16 Aug 2023

Conul Conference 2023 Report: Maeve Kerins

Post by Maeve Kerins who is a Library Assistant in TU Dublin Library - City Campus. Maeve was awarded the LIS graduate bursary to attend the 2023 CONUL Conference. All the images featured in this blog post were captured by the author. 

Shows a page with Don't let numbers dictate our libraries written on the left and numbers and symbols cut out from magazines on the right
Exploring new ways of teaching and learning through UCC's workshop
'Facilitating knowledge creation: running a sustainable zine-making event'

As the summer term began, and our major cohort of library users left for three months, I thoroughly looked forward to a change of scenery. This year marks my first experience (hopefully, of many,) at a CONUL conference. I was delighted to have received the news that I had been granted the LIS graduate bursary to travel down to Cork. Prior to my current role at TU Dublin, I completed the Master of Library and Information Studies program at UCD in 2021. The course was full-time and fully remote during the pandemic. Therefore, I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to meet fellow library and information professionals from around Ireland, and abroad.

I met a lot of new people, but it was fun to run into familiar faces, including some of my former classmates from my master's degree. I also caught up with staff from the Glucksman Library at University of Limerick, where I did my undergraduate degree. I was able to have a chat with them about their poster on inter-library loan sustainability, which I was keen to learn about, as that is one of the areas that I am involved with, in my own library.

The days that followed were busy, and consisted of two thought provoking keynote speeches, that discussed key issues within the industry such as climate change, EDI (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) and the harmful impact of data centers. Then we had thirteen individual research presentations, three workshops, a sponsor and poster exhibition to engage with. It was great to see our own Israel Chidavaenzi and Silvia Onder win second prize for the poster competition.

The first breakout session that I attended revolved around effective and impactful use of library space, accessible design plans and sustainable teaching and learning tools. Given my role within Client and Faculty services at TU Dublin, I was particularly interested in how libraries respond to the ever-evolving library landscape while supporting social sustainability. In order to meet the growing needs of its library users, libraries must have open discussions both externally with their users and internally amongst one another. It is important to build relationships and to attend conferences to help deepen your own knowledge base and keep in touch with what other libraries have found successful.

UCC’s green imitative and energy management presentations highlighted the importance of making economic and environmentally intelligent decisions in their own Boole library, but not allowing their green initiatives to negatively impact their ability to supply an accessible and high-quality library service.

The most fascinating aspect of the conference, from my perspective, were the diverse styles and approaches to presentations that each library displayed. Upon receiving notification that the conference programme was published, I looked for the practical activities and workshops that were offered. These activities workshops integrated critical thinking, analysis and teaching/learning in an informal manner. Maynooth University and King’s College London staff discussed sustainable tools and methods for teaching and learning that help serve a wider population of library users. This is a critical aspect of our role as university librarians in assisting the promotion of EDI.

Shows a giraffe built out of lego bricks
A model giraffe that was constructed during
the Lego Serious Play and Open Scholarship workshop

I took part in zine making (UCC), object learning (University of Arts London) and lego building – I never would have guessed that one day I would be playing with lego as part of my job but credit to the Open Scholarship Committee of All Ireland Librarians, they made it happen.

One of the building prompts that enabled much discussion was building an animal that is representative of your role. I chose a giraffe because my job focuses primarily on frontline services, and to ensure a user's needs are met, I must communicate with all teams in TU Dublin. Thus, the giraffe has its legs on the ground, its body is middle level and then its head is the highest point. However, I might prefer the suggestion from a colleague that it represents the struggle of reaching for books on the top shelves in Park House.

The train journey home to Dublin on Thursday evening provided me with the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect. The volume of notes that I took during the presentations on this area really hit home to me, that I care a lot about understanding how library users interact with the physical and digital library environments that we have in place.

As someone who is at the beginning of their career as a library professional, the conference was an enlightening and inspiring experience. It is a fantastic way to meet fellow library professionals and get clued into what is happening in other libraries. I highly recommend LIS students and all other eligible candidates to apply for the bursary. If you’re not in, you can’t win.


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