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Event report: LISDIS Conference 2015

Alison attended the first LISDIS (Library and Information Science Dissertations) Conference in Huddersfield on Saturday 14th November 2015. She’s kindly reported on her experiences for us. Alison is a new school librarian at Bolton School, known locally as “Hogwarts.”. She previously worked as a library assistant in the public sector, and prior to that in marketing. She’s on Twitter as @alisoncaller and blogs (mostly about chartership) at 

On Saturday 14th November I attended the first LISDIS – this included a variety of presentations by LIS graduates of their unpublished MA dissertations. I also had the opportunity to network with enthusiastic, intelligent, mostly new Librarians (and a couple of tutors). The tutor from UCL was surprised that I was neither doing a LIS degree nor a recent LIS graduate and said that he was impressed that I was attending as part of the Chartership process.

Actually I found the presentations very interesting and whilst I’m unsure that I can apply them all specifically to my work as a School Librarian, they did solidify some of my feelings about the profession.

There were several presentations about cataloguing and classification. The significant findings were to do with equality of access. Sarah Hume’s presentation ‘Wine, Witchcraft, Women, Wool:Classifying Women’s studies collections’ was about how Dewey/Library of Congress classifies women’s studies (primarily that it doesn’t have numbers to do so). The second presentation by Lizzie Sparrow was about ‘The Provision of Lesbian Fiction in Public Libraries in Scotland.’

Sarah Hume at LISDIS

The first presenter, Sarah Hume on ‘Wine, Witchcraft, Women, Wool: Classifying Women’s Studies Collections’.

On both occasions their findings demonstrated that not being recognised (either with a classification number or with a tag of Lesbian fiction) left the customers feeling less valued and was ‘extremely dis-spiriting’ (Lizzie Sparrow). Specifically, the latter thesis found being given an identity on the catalogue helped with ‘a sense of identity, validation, connection and learning about themselves and others’. It was particularly helpful for women/girls in the process of ‘coming out.’

I found a connection between these two presentations and a third about “La Femme Bibliophile”: women as book collectors in an age of bibliomania. This presentation by Lucy Saint-Smith gave a fascinating glimpse into the 18th century world of aristocratic ‘Lady’ book collectors. They were primarily ignored by male bibliophiles – indeed one dismissed his female counterpart as basing their collections upon ‘the decorative and sentimental.’

I felt that there was a correlation between the women’s studies’ lack of classification and the lesbians non-inclusion in the catalogues. These female bibliophiles were elusive but interesting figures now and excluded in their own lifetime.

Ian Clark’s presentation ‘To what extent do community libraries address the concerns of the digital divide’ was a very powerful and spirited session about the use of volunteers in community run libraries. Whilst I ‘know’ that volunteers are only helping because the see no other alternative to their local library shutting, Ian demonstrated exactly how pushed into a corner these people can be. It begged the question ‘Is it better to close than to provide a partial service?’

Ian Clark at LISDIS.jpg

Ian Clark presenting at LISDIS

He also passionately illustrated the differences (primarily socio-economic) between a volunteer library being run in a rural area and an urban one. He found that in the rural area the community group were expected to provide a business plan, they also received donations and money from their parish council and even had cash reserves. As a contrast, the urban library was in a deprived area where volunteers actually came from a distance to help. The lack of home computer access meant there were queues out the door at weekends by schoolchildren wanting to do their homework. They were completely unsupported by their local council who removed part of the computer suite and had told them that they had to find £70k a year in order to continue to run. Indeed, it was likely that they would have to charge for computer access in the future.

I found it easy to relate to both of these types of libraries as I worked in a partially volunteer run semi rural (and affluent) library and an urban library in a deprived area. Ian explained that his research showed that although the volunteers were doing their best, neither set were actually given training on using the computers and simply had to do their best with the skills that the volunteers already had. This mean that customers were left to muddle through when they did get to access the computers.

In all honesty, this both depressed and enraged me. The LISDIS conference was on the same day as the Speak up for Libraries conference in London and my twitter feed displayed similar tales of the dire straits that public libraries find themselves in. What interested me from the SUFL conference was that Kathy Settle CEO of the Libraries Taskforce (according to Twitter) stated “I have publically said it’s unacceptable to cut volunteers adrift with libraries”. It sounds as if this is what has happened.

The dissertation’s main topic was actually about how these community run libraries perpetuate the digital divide, particularly in areas of deprivation where fewer households than the national average have internet access. I believe this subject is extremely important to our role as librarians. Helping people access and use computers in order to make use of the wealth of information online (at a basic level to be able to fill in official documents such as benefits forms as well as for the economics benefits) is a key part our remit. Of course, the web offers far more than just economic savings; the opportunity for using it for education and socially is just as important and excluding parts of the population feels very wrong to me.

Having attended this conference I now know more about why having collection policies and why how subjects are classified is important. This understanding will be beneficial to me as a professional as I wanted to learn about our ethics and how I can be more ethical in the way that I work. I am going to discuss with my manager whether we should keyword LGBT books on our catalogue separately, although this may happen more naturally when we change LMS in the Spring.

I am also going to keep up to date with the information relating to library advocacy as it is a subject close to my heart as I disagree strongly with the way that so many public libraries are being shut or run by community groups.

Thanks to Alison for her thoughts on LISDIS, sounds like it was a very interesting and useful day! All presentation from the conference, along with Storify stories from the day, are available on the LISDIS website.

Photo credits: Laura Williams


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.

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