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Flora Fisher from The University of Edinburgh reports back from CILIPS Autumn Gathering 2018

Category: Blog, Branches and Groups

I was delighted to be awarded the ARLGS sponsored place at this year’s CILIPS Autumn Gathering. The variety of talks on offer was a welcome reminder of how varied our profession is.

The keynotes were a demonstration of the impact libraries can have on our communities. Dr Jim McCormick from The Joseph Rowntree Foundation discussed poverty in Scotland and its causes. He also told us about a research project in Glasgow to examine the impact of universal credit on people’s lives and the fact that public libraries were a good low-stakes venue for meeting the people affected by poverty.

This linked in to the final keynote of the day in which Zoe Ferguson from the Carnegie UK Trust talked about libraries and kinder communities. She defined the places that people experience kindness as being warm, informal, friendly and open and also argued that many public spaces in the modern world are no longer these things. The hope is that libraries would be exactly these sorts of places and that pressure to provide cost-saving services will not drive kindness out.

Sally Walker gave some examples of what that kindness might look like in her inspiring talk on her journey to becoming the CILIPS Library and Information Professional for 2017. Her enthusiasm for her job is infectious – she just makes it sound like a lot of fun. I love the idea of the teddies’ library sleepover!

The breakout sessions were just as interesting. Graeme Forbes from the National Library of Scotland gave a very entertaining presentation on the history of football programmes (complete with puns) and why the National Library of Scotland collects them. Ephemeral material is useful for researching social history: printmaking, graphic design, advertising and changing values (most glaringly towards women). He also described some of the challenges The National Library of Scotland faced when cataloguing the collection and in making things discoverable.

Jacqueline Geekie gave us an update on the new CILIP definition of Information Literacy, developed by the Information Literacy Group. As a former school librarian and as someone now working in academic libraries, this is a subject that is very important to me and it was great to hear the thinking and process that went into updating the definition for this era of fake news and hyperbole.

Dr Jennifer Jones then talked us through her early research into social media literacy and the challenges that social media brings to online debate. Social media is valuable for promoting marginalised voices but the perceived intimacy of our devices means that places of debate can become places of venting, tribalism and gang mentality.

Dr Sonya Campbell-Perry gave an engaging talk on marketing academic libraries and understanding user needs or, as she put it, “Do you know what they want and can you actually give them it?” I enjoyed the way Campbell-Perry broke down the different elements of what students want (accessible and available services, attentive and friendly staff, good communication) and what needs to happen to provide them.

Finally, I went to Louise Graham’s talk about how a simple but effective tool for capturing user feedback was developed from attending a hackathon. I loved hearing how a specific problem – how to measure the impact of library services – was solved through bringing together librarians and developers and supporting them to brainstorm, discuss and create.

All in all, it was an inspiring day: one that has given me a lot to think about. Thank you to ARLGS for giving me the opportunity to experience it.