I haven’t blogged about a conference for a while, largely as I tend to tweet any highlights, and I prefer to write reflectively rather than descriptive as many of my previous conference blog posts were. However, this week I attended CILIP Conference 2015 and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to blog some of my highlights as I reflect now it’s over. It’s caused me to think about things differently, and really opened my mind to some things I hadn’t previously fully appreciated.
The keynote sessions I attended were varied in terms of background and topic, as well as their approach to the talk (since doing more public speaking I often find myself examining the way others present whilst listening to the content). One of the things I loved about CILIP Umbrella 2013 was the keynotes, specifically the fact that there was something to be taken from each keynote for everyone in the audience. That’s not an easy thing with as varied an audience you will find at CILIP conferences – there will be librarians and information workers from such a variety of different sectors and organisations. I was really pleased to discover the same was true from the keynotes this year; regardless of background I am sure there was at least one take home point for everyone in the audience for each talk. The overarching themes all had relevance to the library and information profession, and they celebrated our similarities as a profession rather than highlighting our differences. The speakers were inspirational and at times challenging, and gave me a lot to think about. They spoke with passion and emotion, and drew the audience in.
One keynote in particular really touched me; Erwin James. He spoke honestly about his journey including some of his early life, his time in prison, his rehabilitation (supported hugely by the prison library), and a little about his time since release. The nature of his story was of course highly emotional, but some of what he talked about, particularly the importance of hope and valuing yourself was a pertinent reminder of just how crucial that is, and how important other people can be in helping us get to a better place if we start to lose that hope or perception of our value. I found his story fascinating, and his delivery so natural; I was completely transfixed during the talk, and even now, a few hours later, I am still mulling over some of what he shared this afternoon.
I took some time after lunch on the first day of the conference to explore the exhibition and chat to the exhibitors. The lure of the iPad competition helped initially (to enter the draw you had to collect a sticker from each exhibitor – an idea that works well), but I found that I was really enjoying chatting to the exhibitors and learning more about what they offer. Realistically, in my role I’m very unlikely to be purchasing anything from the exhibitors, but I may know someone who might want to, and I feel far more informed now than I did two days ago! I learned about some new products and services, and was able to share some of my experiences with those who were there to understand more about the current state of the profession. I enjoyed myself so much that I ended up staying in the exhibition all afternoon! I’ll definitely be making an effort to spend more time in the exhibition at future conferences; the exhibitors help make the conference what it is by providing funding and sponsorship, and they’re all there to help the profession. Often I feel like the exhibitors are seen as sales people, and of course some of them are, but that’s just one part of who they are and I had a really good time getting to know them and their products/services.
The library and information sector is full of fascinating people, and I’ve had some great conversations over the last few days. I spent time with people I’ve met at previous conferences, some I communicate with on social media, and some I’ve not met before. I’ve spoken to fellow delegates, exhibitors, and CILIP staff. Without exception everyone I spoke to had something interesting to share, and I really enjoyed being able to learn more about the diverse roles within our profession.
The sense of community
As a librarian who doesn’t really work in a library (I’m technically part of the library in terms of structure, but I don’t spend any time in the library), and doesn’t do any librarian tasks any more, often taking on more of a consultancy role or that of a trainer I can find that sometimes I’m not sure where my ‘home’ is in terms of professional organisations. However, the common thread across all my work is that it supports other librarians, and I found that I not only got value from the content of the conference (which is difficult given the unusual nature of my role!) but also felt like I was part of a community, and not just that but a really excellent community (or perhaps ‘awesome’ is a more appropriate term as R. David Lankes used in his keynote!).
Perhaps I’m getting better at explaining what it is I do, or perhaps the current projects I work on are things that are a bit easier to explain, but so many people made me feel welcome and commented that my role sounded really interesting. Often I feel like I need to use the caveat, “Well I’m not really a librarian any more”, but aside from a few early conversations in the exhibition I didn’t do this often at all at the CILIP Conference; I didn’t need to because everyone accepted and respected the fact that our profession is so diverse, and I really felt like I belonged there.
Since learning more about the things that drive me and the things I’m really passionate about, I’ve been able to share these with people and am fortunate to have been able to start to work on some of them. The day before the CILIP Conference was the launch of the CILIP Leadership Programme, which is something I’ve been wanting to see come into fruition for a long time and am delighted to be part of. I was very touched by how supportive people have been during both the programme launch and the conference; some people very kindly thanked me for the part I’ve played in getting to where we are, and others have offered their own support to help towards the programme. It’s wonderful to be part of something that I’m so passionate about, and to find others who feel the same and really want to make the programme a success. So many people, both CILIP staff and CILIP members, have already been incredibly helpful and supportive, and I really appreciate it (and am sure the participants do too).
I also presented at the conference about a couple of work projects, and spoke to a number of people outside the sessions about some of the other things I’m passionate about. Again I was bowled over by how supportive people were, and had some really exciting conversations. It’s great to find people who have similar passions or who really see the benefit in what you want to do.
I really enjoyed the CILIP Conference and think this will be a conference I will aim to attend each year if I can. I love the cross-sectoral nature of the event, both in terms of content focus and delegates. Of course I do think there are some things that could be improved, and I have some ideas which I will be including in my feedback form, but overall it was a truly excellent event and one I’m sure I’ll be thinking about for a long time.
I still find it helpful to use the ‘What next?’ question to encourage me to think about how I might apply what I have learnt for future, and in fact I’m likely to be getting back into the habit of more regular reflective writing, so what am I going to do as a result of the conference?
Firstly, I’ll be making sure the CILIP Events team get feedback from me via the feedback survey to help with future planning, so I’ll be sharing all the positives as well as some future considerations such as improving time keeping (or restructuring the day to help with this) and encouraging people from all sectors to share a bit about their work. I’d like to see something like a “Day in the life of a…” strand where you can go along and hear people talk a little bit about what they do. I’d love to learn more about the different roles within the profession and would like to see something fairly informal/conversational (so it’s not a huge undertaking for people who are willing to share) and interactive so people can ask questions about what it is like to work in different parts of the sector.
Secondly, I’m going to be mulling over Erwin’s talk for a while but his message about the importance of hope I think will stick with me. It’s very pertinent for me at the moment and I’m going to be thinking about what that means for me, as well as how I can support others when they’re not feeling so good. I’d also like to learn more about prison libraries, and would really like to either visits one or speak to a prison librarians about their work (if anyone is reading this who is a prison librarian, or knows one, please let me know!).
Thirdly, I had a bit of an epiphany during an impact masterclass when I suddenly realised that although I support libraries in demonstrating their impact, I don’t actually do this for my own work. I’m planning to discuss this with my manager and hopefully do some follow up work to understand more about the impact of workshops I have delivered.
I’m also going to be registering for CILIP Fellowship soon, and plan to attend CILIP Conference next year if I can. I feel really invigorated after the conference, and despite the tiredness I also feel mentally refreshed and enthused (hence writing this blog post straight away!).
I highly recommend the CILIP Conference – it’s a great event to attend to open your mind and inspire (and possibly challenge your views), and to help you learn more about the profession as a whole – there’s so many similarities despite the differences, and CILIP Conference offers a unique opportunity to bring people together to discuss this on a broader level.