13 May 2024

LAI CILIP joint conference overview 2024

Guest post by Amy Bond, Assistant Librarian and Information Specialist, Bord Bia Library

This blog post will give an overview of the LAI/CILIP joint annual conference in Newry. The theme of the conference was Building for the Future, and presentations focused on how libraries could work to maintain their relevance and usefulness into the future. Talks looked at how this could be achieved through innovative service offerings, and the leveraging of new technology. It would be impossible to cover the wealth and breadth of information shared within a blog, but I will outline some of the key insights that resonated with my own work, and hopefully these nuggets might be relevant to others too.

In his keynote talk on the role of AI, Dr Andrew Cox made clear that AI will play a key role in how librarians work in the future. We will have a part to play in developing AI literacy within our user groups, but it may also have potential for better collection management, better access to digital collections, and more insight into the data we are gathering. However, this will only be possible with access to proper resources.

While much of the conference focused on the importance of new technologies, and innovative service offerings, Sue Williamson, president of CILIP, emphasised in her talk that libraries are still about books, and shouldn’t lose focus on this traditional role of promoting books and reading. She noted that “if you read for pleasure, reading for purpose becomes effortless.”

Anthony Hopkins talked about his work as part of a working group in the UK looking to improve how eBooks are offered through public libraries. Rather than trying to go down the route of legislative change they are currently trying to work with publishers, and have found them open to discussion. Their focus now is a research project to build an evidence base so they can have strong conversations, based on robust data.

There were perhaps some surprising results from Dr Claire McGuinness and Dr Stefanie Halveka’s research into student perceptions of ChatGPT. Only 11% of students were using these tools quite often, and 55% were using them rarely or never. Students most see the benefits in help with research, with 34% of those using it saying it is for research, while 33% would be motivated to use it for help with research. This clearly shows a need for librarians to understand and work with this technology. Reassuringly, the majority see taking results directly from these tools as the same as copying from a website.

Jane Peden discussed the redesign of library spaces within Ulster University. This work was done with emphasis on enhancing student experience. There have been a number of shifts in how the library space is viewed; from collecting to connecting, and to seeing it now as a relational collaborative space. This has also been reflected in a shift in how staff engage with students; from service and support, to partnership and expertise.

Leona Burgess, of Louth public libraries, and Ruth O’Rourke, executive librarian in Our Lady of Lourdes hospital, discussed how they came together to create a project encouraging parents to read to their babies within the neonatal unit within the hospital. The success of the project showed the impact that can come from collaborating across library sectors, with minimal financial investment.

Ben Lee led an interactive workshop which brought to life the toolkit from CILIP’s Come Rain or Shine report. He explained the concept of future literacies, before taking us through how to work with different future scenarios for future planning.

Dr Maeve O’Brien from the Digital Repository of Ireland, gave an overview of the service, its value, and their collections. She noted that when ingesting collections from other organisations, they provided technical support, but ultimately left control over how collections are organised to their owners as they would have a much better understanding of their content.

When looking at how libraries can leverage machine learning, Daniel Van Strien noted the limits of using models not designed specifically for library use, but saw more potential in librarians coming together to build on open-source models to design tools built with libraries in mind.

Overall, the key takeaway from the conference was that librarians need to plan for the future, to maintain strong meaningful services. Time needs to be spent considering what the future might look like for your library. Consider different future scenarios, and how these might impact your work. How might your users change, and will this impact what they want from your service? How might technological shifts impact how you work, and the services you deliver? Do you need to upskill in any particular areas to prepare for these potential changes? We might not be able to predict the future, but we can prepare for it.

post-it note with light bulb pinned on board

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash


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