A network for new and aspiring library professionals

CILIP Conference 2016 – the one where we picked up our award!

The conference was opened with a welcome from Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP. He made reference to the CILIP Action Plan for 2016-2020 and the current consultation on the new membership model for 2018. He also stressed the need for an information literate population and the role librarians will need to play to facilitate this.

The keynotes (unfortunately due to timing we couldn’t stay for the last keynote, Lauren Smith, but there are Storifys and writeups on this – see the bottom of the post for links):

The opening keynote delivered by Scott Bonner, the Director of Ferguson Municipal Public Library, was entitled “What we did in Ferguson: a warts-and-all telling of stories”. Scott began by providing a background to his library including cuts and how the library was just left as a book warehouse; which was not what the community needed. Ferguson was the site of violence following the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer. During the crisis that followed Scott explained how the library stepped up when the community needed them. They did this by keeping the library open to everyone (despite the chaos) and offering a space for life-long learning and cultural literacy. Teachers began to use the library to hold classes, ensuring that local children still received an education when the schools were closed and so that parents had somewhere their children could go. The library became a meeting place, a community hub offering a place you could go to get help or offer help.


The library attracted a lot of attention from the media; however, Scott protected his users by ensuring that the media were aware that they could not take the users pictures without their permission. This is an important reminder for libraries: ensure patron privacy and confidentiality.

Scott talked about using the media to your advantage by adopting social media to show what libraries do and as a method to speak to your community!

Another piece of advice offered was the need to partner with as many community organisations as you can. Be prepared for crisis and have a quick phone list of all people/groups you would need! To serve your community, librarians must know local organisations so that community needs can be met at all times.


Our UKeiG Early Career Award

The second keynote was delivered by Sir Nigel Shadbolt and focused on open data. Nigel spoke about how the world of information has moved from scarcity to abundance and yet much of the information held by libraries today are under copyright restrictions. There is a spectrum of data: closed, shared and open. As you move along the spectrum the levels of access become wider.

Nigel illustrated the role of health in the UK open data movement and provided the example of Snow’s Cholera Map, which showed that the disease was spread via water pumps; this was a revolution in public health. Nigel provided further examples of how open data is used in crime, transport and cultural heritage sectors. The examples showed how the greater public good outweighs more narrowly defined data ownership e.g. information held by the Land Registry and UK postal addresses. Open data leads to open participation, source, license, and standards, open innovation and cost saving e.g. comparing different types of statins in UK led to £200 million in savings. Furthermore, if data is to be challenged, it needs be in the public domain for this to happen.

As well as explaining linked data (identifies entities of interest with URI that can be referenced and linked), Nigel discussed the challenges and future of open data:

  • computation and storage
  • curation
  • quality
  • data literacy.

Nigel ended his presentation with the opportunities for librarians and information professionals:


The breakout sessions were based on three themes (Managing Information, Everyday Innovation, and Using Technology). Both Amy and Helen attended the conference (to pick up our award) and will provide a summary of their experience below.


There were many sessions over the two days so I will focus on two of the sessions I found useful and insightful :

  1. Using Technology – TeenTech: integrating research and information literacy in our future
  2. The fences are up here: What is the role of our libraries in supporting and protecting our communities from a rising mental health crisis?
  1. Dr Jane Secker and Rebecca Jones discussed the TeenTech awards and free resource sheets they have created to help teenagers to work their way through the research journey. The idea behind the project is to focus on ideas and creativity in science, technology and engineering for school students. From the perspective of the Information Literacy (IL) Group it is important to recognise the valuable role that librarians and information professionals play in supporting research and developing young people’s IL abilities and to connect with other interested stakeholders and challenge the traditional view of what librarians do and what IL is. TeenTech work collaboratively with companies, universities, business organisations and education business partnerships to build sustainable and imaginative programmes focussing on regions of greater social need in the UK and Europe. Thus, part of their work involves working with universities to expand their outreach programmes and this involves working with university librarians and school librarians.

I have fed back to my employer that this could be an area that our library becomes involved in by providing institutional support. This is support for school pupils taking part in the TeenTech initiative, including access to resources and advice on finding and evaluating information.

  1. This session was led by Becci Louise, a poet and educator, and started with a poem she had written about anxiety. Becci spoke about how there was a need to break down the distinction between mental health and mental illness. We were told that 15 million people will suffer from mental illness this year and that figure is based on recorded stats not those unknown. Mental illness is statistically the third most common illness GPs will deal with. Despite this, it is not dealt with effectively in the education system. This silence must not be continued and libraries may provide the key to help develop the muscles to fight this monster.

In order to do this, libraries can:

  • provide knowledge including literature about mental health and illness
  • encourage conversations on the topics which can help to heal
  • gather knowledge and connect communities – e.g. working together with local artists who suffer from mental illness – to highlight the power of the arts and provide a healing place

We were asked if we, as librarians, know where to turn for information on the topic. The answer is not just NHS leaflets but also arts, films, books, music.


I work in a HE library and have suggested that we do something for mental health day as we did for national libraries day. Starting university is a big life change and may trigger mental health issues in some of our students. Additionally, there may be students starting here who have existing mental health/illness conditions, thus, it is important to recognise this. I have suggested using films and books from our collection that deal with mental illness in some way, whether it be the main topic of the work or that a character in the story suffers from mental illness. This could perhaps involve collaboration with other services to ensure it has a greater impact and to ensure we receive appropriate advice e.g. on equality and diversity grounds.


The theme of information sharing (either collaboratively to form better working relationships or as open data) was dominant throughout the two day conference.

Health was also a strong theme throughout the conference as CILIP announced the Health Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) (based on the standard CILIP PKSB for personal learning and development – a key document for Chartership and revalidation). During this session, the Health plenary discussed the role of information literacy (from the perspective of patients) and how the information profession needs to be aware of the literacy levels of the general population who may find health information difficult to access, read and comprehend. The Health panel also highlighted the role of clinical librarians and mentioned the data collected by Alison Brettle for her HILJ (2016) article that discussed the role of clinical librarian services on patient and health organisations.

CILIP also provided a session on the leadership programme. The programme ran, as a pilot, for one year where ‘mid-career’ professionals worked collaboratively as project leads for CILIP special interest groups.  The leadership programme announced that a Health Leadership Programme started in February. The Health leadership programme is based on a similar model to the pilot but it also includes action learning sets that are Health focussed (though covering similar content). In addition, the health programme includes a form of group coaching where participants are encouraged by other participants to discuss leadership issues they have faced. The other participants don’t offer advice but ask questions instead, in the hope that the person with the issue will be able to talk through their issues and reach a resolution by themselves as opposed to be influenced by the opinions of others.

The keynote by Nigel Shadbolt was a particular highlight from the conference. Shadbolt’s presentation discussed open data, the future of open data and the impact of open data on our society, health care system and economy. Open data, linked data and block-chains appear to be at the forefront of information research. Before the conference I was unaware of blocked-data, however as Shadbolt explained, the UK Department of work and pensions will be the first organisation to trial the use of ‘block-chain’ data. Block-chain data is a system that links (‘chains’) one set of information records with another. This creates a chain of records which then can be viewed, amended etc. by a group of people.

I found the CILIP conference to be a useful and insightful two days, I attended two sessions by speakers who worked in the banking industry and found that the skills we use to analyse data and assess information are transferrable to the banking industry.

The message that I took home from the conference was that, regardless of sector, information professionals and society can benefit from organisations being transparent and generous with their information. Whether this is on a micro-scale (such as sharing information prior to a meeting) or on a macro-scale (the London transport system released maps of their network as open data) it can promote trust and effective collaborations.


One comment on “CILIP Conference 2016 – the one where we picked up our award!

  1. Pingback: We are 5 :) | NLPN

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