A network for new and aspiring library professionals

Connect – Debate – Innovate part 1

I attended the CILIP Conference on 2nd and 3rd July in Liverpool. The conference themes were: Information Management: building success; Information Literacy and Digital Inclusion; Demonstrating Value: what’s your impact? and Digital Futures and Technology. I attended at least one session covering each theme. I’m going to focus on the breakout sessions, rather than the keynotes, because I feel that the breakout sessions offer the opportunity for practical CPD, which is what our network is all about.

The first breakout session I attended featured two presentations on Information Literacy and Digital Inclusion, by Charlie Inskip and Hannah Gore. Charlie was discussing information literacy in the workplace, and how we can make transferable skills explicit by using language from job descriptions in our information literacy teaching. This was also a theme at the University of Leicester’s Learning and Teaching Conference that I attended earlier in the week. It is common sense, but it is always worth remembering that we need to speak our users’ language by steering away from librarian jargon and towards using meaningful words. We need to make it obvious to our users that the skills they are developing are not just to be used when literature searching for a dissertation, but can be used to research companies when applying for jobs and once in the workplace to write reports and deliver presentations (for example). This is something that my manager Neil addresses in his information literacy programme for Natural Sciences and Geology students, and these sessions gain excellent feedback from staff and students. When I deliver sessions, I try to make the content as relevant as possible for students and changing the language I use is a simple but effective way of doing this.

Hannah Gore presented on BOCs (badged open courses) from the Open University. These courses are distinguished from MOOCs in several ways, as the slide below shows.



Currently, there are 7 BOCs available, covering skills not subject content. Once completed, these courses allow people to move on to further study or employment. The OU are currently developing a BOC in digital literacy, to be released around Christmas time. I am going to keep an eye out for this, especially as it will be released on a CC4 licence. I plan to complete the BOC, as well as promoting it as a useful resource for students.

On Thursday afternoon I attended Demonstrating Value: what’s your impact? with Andy Ryan and Mary Dunne. Andy presented on Cityread London, an excellent initiative that ‘aims to bring reading to life for the whole capital’ by theming a series of events around a particular novel. Many of the events take place in libraries and Andy’s message was that collaborating gives you a louder voice and greater influence. Andy also admitted to having ‘stolen’ the idea for Cityread, showing that you don’t necessarily need to come up with an original idea to make a difference. Mary then took us through the process of demonstrating value to various stakeholders. She recommended writing a ‘value proposition‘. A lot of what Mary said echoed the work I have been involved in at the University of Leicester in shifting the perceptions of the library to ensure that academics understand what we can offer. Mary’s slides cover the process in detail if you want to take the time to create some value propositions for your role. I recommend this, particularly if you are feeling undervalued in your current role.

The final breakout session of Thursday afternoon was started by Todd Richter, presenting on his research into Makerspaces in UK libraries. This was a really interesting session, but I didn’t feel that it was professionally relevant to me, at the moment. Having said that, one of my aims in attending the conference was to improve my knowledge of the wider professional context (oh hi, chartership!) and this session taught me about what is happening in some public library spaces. The second half of this hour was delivered by Virginia Power, on the digital skills information professionals need in today’s job market. This linked to Charlie Inskip’s presentation earlier in the day, by focusing on job adverts as the evidence base for the skills needed. Virginia has developed a skills matrix and a training matrix for use by information professionals to identify any gaps and related training opportunities. Virginia offered to share these matrices with anyone who emails her. She also recommended the PKSB as a way of identifying skills gaps. As I am working towards Chartership, I have completed the PKSB gap analysis and found it a useful tool for reflection on my skills and development.

I enjoyed day one of the conference, the keynotes were interesting and inspiring and the breakout sessions were useful. I have not attended a large conference before and on reflection am impressed at how the speakers managed to make their sessions relevant to a wide cross-section of library and information professionals. Even the sessions that bore little resemblance to my day job (such as the presentation on Cityread) still had core messages that are applicable to me, and to many of the others in the room. As I said, our focus for our events is on the practical and we ask speakers to deliver interactive sessions. It took a little while for me to adjust to the lecture-style of the presentations at the CILIP Conference, but I can now see that this style of delivery does offer valuable CPD. The need for reflection and to make the connections between the content and my role can make the experience richer.

Read part 2 here.


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