A network for new and aspiring library professionals
Attending conferences is a challenge for new professionals, they can be expensive and often there are limited opportunities in the workplace. The good people at Info Today got in touch with us recently to ask if we could pick 9 new professionals to attend the Internet Library International Conference in London as their guests, and we were only too happy to help! We asked our winners (chosen at random) to blog about their experience and we’ve selected some highlights.
Full write ups are available via Google docs, click the writer’s name to be taken to their full report.
Stand out sessions
A personal highlight was Katherine Skinner ‘Cultivating knowledge communities’. The one [idea] that stuck with me was how she spoke about ensuring sustainability of community progress, and of the importance of avoiding reliance on one person alone. Educopia, the non-profit she ran, had repeatedly seen stagnation or regression due to personnel changes; I’d never properly considered this before, and it gave me much food for thought.
“The Diverse Workforce” was one of my highlights from the conference. The session was chaired by Natasha Chowdory and I was excited to attend after reading her blogpost, “How to be a brown librarian in a white librarian world”. Being from a BAME background I was eager to hear about the experiences of existing professionals in pushing for a more diverse and inclusive profession. One of the more interesting parts of this session was hearing about Marisol Moreno Ortiz’s (Oregon State University) experience on the Diversity Scholars Program. It was great to hear practical suggestions for how we can more effectively be a richer, more diverse profession in terms of race, ethnicity, neurodiversity, sexuality and disability.
I found the sessions around AI and AR technologies particularly interesting. Steven Shelton presented the many ways in which people were incorporating AI technology into their everyday library services to enhance user experience; from chat bots being used as the front end interaction for customers with libraries to image recognition technology being used to assist with the processing of digital archival collections.
The ‘Tech to enhance’ session highlighted the importance of making the playfulness and experimentation of makerspaces more accessible and open within the wider library space. They can also help tell the stories of collections in a fun and interactive way. A great example given was the New York public libraries emoji bot Twitter page whereby people can tweet them an emoji and a bot will reply back with an image from their collections.
My favourite session was definitely The Diverse Library. This was moderated by Natasha Chowdory; we heard from Marisol Moreno Ortiz, Josh Sendall and Natasha Howard. Natasha C asked us to look around and see how many people of colour were sitting beside us. Silence descended over the room until someone eventually shouted out, ‘Nobody’. Was it awkward? Yes. Was it necessary? Absolutely. One way forward might be Marisol’s role – she’s both a library student and a Diversity Scholar at Oregon State, a position which is specifically designed to broaden access to the profession. I wonder if this is something library schools in the UK could consider? Another interesting idea was the concept of unconscious bias training. We all make judgements without realising which can stop us from being inclusive. It’s something I’ve now suggested we carry out at our workplace – again, it’s not a comfortable exercise but it’s important that we begin to recognise and break down these barriers. Finally, Natasha H spoke about the NHS’s work in this regard and that BAME staff are involved in hiring at senior levels – if I progress to this level in the library world this is something I’ll take to heart.
A session that particularly stood out to me was “A place for all – encouraging a community of readers”. Although I don’t currently work in a public library, I am really interested in ways libraries can utilise online resources and social media platforms to engage readers. For example, Lucas Maxwell, a school librarian based in London, discussed the ways he uses Twitter and Skype to connect his school book club to their favourite authors. Holding live Twitter Q&A’s and Skype sessions allow the students to directly interact and ask questions about the books they are reading. Not only does this inspire participation, but creates a sense of a reading community within the school. Lucas blogs about the different activities he organises in his library.
Take away from the day
The ‘How to be an information professional in the 21st century’ by Liz McGettigan session was very useful. The types of roles librarians can apply for has widened over the last decade and the session highlighted how to break down job descriptions of more senior level jobs and map the skills and experiences we already have to these. My biggest take from this was that in order to stand out from the crowd, you have to get your name out there and be more confident. This means being active by submitting articles, directly asking colleagues to nominate you and projects you’ve been working on for recognition and engaging more actively with senior stakeholders in your institutions. As Liz put it, “put modesty out of the window!” and get your name out there!
I attended a session where panel members discussed the ethical dimensions of sharing online, and how privacy and validity can potentially be compromised. This was highlighted by Alistair Alexander and his presentation on the Glass Room Experience, a pop-up exhibition that aims to raise awareness about what happens with our personal data, and reflect on what we are sharing online. This is done through art installations, such as a ‘data detox bar’, which is clearly reminiscent of what you would find in an Apple store. I found this particularly interesting because it makes these issues appear more tangible, especially the extent to which global companies such as Facebook and Google are able to amass our personal data. Furthermore, Alistair suggested that libraries are great spaces to host these kinds of exhibitions. This made me think about the role libraries serve in educating users about digital skills, and how perhaps this should include knowledge of online data privacy.
I was inspired to think more deeply about my career after graduation, to make myself more visible and to overcome my fear of public speaking so that I may eventually put myself forward to present at a future library conference. It was a great first conference experience and I hope it won’t be my last.
I felt not only welcomed, but actively valued for my presence, and everyone I spoke to seemed genuinely delighted by my interest. It was a wonderful introduction to the library community at large, and a peek into the myriad of possibilities, not only for my place in the field, but for the field as a whole. I can’t wait for my next conference!
I had the chance to network and meet various people I’d spoken to through Twitter, which is always lovely! I came away from the day full of thoughts on practical things to try out at work – but before I focus on any of that, I plan to take some time to research unconscious bias and think about what changes I can make to help promote a diverse workforce.
Congratulations to the winners of the ILI places, we are glad they experienced a useful and inspiring day. Thank you to Info Today for supplying the places. Many conferences offer bursary places for new professionals, if you haven’t applied for a bursary before then you might find our set of top tips helpful.