CILIP Conference 2015

 Laura Dobie

The 2015 CILIP Conference was an informative and inspiring two days that provided much food for thought and showcased the great work that is being carried out across many different sectors. I was very fortunate to be able to attend through a sponsored place from the Information Services Group.

The varied programme covered four themes: information management; information literacy and digital inclusion; demonstrating value and digital futures and technology. I attended mostly information management sessions, as I felt that these were most relevant to my role in knowledge management at Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

Diverse keynote speakers

The conference’s diverse keynote speakers covered a range of issues in library and information work.

  1. David Lankes reflected on the challenges facing public libraries and how to address these through his Action Plan for World Domination through Librarianship. He stressed the need for librarians to address their anxieties around competing with Google, Apple and Amazon (we are not!), control the narrative around libraries and move from the negative narrative of crisis to positive messages, get invited into communities by being present at their events, and to ensure that the work that they do adds value.

Author and blogger Cory Doctorow gave a very interesting talk on digital rights management from an artist’s perspective. He argued that DRM is a bad deal for both creators and audiences alike, and that artists should oppose surveillance and censorship.

IFLA’s Stuart Hamilton discussed the contribution that information and libraries can make to UN sustainable goals. He stressed that information is fundamental to development, promotes better decision-making, helps people exercise their rights and promotes accountability, He observed that libraries are powerful partners to deliver services to help people access information to support local development, as they are locally based, publicly funded and sustainable, staffed by professionals and trusted by communities they serve.

I was particularly touched by the work of Bibliothèques Sans Frontières, who produce and distribute the Ideas Box, a portable media centre for refugee and vulnerable populations. Director Barbara Schack observed that humanitarian assistance tends to focus on basic needs for food and shelter, but that Bibliothèques Sans Frontières aims to create spaces where people can be human beings again, which address their educational and cultural needs and allow them to look beyond survival.

Liberty’s Shami Chakrabarti gave a very compelling account of Human Rights Act abuses in 2015. She highlighted challenges to privacy and made the case for proportionate, targeted surveillance, rather than blanket surveillance of the whole population.

Joseph O’Leary gave an interesting overview of Full Fact, who meticulously fact-checked claims made by politicians during the 2015 general election. The organization aims to present facts to allow people to make informed decisions and to prevent spread of unsubstantiated information. Their experience demonstrated that it is possible to fact-check an election impartially, and on a massive scale, and it was interesting to find out how they take masses of information and produce an output that people find valuable and useful.

I have always considered that prison libraries play an important role in rehabilitation, and Erwin James’ account of his time in prison and the book that changed his life clearly demonstrated the potential for books and prison libraries to help convicted criminals to turn their lives around.

Focusing on personal interests for professional development

The break out sessions offered a great opportunity to focus on my own professional interests.

Sandra Ward gave a very interesting account of the development of information management and increasing information management challenges. She questioned whether organisations recognised the importance of information management and argued that they were wasting a lot of money through search inefficiency.

I particularly enjoyed hearing from Stephen Latham on knowledge management activities in government. It was interesting learning about efforts to develop knowledge and information management skills in government and provide interesting and rewarding careers in knowledge and information management in the civil service.

Christie Wiley offered advice on approaches to valuing an academic library, and I really enjoyed Suzanne Wilson’s presentation, which explained how an outcomes chain was used to demonstrate the impact of a clinical enquiry and response service. This service summarises evidence in short digests to support clinicians in decision making. The outcomes chain is a very useful tool for considering what success looks like at different stages of a piece of work, and identifying the areas over which you have direct control, direct influence and indirect influence.

I’m particularly interested in how social media and online tools can be used to collect and present information in engaging formats, so I found Stephen Dale’s session on content curation really interesting. He covered a lot of tools in a short session, some of which I had used before and liked, and others with which I was unfamiliar, which I’m sure will come in useful in my work in the future.

The social side…

The conference also offered numerous opportunities for socialising and networking, with an interesting Fringe programme that offered more informal activities. I particularly enjoyed the Ideas Box workshop, in which we explored how the Ideas Box could be used in different contexts in the UK.

The Museum of Liverpool provided a fantastic setting for the drinks reception, and allowed me to fulfil an ambition I’d always had to look round a museum after closing time!

Rounding things off

Jan Parry’s presidential address rounded off the two days with advice on how librarians can make more of an impact. She recommended that librarians should assess whether their job descriptions reflect the work that they do, invite senior staff in to see their service, ensure that they are business-ready and review their services to assess whether they are fit for purpose.

The two days were action-packed, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. The event helped to broaden my understanding of work and challenges in different sectors, and I have come away with lots of ideas that I can apply in my day-to-day work.

Refer 31 (3) Autumn 2015

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