Monday, 12 October 2015

Report on Cilip Conference, 2nd – 3rd July 2015, Liverpool

Liverpool Central Library

SLG Stand at CILIP Conference, Liverpool,  July 2015

I was very fortunate to be awarded an SLG bursary to attend the conference, which was the first CILIP conference I had been to.  The agreement was that in between talks an SLG colleague and I would run the SLG stand along with other CILIP Special Interest Groups.  You can find most of the presentations on the CILIP website

The conference consisted of the exhibition, fringe events, social events, keynote talks and seminars. I found the range of talks, particularly the keynote speakers, very exciting.  When you are bogged down in the details of your working days, some less fascinating than others,  it is interesting to hear about the bigger picture and the range of people’s roles. I talked to people from several countries and different sectors: Australia, the USA, Nigeria, university librarians, researchers, PhD students, public librarians, medical librarians, we all had issues in common whatever the sector.  I asked a question in one talk and someone came and talked to me afterwards about how she was researching that very topic. Great networking opportunities, both in talks and beyond.  The drinks reception in the Liverpool Museum was fun, I enjoyed the virtually private viewing of their exhibition about Liverpool Docks through the centuries.  We also popped in to the Liverpool Central Library, even more stunning than the new Birmingham one.
Stands ranged from data storage companies, to Better World Books, to online resources.  There was a stand for the Fringe events, a CILIP stand and some of the SIGs. Interesting to see what freebies other SIGs give out: headphones, pens, notebooks, screen cleaners…
The best stand for me was the Ideas Box: a sort of mobile library packed into metal crates including books and IT equipment, plus training on the ground….provides “crucial support in education and child protection.”
The project is funded by the Bill Gates Foundation and is sold to charities and governments for use in for example refugee camps.  A great idea to supply education and opportunity in a box at the same time as life-saving equipment.
Most of the other stands were of no great interest to me as a primary school librarian and looking through the delegate list there were very few school librarians there, or even people from SLSs.
There were four strands: Information Management, Information Literacy, Demonstrating Value and Digital Futures each strand interspersed with keynote speakers for all to attend.
Keynote speakers were all very inspiring :
David Lankes, Professor of New Librarianship at Syracuse University: An Action Plan for World Domination Through Librarianship was a great introductory morale-booster:
Action Plan: 1. First conquer your own demons.  2. Control the narrative.  3. Get invited by being present.  4. Never neutral: add value
I liked his definition of libraries: ….”stewarded by librarians and dedicated to knowledge creation…librarians are now access points to collections. …“libraries are collections of books…the mediator is the librarian”…
ie It’s not the availability of libraries but of librarians, as facilitators, that is important. “Books are not knowledge…books spark knowledge…librarians are educators.”  He said: “Libraries are buildings.  Librarians are not buildings!”  Put the librarian back into the discussion.
This is what we need to communicate to our Heads.  
A stand -in whose name I didn’t catch for Stuart Hamilton, Deputy Secretary General, IFLA on Libraries, Development and the Bigger Picture.  This was about international advocacy work on libraries post 2015, ie UN targets.  The Lyon Declaration to be published in Jan 2016.  He went through various goals and talked about the role of librarians, which may not be recognised as essential. Puts the case for librarians to work in partnership with other organisations.
Eg 16.10 Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
For more info see these websites:  for IFLA trends reports on technology, economics and education
Open government Partnership
This talk was very much the bigger picture but interesting to think about, even if at our level we may feel helpless.

Barbara Schack, Director of Development, Libraries Without Borders: Innovative approaches in access to information, education and culture for vulnerable populations: the Ideas Box.  This was a most inspiring talk and film.  See description above in the Exhibition section.   50 million people displaced.  Average stay in a refugee camp is 17 years.  A medical centre is transported to such places; the Ideas Box, powered by solar energy, has video cameras, tablet comps, books etc help create a vibrant community, encourage creativity, develop imagination and aspirations.  Used as a mobile tool to promote public libraries, and after-school clubs for migrant populations.  Brilliant scheme.  Not cheap.

Shami Chakrabati on liberty and human rights.  A fantastic speaker.  Some people came to the conference mainly to hear this speech.
“Technology moves apace, ethical debate lags behind.”

Will Moy, Director, Full Fact: Factchecking the election: about factchecking politicians’ utterrances around the election, checking and correcting vague statistics.  Interesting talk.

Erwin James, author, columnist for The Guardian, ex-con: A good book can change the way you think about life: about how educating himself through his prison library helped him turn his life around.  A genuine from the heart speaker.  Mentioned my favourite charity GiveABook, which funds books for prisoners as well as its school work. The book was Prisoners of Honour: The Dreyfus Affair by David L. Lewis.

The seminars
I concentrated on the Demonstrating Value stream interspersed with a few Digital Futures talks, partly because I wanted to experience the venue, which was in the courtroom!  The other venues were pretty good too, if you like Victorian ornate marble and grand sweeping staircases. 

One of the more inspiring talks was by Carolynn Rankin, Leeds Beckett University and Sue Reynolds, RMIT University on How to demonstrate the value of your library:
Talked about the importance of keeping evidence throughout a project.  If you have received a grant for a project or finance from some source, need to demonstrate its value or you may not get your grant renewed.  One of those talks suitable for any library context
Some tips: start with the end first: What do we want to achieve, not what are we going to do?
Cited a new British Standard: ISO 16439:2014 How to measure impact and value.
Discussed why we should measure impact: strategic planning, quality management, determining impact over time, comparison with similar libraries, promotion of librarian’s role and value to stakeholders, inform political decisions.
Decide on the priorities of the moment.
Measure output eg number of books borrowed, user satisfaction
Impact: difference or change in an individual or group from before
Value: the importance of this to stakeholders.
Some reports on economic value of libraries:
Arts Council England 2014: Evidence of the economic contribution of libraries
Alma: UK 2011: Economic impact toolkit for archives, libraries and museums
Also Markless, S and Streatfield, D: Measuring the impact of your library, London, Facet 63
Can also measure the social value of a service: Rooney-Browne 2011 diagram
Use a literature review to demonstrate longer term impact of libraries.
Also talked about some of the difficulties of gathering this kind of data: eg subjective nature

A more pragmatic approach was outlined by Mary Dunne, trying to justify expanding a library for the Health Research Board.   Wanted to show the value of librarians to the community. Asked questions: Why we need professional librarians in and out of libraries?  What does the community value? What can we offer that our competitors don’t?  They came up with statements and backed them up with evidence.  Used stakeholder’s language/jargon.  Her powerpoint:

A London project was Director, Stellar Libraries Andy Ryan’s City Read London: different groups all read one book (this year crime thriller Rivers of London by Ben Abramowicz.  My interest in this talk as primary school librarian: 2016 plan to start Young City Read for Year 5 children in conjunction with National Literacy Trust and CLPE.  At search for funding stage.  Local level high profile events based on the book.  Ran City Read with public libraries and London boroughs.  Linked with Quick Reads project.    Aims: to create community cohesion and to create opportunities to promote libraries.  4700 people took part in a previous project.  Added value: partnerships with publishers and cultural organisations; generated £1.5K income; media profiles of partnerships etc.  She has an evaluation team: count people who go to events; case studies. Excellent video.

Elizabeth Oddy and Ann Middleton talked about setting up a short-term pop-up library at Newcastle University.  They ran a campaign to get it using student council, who came up with lively promotional material and persuaded academics to find an unused premises.  Advertised on website etc. Similar logos to other university libraries on the campus.  Won CILIP Marketing Excellence Award 2014.

I also went to some talks on Digital Futures
One about MOOCs versus other small-scale online CPD opportunities in higher education: Helen Buckley Woods.  She said that MOOCs were good as general introductions and a system called FOLIO for very focussed learning: tailored in this case to specialist training. Not really relevant to me but quite interesting.
Andy Tattersall and Leo Appleton: University of the Arts, about harnessing social media for professional use.  Mainly talking about blogging, Twitter as an enquiry service, collaborating on research papers using Dropbox.  Some logistic problems: eg who answers enquiries via Twitter?  “It’s not what you know, but who you know and what they know as well.”  Using the altmetrics online to measure impact: huge potential audience, but altmetrics (alternative indicators) are not measurements of quality, just quantity.  Academics are interested in citations, so in media this is mentions in blogs, your own blog, other’s blogs, tweets and retweets, page views, in news reports etc. 

Investing in the knowledge bank: digital currency for all our digital futures: Virginia Power  on digital and other skills needed for future librarians: summary of her research studying librarian job titles.  Interesting. She has developed a skills matrix for UK and US.  Available from her by email. Talked about digital traffic librarians.  See   

Went to another talk about Dundee Library who’ve invested in 3-D Printers and make models with teenagers, specifically Minecraft models.  Loads of retraining necessary for the library staff.  Sounds expensive. Makerspaces: where librarians bring skilled people to libraries to make things together.

Finally, Jan Parry, CILIP President, launched CILIP’s Impact Toolkit to go with the free notebook available from their stand.  The Impact Toolkit is available on CILIP’s VLE to CILIP members only).  It includes techniques to help you reflect and collect evidence. All about proving value of you and your service: eg weekly emails showing how you have added value, creating evidence, ask to shadow others in the hierarchy, invite influential people to come and see the service, Secret Shoppers to look at your library, be objective about your library: eg use of space.
Some explanations here:

All together, the conference exceeded my expectations: talks were quite practical on the whole and the keynotes were thought-provoking about a wide range of subjects. I was impressed by the bravery of Erwin James and fascinated by the machinations of IFLA trying to include the librarian’s role in UN resolutions to develop international literacy strategies.  I find it interesting how global initiatives percolate down to lowly school librarians, because they will eventually, so therefore our possible role the other way in influencing others, via our customers and stakeholders.
What I gained from the CILIP conference
Impact evaluation
I took away the sense of the importance to us all of demonstrating value impact of our services. I was interested in the citations of books, as I read a fair amount of the literature and have not come across these titles.  We should study the new British Standard.  I gave this report to my team at the Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service on our team training day and have subsequently written a simple format for an annual report demonstrating impact by using the statistics we all gather from our computer systems.  My format needs to be used from when you start a project, so that you bear in mind the results you would like to collect at the planning stage. Impact is certainly today’s buzzword, but not really a new concept.  Think SMART.  It all boils down to the fact that we have to keep justifying why schools should employ us to run their libraries, we need to prove what value we are to our schools, not take it as read.
IT developments: interesting to hear about the use of different technologies
Networking: fantastic to meet colleagues from all kinds of library all over the world, all with an interesting perspective on librarianship.
Feeling part of the librarianship world: all sectors have factors in common as well as different perspectives.  All can learn from each other.
I highly recommend attending this and other librarians’ conferences.  Weekend conferences are very good value for money with a wide range of events and exhibitors and contacts. 

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