A network for new and aspiring library professionals
I can’t believe the event was only last week. After finally getting out of my cake induced sugar coma, I am able to write about our third NLPN event.
This event was our most ambitious yet, we had four sessions, with seven speakers in total! The theme for the event was ‘Advocacy & Outreach’ in different sectors.
First up was Stewart Parsons from Get it Loud in Libraries. I was really exited for this session because Stewart embodies a creative side of Librarianship that needs to be nurtured in new professionals and supported by managerial boards. Stewart explained that Get it Loud involves offering local communities the opportunity to enjoy live music in their library.
From a new professionals perspective, I was in complete awe as to how Stewart had managed to get musicians that are now mainstream artists (Adele, Jessie J, Plan B, Alt-J etc.) to perform for as little as £75. The secret comes as no surprise:
An interesting aspect of Stewart’s talk was the support of local councils, particularly when it came to funding. Stewart mentioned that Get it Loud in Libraries had gathered interest from a lot of local libraries keen to get on board, but were unable to join the scheme because they were situated in more affluent boroughs of the country and the funding for the scheme could only be distributed to those in poorer areas. Whilst I can see the logic behind the council’s decision, I think it is a shame. I also think this is a topic that needs to be discussed further in another blog post…
Up next were four representatives from the School Librarians Association Manchester branch. The speakers were:
All four speakers spoke, individually, about the challenges they have faced as school librarians, the successful schemes they have created to encourage a love of libraries at their school and the tactics they apply to further incorporate the library into the school curriculum.
Personally, my knowledge of School Librarianship is limited and this session was an eye opener. It was interesting how the usage and schemes run by the School Librarians differed according to their geographical location and status (for example, a Grammar School compared to a State School), yet they all experienced the same difficulties integrating the library with the rest of the school. The School Librarians agreed that they took it upon themselves to attend staff meeting (often inviting themselves) and found that collaborating with a department was a good way to display the potential of the library to both students and staff.
An interesting difference between two of the School Librarians was their attitude to the Library as a space. One argued that the Library was for study, and should be treated as such. Another, disagreed stating that his Library was a place for escapism, children removed their shoes before entering ‘The Learning Lounge’ and were encouraged to socialise and help one another with work. I think this attitude is subjective, relating the type of school you are in and whether the approach would be effective in that environment. If both schools swapped their approaches, I do not think they would have the same impact. The differences highlight that a library is there to serve the needs of a specific community, this is a premise that be applied to any library, and it is often one that is underestimated.
This aside, the main aspect of the School Librarian’s session that demonstrated a different approach to advocating the Library was Statistics. You either love them or loathe them, personally I’m the former. Kevin is a champion for using statistics to demonstrate to the School board, fund committee and to Ofsted that the Library is not only used, but why is it used, who is it used by and in the long-term, how the library has impacted upon the grades of those who regularly use the library and those who do not. Kevin has built a system where the children select why they have entered the library, the children also scan the books they have used (including reference books). This scheme has only been in operation for a couple of months, but the potential impact is clear.
The next speaker, Emily Hopkins, an NHS Library Manager for a Mental Health Library discussed outreach and advocacy from an NHS perspective. NHS Librarians are different in their approach and purpose. Their purpose is to support Medical staff, to ease some of the pressure, to save time and to provide quality information. Emily highlighted this by explaining that if a group of professionals needed info skills training, her team would travel to them. Furthermore, the range of information services available to Medical staff is comprehensive, this was demonstrated through Emily’s group activity; each table was given a scenario and was asked which services would you recommend to this type of Medical Professional. The outreach service in the NHS is expanding into the realm of social media and blogging in order to push high quality information to the Medical Professionals.
Finally, Alison Sharman took to the floor with her presentation on the Roving Librarian scheme that operates at Huddersfield University. The scheme highlights an effective way of applying outreach in the academic sector. Alison discussed how all Librarians were involved in this scheme, targeting students in the library and the student union cafe. The Librarians roved the space armed with a tablet, offering students help with academic databases, using the introduction of the Summon as a way of engaging with the students. Alison drew on data that demonstrated the positive correlation between students who achieved 1st or 2:1 and their high use of electronic databases compared with students who gained a 2:2 and 3rd who preferred books. The Roving Librarian is attempting, successfully, with questions that many Academic Librarians ask “Are students too embarrassed/unwilling to ask for help?” Alison highlighted this with an example of one Roving Librarian appearing just as a student needed help, with student exclaiming that the Librarian must have been sent by God! How’s that for a compliment on successful outreaching!
What was drawn from the event was that a little creative thinking and determination, outreach and advocacy in the Library sector is achievable, effective and affordable.
On behalf of myself, Catherine, Helen & Siobhan, a massive thank-you to Cilip North West for their support and for funding the event, and to our attendees; we are really grateful for your support.
We’ll be meeting soon to discuss and use the evaluation forms to steer our next event. In the meantime, I’m off to write a Business Plan entitled “Ben Howard – You must perform at the next NLPN event’. Fool proof…
If you have any thoughts about the Spring event, or any ideas for our next event – send us your comments!