graphic medicine as a pedagogical tool for Health Information opened up to me an area I knew little about before hand and I can see this means of teaching as working across all disciplines and subject areas.

As I have a soft spot for anything to do with Chinese Librarianship I was particularly looking forward to James Molloy paper recounting his personal experience of teaching Information Literacy in China. I was not disappointed. 

A particularly powerful paper was that of Elaine Chapman and Sarah Anne Kennedy exploring the benefits of employing staff with disabilities in libraries. It was pointed out that this is a very much under-researched area. I was particularly pleased to see Elaine Chapman get perhaps the warmest most heartfelt round applause I have heard at a conference. 

Mark Ward’s paper, working from his own research, on the library as a Queer Space was particularly interesting and delivered by Mark in his by now familiar warm engaging relaxed style. For somebody with a background in sociology of sexuality and language I found this a particularly necessary important paper and area of research. 

Robin Stewart’s paper about a music appreciation club run in Co Meath Library appealed to the Shush! Sounds from UCC Library librarian in me and has me thinking, could we bring something like this to UCC Library.

Laura Connaughton spoke about an initiative at Maynooth University where the library organised a competition modelled on the TV Programme The Dragon’s Den (but with nicer dragons) where students would pitch their idea to the library for something that would improve the library for them. It was a great way to engage the student population and really listen to them.

Robert Whan, in his paper,  Armagh Robinson Library: A Case Study of Inclusive Engagement told us about two programmes, aimed at different ends of the age, that the library has. The first is a programme at elderly living with dementia and their carers. The second is aimed at under five years of age children.

An interesting approach to teaching was discussed by Ainé Carey and Catherine Ahearne in their paper Actions Speak Louder than words: co-delivering activity based classics at MU Library. 

Niall O’Brien told us about how Maynooth tackled the issue of orientation so as to make it more inclusive and actually more useful to the students themselves.

I was speaking in the session Research or Studies exploring inclusiveness in Libraries and Maria Ryan and Joanne Carroll’s paper looking at the steps the National Library of Ireland has been taking to make the library more inclusive and diverse was a great and interesting distraction before I went up to speak about The Transition Year Work Experience Programme and DEIS Schools... The Experience from UCC Library.

As was Ann Cleary and Philip Cohen’s paper looking at lessons learned from their National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education funded research project L2L Librarians Learning to support Learners Learning.  

Though I enjoyed all the papers I saw the stand out paper for me was Sheila Kelly’s paper Your Local Library: A Space for Everyone. Sheila, of Dublin City Libraries, spoke about the amazing, life changing, work that she and her colleagues do with Dublin’s homeless. Her paper for me was a powerful reminder of the power of libraries and a damning indictment of a society that permitted this homelessness situation arise and, worse, to continue.

And finally, there was one more highlight for – this conference contained the best poster that I have ever seen in competition. The poster  AIT Library Facilities: Engaging and Informing Students with Disabilities: Inclusiveness and Information– by Mary Mulryan  was a simple but utterly effective poster that any library could adapt for their own needs library. I am very to say that Mary won the best poster competition as it really is an amazing poster and it shows that there can be justice in the world. 


Photograph by author

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed and was inspired by this conference. The mix of libraries and librarians was great and to see people from different sectors mixing and sharing ideas was great. Here’s hoping that some interesting collaborations between our academic and public libraries emerge.

As an aside – the organisers did remarkably well when it came to the sponsors. There were so many I had never seen before. I would recommend that our academic conference organisers take a look at the list of sponsors and consider them as possible sponsors for future events you may be organising,

On the form of this year the LAI CILIP looks like it will become yet another must attend library conference – along with the ASL Conference and the CONUL Conference. I personally look forward to seeing what #laicilipire20 will bring.

And I will leave it up to a tweet from keynote Rosie Jones to sum up the conference and main themes. 







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