At the beginning of July I spent a couple of days in Liverpool at CILIP Conference 2015, having been lucky enough to win a bursary from the ARLG London & South East region. I was keen to attend the conference, having worked in the area of Special Collections for well over ten years, so my conference attendance had tended to be restricted to those events that were closely connected to my specialist area.
|Concert Hall, where the keynotes took place|
Perhaps what I most enjoyed about the conference were the keynote speakers. They included R. David Lankes, Erwin James, Cory Doctorow and Shami Chakrabarti. At previous conferences I’ve attended the keynotes have all been very connected to the specialist conference theme, and invariably given by someone from the library or archive world, so I had been interested to see in advance that this wasn’t so much the case with CILIP conference keynotes. It was great to see how engaged all the speakers were with the world of libraries and information, and brought an interesting perspective from the outside. Indeed, Erwin James’ account of the difference a prison library had made to his life after his conviction, what it had meant to his rehabilitation and then to his release had me almost in tears. R. David Lankes on ‘World domination through librarianship’ (you can’t beat a title like that!) was more controversial from a Special Collections perspective, as he talked about how collections are the demon, and how you may not have one to be a librarian, as often now they are leased or rented. But I could agree with him that librarians are educators, even if I am educating users about our special collections!
The sessions I attended were mostly in the ‘demonstrating value’ stream, and I found many of the workshops particularly useful. I found that it was helpful to have to think of real life examples, and we were encouraged to share our ideas and processes with someone sitting near us, which also helped break the ice. I enjoyed the practical elements of these workshops, which provided a nice contrast to the keynotes. I also took some time out from ‘demonstrating value’ to go to the ‘digital futures’ stream and a session on MOOCs and small-scale CPD for library and information professionals. I found this interesting, having participated in one MOOC so far, and working towards my second year of revalidation, always being on the lookout for different ways to do CPD.
As I very rarely buy anything other than preservation supplies, I hadn’t been expecting to get much out of the exhibition, but, spurred on by a sheet to fill in with a sticker from each exhibitor, and the possibility of winning an iPad if this was completed, I spent some time on both days visiting each stand. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed meeting all the exhibitors and finding out about their products. Most of them also appeared to be interested to meet me, and I think it was a good way of finding out about new products and services, which I can always tell colleagues about, even if they aren’t so relevant to my own role.
|Rather amazing surroundings for the exhibition|
Taking part in networking between sessions was one of my main reasons for wanting to attend the conference. It proved to be very different to networking at the smaller conference I have been used to attending, as with 600 people there and no delegate list in advance, it was hard to work out who I would like to meet with once there. I found that manning the ARLG stall during one of the breaks helped, as people then came up to talk to me and found out about ARLG, and I did manage to arrange to meet up with a few people by using social media in advance of the conference. I think this was something of a missed opportunity though, as with a delegate list in advance and people’s Twitter details, for instance, it would have been a lot easier to arrange a meet up. It was possible to register as an event attendee on the conference app in advance, which I did, but very few people did this.
So, what next? The conference was an intense couple of days, but I came away feeling like I’d got a better grasp of the ‘bigger picture’ in librarianship, as well as picking up some useful tips for demonstrating value. I’m hoping I’ll be able to put some of those into practice in my job over the next few months. I’ve provided feedback to CILIP on ways in which I think the conference was beneficial, as well as how it could be improved – particularly the venue, which really wasn’t very accessible with huge numbers of steps everywhere, but there were also issues with timekeeping and sessions running over. My thanks go to the ARLG London & South East for sponsoring my place.
The speakers' presentations are now available on the conference website.