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.
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.
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.
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.