Context, collaboration, and reframing: 2019 Cambridge Teaching Forum

I’ve just left this year’s Cambridge Teaching Forum, an annual event that brings together external speakers, and all those at the University of Cambridge with responsibility for, and/or interest in, teaching and learning in a higher education context. The theme of the day was very much inclusivity and widening participation, but for me these higher level, overarching themes were distilled down into context, collaboration, and reframing. By context, I mean that inclusivity endeavours need to be context-specific, are the collaborative efforts of all concerned, and, if they are to be effective, involve reframing of assumptions and understanding.


A very obvious example of this was made by Professor Graham Virgo in his opening address: when we talk about widening participation, why do we always default to talking about undergraduate admissions? What about postgraduates? What about distance and online learning?

If we reframe what we mean by widening participation to expand beyond just undergraduates, we will, therefore, end up being more inclusive in a wider range of contexts.

Similarly, reframing how university administrations understand disability (i.e. the medical model versus the social model of disability) can lead to fewer barriers and ensure that teaching is accessible and inclusive.

Collaboration in an educational context can be difficult, but it is key if we want to effect real change, and there were a number of presentations at the forum that presented case studies of effective collaboration. Dr John Williams (of the Linguistics faculty) and Rupert Brown (of Engineering) collaborated on building an essay writing toolkit for Linguistics students — a fantastic resource addressing a need for students to have explicit guidance on subject-specific essay-writing techniques. The toolkit is online, embedded in the curriculum (it’s only introduced after five weeks of teaching so that students have had the chance to write an essay and have it assessed), and involves interviews with third-year students talking about the learning process of constructing an essay, as well as videos and transcripts from lecturers dissecting good and bad essays and explaining their rationale for judging them as such. It’s a brilliant example of different groups within higher education working together to address a concern within teaching and learning.

Similarly, Dr Riika Hofmann noted that collaboration between educational researchers and teaching practitioners is key, but is often missing due to communication barriers (researchers publish in academic journals, and practioners only hear about the research if it’s essentially imposed top down as institutional or government policy). Dr Naomi Winstone, the guest speaker who joined us from the University of Surrey, spoke of feedback as a collaborative process between teacher and learner(s). She argued for a need to reframe feedback in this manner, rather than perceiving it as a gift that is imposed on the student, who passively receives it from the teacher.

This reframing requires students to take responsibility for, and reflect on, their learning, and teachers to understand feedback as a dialogue. Dr Winstone noted that Cambridge, with its one-to-one supervisions, has already structured teaching and learning in this dialogic way. This, of course, relies on establishing shared expectations between supervisor and supervisee — and is not limited to undergraduates. As Dr Sofia Ropek Hewson noted in the closing panel discussion, these shared expectations are essential for a harmonious working relationship between postgraduate students and their supervisors.

As always, I left the forum with lots of food for thought, and will be mulling over ways to incorporate what I learnt in both my teaching practice, and in my ongoing work towards a postgraduate certificate in teaching and learning in higher education. I strongly recommend all those responsible for teaching in Cambridge — including librarians — to attend the next forum.

Posted in conferences, personal narrative, teaching and training | Tagged , | Leave a comment

UHMLG Spring Forum

The theme of this year’s UHMLG Spring Forum was ‘Literacy in all its forms – digital, academic, information, health, and more,’ but from my perspective, the theme was very much about the crucial role that collaboration and engagement play in ensuring that library services are as effective as possible. This theme permeated every presentation, whether the library in question was academic, NHS — or not even a library at all! Engagement needs to go both ways — just as there’s no point developing a new service without input from library users, there also needs to be top level buy-in and institutional support if new services are to be used. This was made clear in every presentation throughout the day.


As the first keynote speaker, Dr Helen Webster, head of Newcastle University’s Writing Development Centre, noted during her keynote speech on delivering academic skills to university students, those of us who teach information literacy in a university setting can often struggle with student perceptions: we are teaching them what they perceive to be generic skills, divorced from the subject-specific material taught by lecturers and tutors in their course, and it can sometimes be difficult to convince them of the value of what we do.

This is why it’s essential for any academic/study/information literacy skills support to be fully embedded in the curriculum, with all academic staff aware of its existence, what it covers, and where it can help. In an ideal world, IL skills content would be developed in collaboration with the relevant academic teaching staff and students, and, at the very least, linked explicitly to assessed course content. This was the case for the LEAP Online digital literacy elearning material developed by Dawn Grundy, Graeme Prescott and colleagues at Bolton University. Crucially, all teaching staff are aware of the material’s existence, and it’s embedded into the university’s VLE, meaning that if an academic feels after marking a student’s essay that the student needs further support in e.g. referencing, they can point the student towards the relevant elearning tutorial, and the student receives a badge for completion which is indicated in their record. Anything less than this level of embeddedness, and you run the risk that the academics miss opportunities to point their students towards targeted support, or tie such support to specific assessed work or learning outcomes.

Hannah Bond of UWE Bristol recommended a similar level of embeddedness and engagement when it comes to developing peer learning programs, such as the PAL program offered at her university. This involves students teaching their near peers a range of academic and study skills — everything from constructing an essay to managing time and mental health. The student teachers are trained, paid for their work, and work with library staff to develop the teaching materials. Again, although some of the PAL courses are open to anyone, some are only offered if a course (i.e. a lecturer, tutor or similar) requests them, meaning, again, that the program has a high level of engagement and buy-in at an institutional level.

The risks of not having that level of institutional support can be demonstrated by the dismal state of information literacy teaching in the school curriculum.

Thankfully, as Lisa Jeskins of the CILIP IL group noted, having CILIP’s new information literacy definition has proved very helpful — it’s been brought out in various contexts for advocacy purposes with great success, and helped in forging connections with other groups concerned with IL issues (such as media watchdogs and government departments concerned with combating fake news). This, again, highlights the need for high level support of library professionals’ information literacy advocacy, training, and projects more generally.

Moving into other areas of people’s lives, the other keynote talks of the day also stressed the importance of collaboration and dialogue. Ruth Carlyle, Head of the NHS Library and Knowledge Service, in her talk on health literacy emphasised the need for empathy and effective communication, because the consequences of miscommunication and health illiteracy can be fatal.

As she noted, even hospital signage can lead to confusion:

Cheryl Morgan, of the Diversity Trust, also stressed the need for both empathy and genuine engagement in order to ensure that we as information professionals are literate with the experiences and concerns of our transgender library users (and, indeed, where applicable, transgender colleagues). For her the most important things for us to remember are firstly that transgender people are the best (and only) authorities on their own identities, needs, names and pronouns, that the process of legally transitioning is lengthy, stressful, and complicated, and that services and support for transgender students at university should best be developed (and, ideally, led) by transgender people.

I have to confess that as I was presenting a lightning talk in the final session of the day, I did not take in as much as I should have from my fellow lightning talk presenters, but I did observe that all shared this common element of collaboration, and success due in a large part to the support of decision makers within their institutions. If you would like to see my slides, or the slides of any other Forum presenters, you can do so here on the UHMLG blog, where all slides have been uploaded. The conference was also recorded, and videos will be uploaded later, so watch this space!

Posted in academic libraries, CILIP, conferences, nhs libraries, personal narrative | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Making libraries accessible to disabled users

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a very useful training session delivered by Aless McCann of the University’s Disability Resource Centre to a group of library staff. The aim of the session was to get us thinking about accessbility in our libraries — not just the physical spaces (which in Cambridge, with its numerous heritage listed buildings, may not be something within our control to change), but also the resources we provide, our library websites and other electronic materials, and how we communicate with users both in-person and via email and phone. We were also encouraged to make a plan for some short-term and long-term actions we could take to improve accessibility in our libraries.

A lot of the material Aless covered was common sense: be aware of invisible disabilities such as mental illnesses or learning disabilities, be mindful of the fact that disabled library users may not have disclosed their disabilities (and don’t rely on them to do so), and rather than thinking of accessibility as being something ‘extra’ that is added to existing services or spaces, develop or adapt library provision and physical spaces to be as broadly accessible as possible. After all, accessbility is of benefit not just to an individual disabled student who may have requested it, but also to other users as well. Take the example of a visually impaired student who requires electronic, screen-readable versions of reading list material: purchasing ebooks for this user means that all library users now have access to those ebooks (especially if the license allows multiple users), meaning pressure is eased on physical collections of core textbooks.

balls of knitting wool in a variety of colours

Balls of knitting wool in a variety of colours.

So much of library work is centred on communication: face-to-face at the enquiry desk, online via emails, social media and websites, or through posters and other visual material in the physical library space. There are ways to build more accessibility into our everyday practice in these areas. San serif fonts in a dark colour on a light background (the University recommends Arial) are more easily readable to those with dyslexia, and italics should be avoided if at all possible. Images (and this can include PDFs) are not readable with screen-reading technology, and therefore cause problems for visually impaired users. The solution is to caption all images, including images and gifs added to tweets. Here are the instructions for doing so on Twitter, and that’s certainly something I will be doing on my library’s Twitter account from now on. These are the instructions for adding image descriptions in alt-text in Instagram, and if your library uses Facebook, alt-text descriptions are already automatically added to all images uploaded there. If your library produces video content, such as information literacy skills tutorials, these need to include captions, or an accompanying transcription.

Aless also made some suggestions about library spaces and equipment that had not occurred to me: ergonomic chairs and desks with adjustable heights, the option for library users to reserve specific desks or spaces (this may be desirable for people with anxiety, or autistic people with sensory issues, or people with mobility issues), and flexibility on the part of staff working on the enquiry desk being able to move into a quieter area if a user is finding the noise or busyness around the enquiry desk to be too overwhelming but needs questions answered by the staff member.

The final key takeaway from the session was that while a library that is accessible to all is obviously very desirable, library staff do not have to make the desired changes alone. Disabled people are, after all, the best judges of their own accessibility needs, and the Disability Resource Centre’s website provides a comprehensive overview of tools, resources and software available. Updating your library’s website to provide details of this content and the support available to disabled students (for free) is a good first step, as well as ensuring that the entire library team is familiar with this material and the guidance provided by the DRC about how to make libraries, training, and online content accessible to all. I will certainly be making some changes to our library’s website, as well as some adjustments to how I use social media, and training materials, and deliver my teaching sessions. Yesterday’s session with Aless was both a refresher in information I already knew, and a spur to further action, and I strongly recommend all Cambridge library staff take the opportunity to attend, should it be run again.

Posted in academic libraries, library services, personal narrative, teaching and training | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Barriers in landscapes of the mind: Cambridge Libraries Conference 2019

The annual Cambridge Libraries Conference, held in January every year, is always a wonderful way to ease back into work after the Christmas break. This year, although I was sadly only able to be there for the first half of the day, the conference was particularly intellectually engaging — a great way to kickstart my brain for a new year of teaching, research support, outreach, reader support, and, above all, learning.

As always in my conference write-ups, I will not attempt to provide a blow-by-blow description of events as they unfolded, but rather pull out what I feel were the main themes of the day and how they relate to my own work and workplace. For a live recap of the day as a whole, I recommend the #camlibs19 hashtag on Twitter.

For me, although the conference’s theme was ‘exploring and collaborating’, the common thread was an emphasis on what I think of as hidden landscapes of the mind: shaped by language and (choice of) terminology, people’s experiences and identities, and our everyday interactions with physical and digital spaces and the people and resources therein. And, above all, that there can be barriers within these landscapes of the mind, thrown up unintentionally (or with the best possible intentions) or deliberately.

image _blogpost_cambridge libraries conference 2019

You might be wondering at this point what all this has to do with libraries. These barriers come into play in numerous different ways. They may appear, for instance, if library professionals are careless in use of terminoogy — words which we think of as commonplace and easily comprehensible, such as ‘library catalogue’ or ‘interlibrary loan’ may be misinterpreted or misunderstood by library users, leading to a lack of engagement with vital resources and services, or making users feel excluded or anxious about using the library. This was a point raised by Dr Philippa Sheail, of the University of Edinburgh, in her keynote address entitled ‘What Makes a Library?’ Likewise, the maze of digital architecture through which users of academic libraries must navigate to access eresources — particularly when off-campus — is opaque, confusing, and for many, downright incomprehensible, making it another barrier between users and vital services. This has certainly been my experience when trying to explain to users how to access electronic resources remotely, particularly when they have navigated to journal websites via Google rather than the library discovery system. Dr Sheail’s talk similarly drew attention to the interaction between library users’ mental landscapes and the physical library environments, highlighting the deeply psychological and emotional reasons people might have for moving through and using library spaces in the ways that they do. She also stressed that we as academic librarians need to shed some assumptions about how familiar student users might be with libraries when they first enter university: for many, their university library will be the first time they’ve encountered a library, and we need to take care and empathy with how we handle this.

We moved from barriers within library spaces (digital and physical) to barriers in the profession as a whole in the first (and sadly only) parallel session I was able to attend, a fantastic talk on diversity in the library sector by Jennifer Bayjoo, of Leeds Beckett University and DILON. Bayjoo brought home not only the shocking whiteness of librarianship as a profession (nearly 97% of library/information professionals in the UK identify as white), but the terrible strain this puts on the few non-white library professionals — the isolation, unchallenged (or excused away) microaggressions, the feeling of having to constantly speak up alone against racism both individual and institutional, and so on. The barriers of the mind in question here are not the (very real) barriers facing non-white library professionals, but rather shared perceptions of the (white) profession as a whole of libraries being ‘neutral’, ‘nice’, ‘safe’, ‘friendly’ spaces, and library/information services as a heroic profession bringing knowledge to all who need it in a friendly and caring manner. These shared perceptions can make us feel warm and fuzzy, but they are not conducive to either listening to our non-white colleagues (Bayjoo noted that challenging the ‘niceness’ of the library can lead to people being perceived as constantly, unjustifiably angry or disruptive) or enacting genuine, meaningful change. We as white library professionals need to commit to truly listening to colleagues such as Bayjoo when they make themselves vulnerable by talking about these issues, and to come up with concrete ways to address their concerns. Lip service to a ‘commitment to diversity’ is not enough. My fear, as always when attending talks, workshops and similar events on diversity (whether that be on axes of race, sexuality, gender identity, disability, class, or any combination thereof) is that the attendees are generally people who recognise that there is a problem and want to confirm that there are ways in which they can use their privilege to address it. Largely absent from such events are those who truly need to hear their message: that there is a genuine crisis when it comes to racial diversity within librarianship, that this is doing serious and exhausting damage to people outside the white majority, and that white library professionals have a responsibility to take on the work necessary to address it. Otherwise those barriers in the profession’s mental landscape — the warm and cuddly self-perception — will remain.

It seems, therefore, that mental landscapes — and the barriers and roadblocks within them — will figure largely in my professional life, how I engage with my work and my wider profession this year and beyond. I’m grateful to the two speakers for sparking this focus and understanding.

Posted in academic libraries, conferences, libraries@cambridge, personal narrative | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

2018 in review

My last group training session (teaching fifteen medical students how to do a systematic review, and letting them loose on a variety of medical and scientific databases to try out their searching skills) for the year was a week ago, and my last one-to-one teaching (facilitating a research nurse’s critical appraisal of a published article) happened yesterday. The stream of users returning books before heading off on holiday has slowed to a trickle, and all that’s left are a few hardy souls studying quietly, so it’s time to pause and reflect on the year that was.


2018 was a year of a lot of professional achievements for me, and I feel privileged that I work in an environment were professional development is so supported, giving me the time and other help I needed to attend conferences, workshops, meetings for collaborative projects, and so on. This year, on top of my day-to-day teaching, training, and reader services work, I have:

  • Presented a lightning talk at the annual Cambridge Libraries Conference, and had another abstract accepted to present at next year’s conference in January. This lightning talk will be presented jointly with a colleague.
  • Presented at EAHIL – my first international library conference. My EAHIL presentation was a workshop led by me and two other colleagues.
  • Helped develop two new courses (on top of the ten existing courses) to teach in the library.
  • Taught collaboratively with other STEM librarians at the University.
  • Done a collaborative outreach/education project with colleagues from two other library sectors, working with library users I don’t normally deal with on a day-to-day basis.
  • Submitted my CILIP chartership portfolio and become a chartered member of CILIP.
  • Contributed to two major cross-University library projects: the Futurelib ‘Student Learning Journey’ project (which looked at the learning experience of undergraduate and taught postgraduate students at the University), and CILN, the Cambridge Information Literacy Network. The Futurelib project has wrapped up and published the resulting report; CILN’s first-year outputs are mostly complete, but that project remains ongoing and I will be a part of it in 2019 as well.
  • Got accepted onto and begun studying for the University’s Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education course. It had long been a desire of mine to obtain a formal qualification in teaching, and this course had a reputation for being very competitive and difficult to get into. I believe I am only the equal-second (there’s another librarian on the current course) librarian ever to be accepted on the course; all other students are academic staff.
  • And, as a final piece of good news to end the year, I found out yesterday that TWO of my abstracts were accepted at LILAC — one for a solo presentation, the other for a presentation with a colleague. It will be my first time presenting at a conference focused on information literacy, and only my second time presenting at a non-Cambridge library conference.

So, all in all, it’s been a pretty good year professionally. Let’s hope 2019 brings more of the same, plus some new challenges!

Posted in personal narrative | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Midlands and East NHS Libraries Event

Yesterday I headed up to Leicester to attend a day conference for NHS librarians working in the Midlands and East of England region. Leadership, technology, and leadership through technology were definitely the themes of the day, and it was interesting to see what colleagues in other Trusts were doing in these areas. In addition to these more big picture concerns, I picked up a couple of useful tips that will be useful on a day-to-day basis in my own work, which is always a sign of a worthwhile conference!

As always, I will not provide a blow-by-blow recap of the event, but rather pull out a few key themes that I found most relevant.

The future of the profession — and the opportunities and challenges thereof — was a subject that haunted many of the presentations. There was a lot of talk of the impending arrival of automation (‘are you prepared for when the robots take you job?’ was a question asked by many of the keynote speakers), and the challenge of trying to do less with more, lighting the way as a profession through the fog of fake news, and the impending retirement of many information professionals. Nick Poole, CEO of CILIP, made a point which I’d not previously seen raised in contexts like the conference, namely that more people are entering the profession as a second career, rather than the ‘traditional’ route of traineeship, library school, and then a first ‘professional’ librarianship job. That certainly describes me, my husband, and many other colleagues, and my remark to this effect sparked a little discussion on Twitter as to whether we’re not actually facing a crisis of retiring senior library/information professionals, but rather not recognising that there is a huge cohort of information professionals in the field, but who are struggling to be recognised professionally due to lack of ‘traditional’ librarianship qualifications.

Amanda Parker of University Hospitals of Derby and Burton highlighted changes to leadership style in that Trust — mainly an emphasis on a more collaborative and reflective leadership style — which I feel, were they to be implemented more widely, point the way forward to a bright future. In essence, the collaborative leadership style she outlined involves empathy, with no assumptions that the response to a colleague or employee’s problem will be a one size fits all solution. Instead, staff should try to be aware of what colleagues are experiencing, and respond appropriately, with their actions underpinned by reflection and understanding of that individual colleague’s personality and needs.

As always, when there are lots of librarians gathered together, there was lots of enthusiasm for the possibilities offered by technology. Several speakers stressed the need for NHS librarians to take responsibility for their own professional development and continue to keep their knowledge and skills up to date with relevant digital tools, apps and so on. The idea is not just to learn how to use these tools and teach users, but approach them critically, appraising them for reliability, usefulness, and appropriateness to users’ needs. I feel this is an incredibly worthy aim, but saw one possible barrier:

One of the persistent problems in our profession is visibility, and lots of discussion at conferences is taken up with suggestions for solutions to tackle this problem. I don’t have any answers (and I think in many cases solutions are going to be highly context specific), but I did agree with Sue Lacey-Bryant of Health Education England, who advised librarians to get beyond the mere statistics and provide impact case studies: real-world examples of people whose lives and work were changed by their use of library services.

Certainly two of my favourites of the many wonderful posters took the approach advocated by Sue:

And the need to make my case using real-world examples rather than abstract description was brought home for me in one of the parallel sessions, in which Ian Rennie of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust talked about online tools to facilitate collaborative work. I have had a frustrating experience trying to get colleagues on a collaborative project using Trello (rather than email and face-to-face conversations and the resulting problems with version control), and have possibly be guilty of similar things myself when not making use of a project leader’s preferred platforms in other collaborative work, and asked Ian for tips in getting reluctant users to move to different online platforms. Ian’s advice was to use real-world examples of those platforms’ benefits: show colleagues what it looks like to see someone using them, and how this helped, saved time, and so on, rather than just asking them to move somewhere they are uncomfortable and expecting them to adapt.

Image - Blog - Sunrise

I left the event with the impression that we as a profession face many challenges — some of which are beyond our ability to control — but that collaboration, adaptability, and communication would stand us in good stead to greet whatever lies beyond the horizon.

Posted in conferences, nhs libraries | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Forging connections: EAHIL 2018

This year’s European Association for Health Information and Libraries (EAHIL) conference started as it meant to go on: with great style and artistry.

The conference was held in Cardiff, and its theme was Inspiring, Involving, Informing. It was certainly all those things for me: I came away with lots of new ideas, learnt a lot from my colleagues from all over Europe (and further afield), and got involved myself, delivering my first ever library conference workshop! It was a great experience, and quite impossible to sum up in full in a single blog post, so as always when writing these kinds of recaps, I will attempt to distill a few key themes which I felt were common throughout the conference as a whole. I have highlighted changes in practice that I plan to make as a result of what I learnt from this multisector conference in bold.

Image_EAHIL 2018_Weaving

My first main takeaway was that we as information professionals should not be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, and that we should be reflective and adaptable, especially in the face of evidence from our library users. This theme came through most strongly in a presentation by Jane Falconer, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, on the quality and reporting in published systematic reviews. Her presentation elicited a few groans from the audience of information professionals, who reacted in horror to some of the badly-reported database search strategies in published systematic reviews. Jane’s solution to this persistent problem was a shift in emphasis in terminology (a familiar concern in library circles, where there is ongoing discussion on the value of persisting in using librarianish terminology when it confuses users) – in this case, stop calling it a ‘literature search’ and start calling it ‘data collection’. At present, the suspicion is that researchers seeking to conduct a systematic review do not perceive the database searching stage as a scientific process – because this stage of the systematic review is frequently performed by a librarian (a non-scientist, from the researcher’s perspective), it’s seen as something that has to be done before the ‘real’ science can take place. If it’s not viewed as part of the scientific process, it’s not reported in a way that can be replicated – in other words, it’s not reported in a scientifically rigorous way. The solution: change the way we talk about literature searching, and call it ‘data collection’ in order to emphasise its fundamental role in the scientific method.

Another suggestion was to provide researchers with a PRISMA flowchart with the first section filled in with database names and numbers of results found, as a gentle way to encourage them to continue to fill in the flowchart as they work their way through the screening process during their systematic review. Systematic reviews are hard work and very time-consuming, so anything we can do to encourage good practice and make this easier for researchers should be encouraged. We need to stand up for our professional skills and expertise and emphasise the scientific methodology these skills follow in systematic reviews, or else the poor reporting Jane outlined will continue.

A presentation by Bob Gann of NHS Digital, England, on encouraging digital health literacy brought home to me the need to free myself from preconceptions about what users need and want, and to involve them, if at all possible, in every stage of the design of services. Bob was involved in codesigning digital health resources for members of the public, and this offered many opportunities to challenge conventional thinking about how particular user groups (e.g. elderly people, young people, homeless people) engaged with online resources. I was really interested to hear this talk, as Bob works for a different sector (in this case, health information services for the general public – almost like working for a public library, but with a health specialism) and thus engages with a completely different user group to those with whom I work (students, researchers, and healthcare professionals). What I took away from his presentation was that codesign is a great opportunity to overturn conventional wisdom: older people are often very technologically literature and comfortable using platforms such as Facebook and Skype for healthcare (as they already use these platforms socially and see no conflict in using them for other purposes), whereas young people, while very comfortable online, may resist using spaces they perceive as fun, social platforms for other purposes. While my own role does not involve working with the general public, this was useful information — obviously I teach a lot of medical students, who are mainly young people, and I will bear in mind the aversion noted to repurposing social media platforms for other activities when developing online outreach and learning materials and involve representative groups of users in designing services and resources wherever practical.

The second major theme of the conference was the fact that learning can come from anywhere, and we as librarians should keep our minds and eyes open and learn at every opportunity, no matter how unorthodox or unexpected. For example, it would never have occurred to me to bring together arts/humanities and the sciences in such a comprehensive way as that developed by Tiina Heino and Katri Larmo of Helsinki University Library as a project called Lux Humana.

Likewise, I never would have expected a hands-on workshop about learning from professional failure (delivered by Tom Roper of Brighton and Sussex NHS Library and Knowledge Service and Elinor Harriss of Bodleian Health Care Libraries) to be the place where I discovered a new form of polling software, Mentimeter. I will certainly be investigating Mentimeter further and possibly using it where appropriate in my own training delivery.

The workshop I delivered was on coping with change and planning for the future. I delivered it alongside Eleanor Barker and Jo Milton, two colleagues from my library. The workshop was very hands-on, as we were keen to let participants bring their own experiences and ideas to the table without much prompting and direction from us, and involved planning changed delivery of services, communicating those changes to users and measuring their impact, and managing staff throughout those changes, in the face of a large change to the library (for example a loss of space or budget, a reduced number of staff, or the like). The session went very well, and it was particularly great to hear from people working in so many different countries and sectors: we had attendees from hospital libraries, higher education libraries, research institutions, and the US National Library of Medicine.

As well as learning from this diverse range of experiences, I also took the opportunity to reflect on the experience of delivering a workshop at a large international professional conference, and to see what I would do differently the next time this opportunity arose. Two changes I would definitely make next time are to allow more time for feedback and discussion, and to provide scenarios for each small group, rather than expecting them to come up with hypothetical situations of change on their own. We did allow half an hour of small-group discussion, and twenty-five minutes of feedback and questions, but I think the latter in particular could have done with more time. Likewise a lot of time was wasted in the small-group discussions while groups came up with scenarios for their library changes, leaving them less time to plan solutions to those changes. Next time I deliver a workshop of this nature, I will pay more attention to whether my planned structure will allow sufficient time for comprehensive group discussion, and incorporate enough time for this into the workshop running order.

I thus left Cardiff engaged, involved, and inspired. Opportunities such as this to learn from — and teach — my community of professional peers are incredibly valuable, and I highly recommend taking advantage of them if you are able. In particular, take the plunge and submit your own abstract for a presentation, poster or workshop. We know more than we think, and if EAHIL 2018 has taught me anything, learning can come from the most unexpected people, and everyone has a lot to offer the library and information community in terms of knowledge, experience, and expertise.

Posted in conferences, library blogging, personal narrative | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment