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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. 

 

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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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