Category Archives: Conferences

Event report: ARLG Conference 2016

Laura Williams was the winner of our bursary to attend the ARLG Conference 2016. She is currently Reading List and Collection Development Librarian at the University of Huddersfield. 

The conference theme was “Are you being served? Serving our learners in a changing climate” and was held at Aston University, Birmingham from 27-29 June. Here Laura reports on her experiences at the conference.

I was able to attend the ARLG16 Conference thanks to a bursary from ARLG North West, my first ARLG Conference and first ever ARLG event too.  The three day event was packed with excellent sessions. It would be a long read if I wrote about everything, so this conference report will pick out some of the key themes and main highlights.  I have created a Storify of tweets, featuring mainly my own tweets but also some from others, which provides an overview of the whole conference.

Overall Impressions

The conference was structured with morning and afternoon keynotes and then a variety of workshop sessions. There was a wide range of sessions to choose from in each time slot, meaning everyone had lots of choice about what to attend. I went to 9 different workshops, covering a range of topics from UX research, library spaces, customer engagement, and accessibility. Plus let’s not forget to mention the brilliant introduction to book folding from Cara Clarke and Fran Heap. Most of the sessions had a practical element to them which definitely enriched the learning experience. Practical workshops are not always easy in short 45 minute conference sessions however each group task or discussion was well planned and suitable for the timeframe. Getting to try a new technique or engage in a discussion in most sessions rather than watch a lengthy presentation was one of the best aspects of ARLG16.

ARLG Conference 2016 pic 1

Librarians attempt to journey map the process for doing the washing up during Susan Renshaw’s Customer Journey Mapping workshop (left); and a book folding display from Cara Clarke and Fran Heap (right).


Seven Deadly Sins of Librarianship: Jo Webb – Presentation Slides

Jo delivered a plenary talk focused our worst traits as a profession, the things that possibly hold us back from delivering the best services and achieving our full potential. Jo used the seven deadly sins as a framework for this talk, and explored the ways we are guilty of lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, wrath and envy. Jo balanced her talk by looking at the seven heavenly virtues and we use these to underpin our professional practice.  This was an excellent talk because it held no qualms about admitting that we aren’t always the best we can be (demonstrating a virtue rather than a sin there!). At library conferences we often focus on celebrating positive achievements, talks are often an example of a ‘let’s all pat ourselves on the back’ attitude, rather than look an honest look at the problems we face. Jo presented a balanced view of what we do well and where we need to remember to not fall down, offering a refreshing look at the profession.

Customer Service Excellence: Neil Potentier – Presentation Slides

This keynote is one of my conference highlights; it was a fantastic insight into customer service excellence from a real life CSE assessor! I’ve not been involved in a CSE assessment myself so it was interesting to hear about working towards excellence from the other point of view.  Neil works with many different organisations, not just libraries, so brought an excellent external perspective to the conference. Every point Neil made was backed up by a story, illustrating the good and the bad when it comes to delivering customer service.  The talk emphasised how much we can learn from the customer service examples of other organisations.

ARLG Conference 2016 pic 2

A conference of hundreds of post-it notes; book hedgehogs, and sociable evenings in the conference hotel bar (where we all tried not to be too disappointed by the performance of the England football team). 

UX: Engaging and Involving Students through User Experience to inform library space design:  Sandra Reid and Tania Olsson – Presentation Slides

Quite a lot of the sessions I attended focused on using UX research methods to inform the design of library space.  Sandra Reid and Tania Olsson gave us an introduction to UX techniques, explaining some of the main methods and how these have been used at University of the Arts London. Methods shared included mapping, touchstone tours, love letters and reflective logs.  The practical element involved us working in groups to redesign the silent study area of the library, using data collected from focus groups and mapping to inform choices in space design.

“New Look?” Ensuring Leaner Needs are Met in Library Spaces: David Clover – Presentation Slides

Another enjoyable session about designing library spaces. First task was sharing ideas about methods for gathering user feedback before starting a library refurbishment project. Then we worked in groups to turn the feedback data into decisions.  Ideas for addressing the concerns of library users identified in feedback, and categorise as “how, now or wow”; How ideas are the big ideas which could be difficult to implement, now ideas are easy to implement, and the wow ideas are original but easy to implement small fixes.  Categorising our ideas in this way was a great method for organising initial ideas and thinking about how feasible a solution was.

A Personal Reflection

I wanted to attend ARLG16 to broaden my perspective on academic libraries, and learn more about what happens in other organisations. I’ve been working in HE for less than a year, after over 5 years working in the very niche world of media archives, as a result my knowledge and experience of the sector has many gaps. I’m also currently working on a very specific project so it was great to step away from all things reading list related and find out about other aspects of academic library work. I felt that for me personally at the moment, a conference like ARLG would offer a good solid academic library focus but still offer a wide range of insights. As funds and time for staff development are limited (and bursaries are scarce) I’m very grateful for the opportunity to attend a conference. If you can only attend one conference, it needs to be the right one for your professional development. I learnt a lot at ARLG16 and came away with lots of ideas to follow up on. Smaller focused conferences can deliver excellent value in the content of their programme, and that is exactly what ARLG16 delivered.  I came back raving about how brilliant the conference was to everyone in the office, and I definitely feel like I learnt lots of genuinely useful and practical things.

We’re really pleased that Laura enjoyed the conference and took away so much from her time there. She’s already disseminated her new skills by showing our committee member Michelle how to fold a book hedgehog! Watch this space for more bursary offers and announcements about the next ARLG Conference. 



ARLG Conference bursary offer

ARLG North West is offering a sponsored place at #ARLG16 for librarians living or working in the North West. The sponsored place will include full conference fees. The successful candidate will be responsible for their own travel arrangements.

To be eligible you must be a personal member of CILIP or ARLG, and be currently living, working or studying in the North West in an FE, HE or research library.

To apply please email Annette Ramsden  with approximately 200 words explaining which session you are especially interested in and how it will impact on your professional development. Additionally how you plan to share your experience with others, including the ARLG North West community.

The successful applicant will be asked to write a short report on the conference for ARLG NW which will be published on our website. Please also include your CILIP membership number, your job title and the name of your institution (if employed). First time attendees or students will be given priority but please do not let this put you off applying as we do not always get any first time applicants.

Applications must be received by midday on 21st March 2016 and applicants will be notified of the committee’s decision by COP Wednesday 30th March 2016.


ARLG Conference 2016

Have you seen the news? The dates for ARLG Conference 2016 have been announced!

The conference is titled “Are you being served? Serving our learners in a changing climate”, with the theme of the conference being customer service.

Conference dates: Monday, 27 June 2016 – 9:00am to Wednesday, 29 June 2016 – 1:00pm

Further information on speakers, programme and workshops to be announced shortly.

Bookings are now being taken via Eventbrite.

Hope to see you in Birmingham!

CILIP Conference – Part 2

ARLG NW offered a bursary to attend CILIP Conference 2015, held in Liverpool. Michelle Bond, Faculty Librarian at Liverpool Hope University, was the winner of our bursary. Her report on the conference appears in 2 parts, with the first part found here.

In my second post, I’ll cover a couple of sessions I attended that really stood out – one from each day of the conference.

Day 1

From Day 1, the highlight was Phil Bradley’s session on ‘Developments in Internet search’. Phil is always good value, as proved by the fact I had a front row seat due to the room being packed out! The last time I encountered Phil was when I was a graduate trainee way back in 2011 I think – at CILIP’s New Professionals Day, where I remember him exhorting us to be militant librarians and feeling mildly terrified at the end. This time, as a much more grown up new professional, I was really pleased to be able to update my knowledge of search (with Phil speaking much more quietly).

Phil started out talking about Google and how it’s dismantling its search engine, and starting to lose credibility. He mentioned the loss of synonym and reading level options as well as the limited advanced search options as reasons. In addition, he reminded us that Google are an advertising firm who just use search to make money. They want to give us information without us having to think, but this isn’t good – Phil used the example of searching “what happened to dinosaurs?

Phil moved on to discussing the pressures on Google search, of which there are many! These mainly come in the form of social media – Google is focussed on websites when the world has moved on to social, with the importance of the individual going up and the website going down. Social media provides a more personalised search, and allows users to turn to “experts” among their network rather than  asking Google and having to scroll through lists of results. Google has failed at social media (Google+ anyone?) and so cannot compete in this area.

Other Google problems include increasing competition from other search engines, competition from other sites (Twitter, for example is better at prediction and more up to date), and political issues such as the right to be forgotten and potentially contradictory laws from different countries that they will need to abide by. Google is attempting to fight back by giving us information before we know we need it in the form of Google Now, with Phil saying that search in future will be increasingly embedded into what we’re doing.

A few alternative search engines Phil recommended trying:




Social media search:

Social searcher




There are many more suggestions on Phil’s slides –

Day 2

Moving on to Day 2, my session highlight was Naomi Korn’s “master class in copyright compliance, management and strategy for your organisation”. Whilst I don’t have any responsibility for copyright in my organisation, it is one of my chartership areas so thought I might learn something new.

Naomi’s masterclass was, in a word, brilliant. She made a very dry sounding topic come alive and seem totally relevant. She started off by saying that copyright is now an intrinsic part of digital literacy – for people to be able to create, share, reuse, repurpose, etc. they need to understand copyright. There has been a huge cultural change since the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act was introduced – teens have a different attitude to materials, and feel they can do what they want with anything they like. Unfortunately, copyright law has not kept up with the pace of change.

Naomi stated that we need to be strategic with copyright, and manage risk, particularly with regards to the new introductions to law as no one is yet sure how far the boundaries can be pushed. Risk management involves confidence – and there is correlation between organisations having a copyright officer and their confidence in risk management. Naomi then spent time explaining why copyright is an essential issue for every organisation:

An information management issue – need to be sure you have somewhere to store licenses

A knowledge management issue – need to know what is in the licenses

A people management issue – making sure all staff know their roles and responsibilities

A policy issue – not abiding by copyright should be a disciplinary offence

A strategic issue

Essentially, copyright needs to be embedded into practice, and stopped treating as “other”. Core to this is staff engagement through policies and tools they can use (forms, summaries of key licenses, etc.). Copyright needs to be built into procedures and policy should be a living breathing thing.

The final thing I learned from Naomi was that being incredibly passionate about your topic makes a huge difference! Her half an hour talk was very engaging and she really made copyright come alive for me, fully convincing me to march out of the room and start making changes. A genuinely excellent talk.

Thanks to ARLG NW for supporting me to attend the conference. It was so valuable and I now have plenty to write up for chartership. All of the slides from the conference can be found from the conference programme at

CILIP Conference 2015 – Part 1

ARLG NW offered a bursary to attend CILIP Conference 2015, held in Liverpool. Michelle Bond, Faculty Librarian at Liverpool Hope University, was the winner of our bursary. Her report on the conference appears in 2 parts, today and Friday.

Sometimes it’s nice to travel to conferences; I’ve been to a few both in the UK and overseas. For a change though, it was nice to have a major conference on my doorstep, meaning I could stay at home and take the bus to work. Thus on the morning of Thursday 2nd July I rocked up to the gorgeous St George’s Hall, fresh and ready to engage with CILIP Conference 2015.

Rather than writing a chronological account of the conference, in this post I’ll write about a couple of my conference highlights – in the next I’ll write about a couple of really useful sessions I attended. You can view all of the conference presentations at the CILIP Conference website.

The Keynotes

Quite simply, the keynotes were fabulous and my number 1 highlight of the conference. From R. David Lankes to Erwin James, each speaker was thought-provoking and explored issues at the heart of what it means to work in our profession. One thing that really shone through all the talks, however, was the reminder that our work is all about people. Cory Doctorow reminded us that the Internet improves every outcome we value, from literacy to voting turnout; Stuart Hamilton talked about library involvement in sustainable development; Erwin James reminded us of the power of a book. Libraries serve people and make their lives better. Librarians serve people and, in the words of R. David Lankes, are “change agents”. For me this was most apparent in the presentation about the Ideas Box from Bibliothèques Sans Frontières.

Barbara from Bibliothèques Sans Frontières told us that a refugee spends approximately 17 years in a refugee camp; humanitarian organisations provide the basics like water and tents but not the things that make us human – like culture. The Ideas Box can be deployed anywhere – it doesn’t need electricity or internet. It has a strong focus on creativity and aims to create space for a vibrant community. The challenge for Ideas Box is the quality of content – they need help from librarians all around the world to curate the content of the Box and ensure it’s locally relevant. It was another great reminder that libraries, in whatever form they appear, make a huge difference to their communities.

R. David Lankes gave us all an action plan

R. David Lankes gave us all an action plan

The Exhibition

One of the many things I’ve learned from SLA (and specifically the awesome Library Sherpa) is that vendors are not our enemies! They really are people too (honest). So I made sure to spend some quality time getting my sticker sheet filled and having a chat with all the exhibitors. From saying hello to companies my university already do business with to finding out about exciting new developments (SeeSearch was one that particularly interested me) to picking up a stash of my favourite pens from Cambridge University Press, the exhibition hall was well worth the time spent.

It was well worth chatting to the exhibitors...not just for the freebies!

It was well worth chatting to the exhibitors…not just for the freebies!


The conference was really fantastic for networking – I got to catch up with some familiar faces and meet some new people too. My one small gripe about the conference was that it was so packed that sometimes catch-ups were too brief as I had to rush off to another session, but the sessions were also good so I can’t complain really! The reception at the Museum of Liverpool was fantastic, with delicious food, free drinks and the opportunity to explore the museum. I also got roundly beaten at giant Connect 4 by my colleagues!
As you can tell, my impression of CILIP Conference was very favourable! In my post on Friday I’ll discuss in more depth a couple of particularly valuable sessions I attended.

CILIP Conference – Sponsorship opportunity

CILIP ARLG North West is happy to announce it will sponsor one place for this year’s Conference.

The sponsorship will cover the full conference delegate rate only; please note that travel and accommodation is not included.

Priority will be given to the following:

• members of CILIP ARLG North West

• applicants who have never previously attended a conference where funding has been


• those working towards a CILIP qualification

If you are interested, the application details are as follows.

Please send a letter of application stating:

• how attendance at the Conference may enhance your CPD skills

• which parts of the programme you plan to attend

• which (if any) of the criteria you meet

to Jacqueline Ponka ( by Friday 22nd May 2015.

We would expect the successful applicant to complete a report on their conference experience for

the NW group, within a month of attendance. This report will be published on the ARLG NW Blog.

ARLG Conference 2014 report – Part 2

Helen Monagle won the ARLG NW bursary to attend the ARLG Conference 2014. Her report on the conference is in 2 parts – you can read part 1 here.

ARLG photo 3The five key messages from the conference were the importance of demonstrating your value and service; adapt; work collaboratively; direct involvement (leading from the front)/engagement is essential and that alignment is critical. Things to bear in mind:

  • Use statistics/analytics to show your value, impact and relevance.
  • Marketing your service is vital – Katherine Rose (Regent’s University London) asserted in her workshop that we need to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones into promotion whilst remembering “no communication should be without purpose”. Action words are used at The Keep to engage and to show that the service is alive and relevant! (Fiona Courage, Special Collections Manager & Mass Observation Curator, University of Sussex – fourth keynote speaker).
  • Student endorsements are great when trying to prove the library’s value to the university – Madeleine Lefebvre (Chief Librarian, Ryerson University – third keynote speaker).
  • Demonstrate your niche skills as a way of promoting your service e.g. reviewing data management plans.
  • Importance of direct contact e.g. Regent’s University London found that direct contact and engaging with academics rather than students is what delivered results when promoting their new discovery service. Getting staff on board (academic buy in) is vital and led to being invited into classrooms to provide instruction to students. They also found that promoting the service via emails and training via drop in sessions didn’t work as well.
  • Madeleine – taking responsibility for things bigger than yourself ensures that you get noticed e.g. the library was involved in building the website and providing metadata for Winnie the bear exhibit and have also pioneered apps for enterprise.
  • Remember to know your limits re involvement – we can’t do everything!
  • To be able to adapt Paul Jeorrett (Head of Library, Glyndwr University – third keynote speaker) informed us that we need to take care of ourselves in order to be in a state to work with others and make the most of the changes whilst being mindful of your values and trying to hold to them.
  • You have to aligned with the academic plan!
  • On the topic of working collaboratively the following was said: (Madeleine) helping others gets you noticed; faculty support can be won just by being willing to help; you never give things away by working with others, in fact you gain way more! Working together is so productive (Paul). All of the challenges of working with new people/collections turn into positives; we are stronger together than apart; “the whole greater is than the sum of our parts” (Fiona).

The conference provided a valuable insight into what other academic libraries are doing in terms of service provision e.g. reviewing data management plans and LibAnswers[1] and how they are safeguarding their service by demonstrating their value and promoting the service.

Presentations from the conference can be found here:

[1] An online reference platform that helps ensure that users get fast and accurate answers from their librarians and also provides detailed statistics.

ARLG Conference Report – Part 1

ARLG NW offered a bursary to the national ARLG conference. Helen Monagle, Principal Library Assistant at Manchester Metropolitan University was the winner of our bursary. Her report on the conference appears in 2 parts, today and on Monday.

The ARLG 2014 Conference entitled “Academic libraries the final frontier – to boldy go where you have never been before” took place over three days, 23rd – 25th June, at the University of Sussex. Without a bursary from ARLG North West branch I would not have been able to attend this conference; as such I am extremely grateful.

ARLG photo 1

Welcome to the conference!

I began my conference experience by taking part in a Taylor and Francis focus group discussion focusing on The Use of Social Media (SM) in the Library which will be used to inform the White Paper they are producing on the topic. The focus included Using SM Tools in Your Library; User Engagement & Perception of Your Use of SM in the Library, amongst other topics. This was a great start to the conference which allowed me to express my opinions on these topics, learn from others and to engage with some of the delegates before the conference officially began.

The conference programme was packed; four key note speakers, nine workshop sessions, a quiz and gala dinner. There were 45 workshops in total covering the following key topics:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Research support
  • Shared services
  • Learning spaces
  • Electronic resources
  • CPD

In order to gain the most from the conference I attempted to attend at least one workshop covering the above topics whilst maintaining a focus on electronic resources, as this is more suitable to my current role. Given the multitude of presentations over the course of the conference (I attended all four key note sessions and eight workshops) I will not be able to provide detail on all of them so I will aim to sum up the key messages of the conference.

The conference began with an uplifting welcome from Kitty Inglis, University Librarian at the University of Sussex, who informed us that despite the increasing pressure upon us to demonstrate our services, value etc. we are very well placed in the Higher Education arena as agile adopters of technology to make them our own e.g. shared services, students as co-creators, MOOCs, Open Access etc.

Kitty’s welcome was followed by the first keynote speaker for the conference, John Purcell from Durham University with his presentation “To boldly go…stretching the envelope and making us indispensable”. John continued in the inspiration vein by informing us that it was important to remember that librarians are in control (the slogan on his t-shirt read “Librarian in Control”), especially in a time where libraries are taking on new roles and fresh challenges. During his presentation John asked the audience to raise their hand if they had had their responsibilities increased in the last year – over half the room raised their hand; thus demonstrating the “stretching of our envelopes” as librarians roles are well and truly stretched. Why is this the case? John explained that are librarians are good managers, professional, confident, engaged, valued, provide a neutral service and have a strong understanding of users viewpoints; in summary we are indispensable to our organisations! In order for the profession to live long and prosper we must make sure we are engaged, aligned and relevant to our institutions or RAE:

  • Relevance (of provision) –delivery of academic services, teaching, content management –print and electronic, research support, user support.
  • Alignment (with strategy) – is about partnering and promoting across the institution whilst distinguishing students needs & wants; this is critical as we need to be completely aligned with our institution and students. We need to decide what activities add value and get involved by leading from front. However it is important to be careful who you align with in terms of your strategic positioning/partnerships.
  • Engagement (with everybody) –partnership roles e.g. JISC, SCONUL; internal & external projects; academic liaison; shared services; academic writing e.g. SCONUL Focus, CILIP Update etc; externality e.g. conferences, CILIP, SCONUL; benchmarking which is critically useful.

It is also about making choices – we can’t do everything so we need to bear in mind the mantra John uses “stop starting and start stopping”. In order to “future proof” and make ourselves RAE we need to use some of these techniques: SWOT analyses; process reviews; benchmarking against our competitors; institutional visits in order to learn from others; scenario planning; remain professionally engaged and aware[1]; take bounded risks; continue service development. John purported that the “best way to predict the future is to invent it”. We need to make ourselves indispensable and prove it:

  • Carry out skills analysis to identify what we are lacking and rectify it.
  • Be a willing change agent – lead the changes rather than being followers.
  • Be agile, responsive, creative and innovative.

John concluded his keynote by confirming that ‘it’s a great time to be a Librarian in academic libraries’. John’s keynote not only provided practical tips on how to survive during these challenging times but was also uplifting as it reinforced the notion that we are skilled professionals with a vital role to play.

[1] John suggested that Library Schools should enable us to dip in and out in order to keep our skills up to date – this would be great!

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