21 Jul 2023

CONUL Conference 2023: Sense and Sustainability: Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability in Libraries

Post by Rebecca Fitzgerald from UCC Library who was awarded a bursary to attend the 2023 CONUL Conference. All the images featured in this blog post were captured by the author.

Shows two Conul posters
Conul 2023 posters

My name is Rebecca Fitzgerald, and I am currently in my second year of employment as a library assistant with University College Cork Library. It is my first full-time role.

The services desk, as the library’s first point of contact, is a bustling environment requiring engagement and attention to detail. The theme of this year’s CONUL Conference was “Sense and Sustainability: Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability in Libraries”. Considering the many advancements in our own library’s sustainability plans I was interested to see what projects other libraries were expanding on, particularly within the Library Services Desk section.

I applied for the bursary for workers without an LIS qualification and was delighted to receive an acceptance of my application in early March. Several colleagues’ papers had also been accepted for presentation at the conference. The coming weeks would see a great deal of preparation for May, with a UCC Library CPPD-organized presentation arranged which provided the opportunity for valuable practice before the event itself. It was highly informative for me to see the preparation and commitment involved in putting these papers and workshops together.

Shows people looking at academic posters and a speaker addressing an audience
Attendees admire this year's poster display and Rebekkah Smith Aldrich delivers the keynote speech on Wednesday

On the morning of the 24th of May, I made the journey from Kerry to Cork for the conference. After a coffee, I met my colleague Stephanie in the city centre, and we grabbed a bus to Clayton Hotel Silver Springs where the conference was to be held. Upon entering the conference hall, we were immediately greeted by the brilliant posters submitted by delegates from several different libraries; our colleague John’s poster was amongst them and went on to win third prize in the poster competition!

The conference began at 11.15am, opened by keynote Speaker Rebekkah Smith Aldrich’s exceptional call to action to combat a climate crisis that is gaining pace at an alarming rate. It was an uplifting reminder of what libraries are capable of when we collaborate with like-minded people. I found the emphasis on identifying what needs to be done where you are particularly empowering; the climate resistance hubs were a fantastic example of initiatives formed to devise means of combatting hazards particular to the area.

Shows a speaker addressing an audience and two people standing in front of a poster
UCC University Librarian Coral Black delivers a speech and Paul Davidson from UCC Library discusses his poster display

The theme “what we can do” seemed to set the tone for the papers and workshops scheduled throughout the two days of the conference. On the first day, I was particularly interested to see how libraries implement sustainability plans and outline what they hope to expand on, which was the theme of the first parallel paper session.

Martin O Driscoll, speaker for UCC Library, gave a detailed paper about how the library’s sustainability plan has evolved since its beginnings in 2016. The goals the library started with in collaboration with UCC Buildings and Estates, such as energy saving measures, have now expanded into more concentrated projects; for example, our “Ditch the Disposable” project. This implemented a ban on disposable coffee mugs and has successfully reduced one of the building’s biggest sources of waste contamination - liquid from unfinished coffee cups.

TCD speakers Siobhan Dunne and Peter Dudley elaborated on their library’s commitment to tackle social sustainability through the Trinity Sensory Processing Project. This project aims at improving new and existing spaces within the library to create a more inclusive space, particularly for students who may find difficulty in navigating the sensory environment of the library.

James Molloy and Ursula Byrne from UCD then spoke about UCD Green Group. Established in 2019, it has harnessed staff and student involvement in a cross-campus initiative to consider what has been done, raise consciousness and work towards sustainability project goals, i.e. sustainable design. The combination of parallel papers, lightning talks and workshops made for an enlightening, varied and informative first day.

Shows a speaker addressing an audience and a laptop and camera on a table
Steven Gonzalez Monserrate delivers the keynote speech on Thursday and the 360 degree camera used in the "Make, Do and Mend" Show and Tell Demonstration

The second day began with another fascinating keynote speech from Steven Gonzalez Monserrate regarding the cloud as a storage device. He spoke about the unnerving rate of electrical consumption, noise pollution and electronic waste generated by the data centres necessary to run the cloud. The amount of water used in the cooling of data centres was startling; an estimated 5 million gallons according to his research. Steven pointed out how libraries could play a part in new ways of thinking differently about cloud storage; that the library itself carries the aesthetic of a cloud with the information it holds and can therefore be a valuable contributor to the creation of new cloud concepts.
This again echoed Rebekkah Smith Aldrich’s point about considering what is at our disposal to make improvements.

I made it a priority to attend a workshop on the second day of the conference; the “Make, Do and Mend” Show and Tell examined the sustainability initiatives made possible by makerspaces in terms of recycling, repair and social sustainability aims. One notable demonstration was Heidi Campbell from Maynooth who demonstrated the many uses of a 360 degree camera. This was used not just for a standard virtual library tour, but to create tailor-made guides providing students with a means of navigating the library space with ease. This appealed to me a great deal as a social sustainability tool for students who can find the library space daunting.

Stephanie Chen from UCC Library creates a 3-D printing mold
at the “Make, Do and Mend” Show and Tell demonstration

At the close of the conference, I felt all attendees were leaving inspired by all they had seen and heard. The gathering of so many library staff in one space to share their ideas reinforced the necessity for libraries to work together to make the impact needed. My first CONUL conference was an engaging and informative experience; I would heartily recommend fellow library workers to apply for the bursary and take advantage of attending this highly educational event!

Shows a speaker talking to several people and a person standing beside a poster
Doreen Lundon speaks about the introduction of aeroponic towers to UCC Library
and John Rooney from UCC Library is pictured with his prize-winning poster 

Posted on Friday, July 21, 2023 | Categories:

18 Jul 2023

Unlocking Accessibility: Transforming Your Library with UDL

Post by EilĂ­s O'Neill, Outreach and Engagement Librarian in DCU Library and member of the libfocus team

Shows illustrations depicting Universal Design principles
Universal Design for Learning Infographic by DCU TEU 2021

So what exactly is UDL, or Universal Design for Learning for those who aren’t in the know? And how can it be applied in our libraries?

The UDL framework is built around a set of best practice principles that offer everyone equal opportunities to learn. More simply put, they are guidelines you can implement when designing your library training sessions and information resources that will reduce barriers to teaching and learning. 

UDL-friendly teaching materials and resources are designed to engage all types of learners, taking into account their learning styles, ages, cultural backgrounds, abilities and disabilities. They build flexibility, accessibility, voice and choice into your educational and information offerings, giving users more opportunities to engage with and understand their learning.

Shows three illustrations of the brain, each has a different area of the brain highlighted in green purple and blue respectively. The first is labelled 'affective networks: the why of learning.' The second is labelled 'recognition networks: the what of learning' and the third is labelled 'strategic networks: the how of learning.'
Overview of the Universal Design for Learning Framework DCU TEU 2021

I recently completed a UDL badge facilitated by Dublin City University, in partnership with the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Through individual and group activities I learned how to reflect on the diversity of the staff and students in DCU. I also gained an understanding of how to support diverse learners in the library by viewing our resources and communications through a UDL lens.

As part of the UDL course, I incorporated UDL principles into the Library’s online guide to our Live Wise Book Therapy collection. The collection supports self-care for DCU’s staff and students and a project team I was part of was in the process of updating the original 2014 guide. I used the UDL guidelines to figure out how to improve the accessibility of the guide and to make sure that it was catering for different styles of learners.

The original guide focused on books and eBooks as the primary learning resources, so I also added videos and podcasts. These additional learning materials will cater for staff and students who learn more effectively using audio-visual resources. They take into account the different learning styles of our users and offer additional support to learners from different social and cultural backgrounds.

The UDL framework shows you how to help staff and students persist with their learning, to engage more meaningfully with resources and to incorporate what they learn into their day-to-day lives. To support this I added a section to the guide’s homepage highlighting the importance of setting goals, taking notes and tracking and sharing performance. 

Ensuring your library resources are as accessible as possible is an important part of making them more UDL-friendly. With this in mind, I checked that all the videos and podcasts I added were captioned. (See this libfocus post I made earlier which outlines the benefits of providing video captions to learners). The project team added alt text to the images in the guide where relevant, making the guide more accessible to staff and students using assistive technologies such as screen readers. 

One of the important lessons I learned during the course centred around the language we use when sharing information with our learners. This applies to the text on our library website, our social media and email communications and the descriptions we use across our information resources. The use of plain language ensures that learners understand the information we’re sharing quickly, easily and as completely as possible. 

The book descriptions in the guide had been adapted from the publisher’s promotional material. They often contained unnecessarily complex language, industry jargon and run-on sentences. By rewriting the descriptions in plain language and by breaking down long sentences I was able to make the text suitable for people reading English at all levels. 

Shows a screenshot of DCU Library's Live Wise Book Therapy Collection online guide
The Live Wise Book Therapy Collection Guide DCU Library 2023

The UDL guidelines taught me that learners engage more effectively with library resources if they’re given the opportunity to share their views about them. To facilitate this, I created a feedback page on the guide which invites users to submit their opinions about the guide’s content and layout. This feedback will be used to improve the guide and will help us to gauge if it’s meeting the needs of our staff and students.

Making your library more UDL friendly can be as simple as adding alt text to images you share on social media, or by providing information with a HTML document, rather than in PDF format only. The key aim is to think beyond the idea of the ‘average’ student when designing your library resources and training sessions so that they take the diversity of your staff and students into account. 

The National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education is running an open access UDL badge course in October – you can register your interest in the course from August 2023. I highly recommend completing the course if you can, it will open your eyes to the ways you can make your library services, expertise and resources available to all of your users equally and break down barriers to teaching and learning. 

Posted on Tuesday, July 18, 2023 | Categories:

7 Jul 2023

Libfocus Link-out for July, 2023

Shows an illustration of an anchor, a woman sitting in front of a computer with a screen that reads 'Ireland says yes', an illustration of a woman, an illustration of a lizard, swans and a fox, a young girl holding a library card and an illustration with the text 'stardust.'
Images featured in this month's libfocus linkout articles

Welcome to the July edition of the Libfocus link-out, an assemblage of library-related things we have found informative, educational, thought-provoking and insightful on the Web over the past while.

Social media has changed, will academics catch up?
This piece by Mark Carrigan on the LSE blog looks at how Twitter has changed since its purchase by Elon Musk. Organic engagement has become more difficult as the platform nudges users towards its 'blue tick' subscription model. Users relying on Twitter as their main social media platform will need to explore other options as the reliability of the service declines rapidly.

Recent Developments in Archiving Reproductive Health
This article by the Digital Repository of Ireland looks at the Archiving Reproductive Health project which is coordinated by the Digital Repository of Ireland. The project aims to preserve digital material created by grassroots organisations working for reproductive justice in Ireland, especially during the 2018 referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish constitution.

Blog: Delightful Devices: the art of the printer's mark
This blog by Rachel Daly explores the art of printer's device - an identifying visual or textual mark in a book that tells us all about the history of the book and it's maker. Using UCD Special Collections' materials, Daly give us a trip through the history of the early book trade.

Podcast: Meet our (almost) six-year-old librarian
If you ask Hannah Jean what would be her greatest wish, she will say running Brooklyn Public Library. Last month, she got to do just that. The Borrowed podcast talks to Hannah Jean and her librarian, introducing us to libraries from the eyes of an (almost) six-year-old and her big idea for arranging library books.

Do LIS Programs Prepare Future Librarians for Real-World Challenges?
With the onslaught of pressures facing librarians today, how are library and information science programs preparing the next generation of graduates?

How to preserve, cite, and design websites for the long-term future
Web content is ephemeral; this blog is a three-part series exploring different ways of ensuring that websites are around for the long-term future. It also provides advice for researchers on creating persistent citations to web content.

An Ethical Framework for Library Publishing Version 2.0
Combining guidance from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions' (IFLA) Code of Ethics, this updated policy document provides a framework for ethical library publishing.

Should Academic Libraries Worry about Futureproofing?
'Your library has a clear vision for futureproofing that takes into account technological and socio-political trends'. How would you rate your level of agreement with this statement? Ioana Hulbert discusses these findings from the 2022 Ithaka S+R Library Survey.

Browsing for Images? Search Filters Are Your Friend
The images that stick with us the most tend to be those we find by chance. Virginia Seymour reasons that’s where search filters come in.

Toward a Framework for Information Creativity
Mark Dahlquist suggests that the principle of information creativity is an important complement to information literacy. Mark offers some initial suggestions as to what a framework for information creativity might entail, and proposes that an emphasis on information creativity could both highlight the familiar association between libraries and creativity and inspire a theory and practice of creativity that strengthens traditions of democratic social progress.