The theme this year was “Challenges, Choices and Opportunities” and the programme of the conference highlighted a number of related issues, which librarians and libraries may face now or in the future. The conference started with CILIPS President Robert Ruthven’s welcoming introduction. He gave us an overview of this year’s theme and the excellent program that was created by the CILIPS team.
It was followed by Martin Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie Trust, who made a speech on “Challenges, Choices and Opportunities”. He presented a brief history of the trust and talked about co-operation between librarians and the Carnegie Trust. He recognised that libraries play a big social, educational, economic and cultural role in a Civil Society. Martin presented basic data in relation to the recognition, use and importance of the library in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It was extremely pleasing to a Scottish audience that Scotland remained at the top in this survey. It was very interesting to see all the changes and developments that have been happening with libraries, librarians’ jobs and reading since 1913 when the Carnegie Trust was founded. Martin expressed the importance of campaigning for libraries and recognised the role of librarians in people’s well-being. There is a need to build up an awareness of the value of libraries in 21st century through children’s and adult education, literacy, technology or social engagement. It was a very interesting and inspiring presentation. Although it was disrupted by the fire alarm, this became an opportunity to do some networking with other attendees!
Next, the morning parallel sessions took place when delegates could attend sessions of their own choice and interest. Judy Dobbie from Dundee Libraries presented “What makes public libraries popular?” I was interested in that session because as a Library Resources Co-ordinator in a secondary school we co-operate with public libraries in delivering services to pupils. Getting a bigger overview of these services was beneficial to me. Judy spoke very enthusiastically about all the projects they introduced. She expressed how big a role Facebook or Twitter played in their communication and marketing. Unfortunately not all authorities are allowed to use these tools. She also highlighted how important it was for the success of projects and services to let enthusiastic library staff, on all levels, who had good ideas to put them into practice. Collaborative work with volunteers was vital as well.
Networking in exhibition area during breaks
Ben Showers, Head of Scholarly and Library Futures from JISC gave a closing keynote on day one about “The library and its digital future”. He explained the benefits that would come from sharing databases with various institution. He felt it was the best time in history to be a librarian, because they have a great opportunity to play a big role in developing various projects along with JISC or other organisations. He highlighted that the main goal for our profession is a user focusing service with wide access to information for everyone. Ben presented new models for journals and books such as the National Monograph Strategy, OAPEN, E-Textbooks or Shared Community Knowledgebase for academic e-resources management KB+. See the KB+ website for more details.
Enjoying the dinner and the concert
Day two of the conference started with the CILIPS AGM, followed by the keynote “Rethinking the Public Library: digitising services and their impact on the library as a place” from Rolf Hapel, the Director of Citizen’s Services and Libraries in Aarhus (Denmark). I was very impressed by the amount of work that was done despite the fact that the number of the libraries was reduced from 1157 in the 70s to 482 in current times. Rolf thinks we need to reinvent the library, find new ways for professionalism and funding as well as products and alliances. The future library may not have so many books but it will always provide information. Transformation of library services is all about human development, and the modern library should have a space for inspiration, learning, meeting and performance. We could see the best example of it in the presentation of the Danish Digital Library and a new, very modern Aarhus Library. The project was based on a British model called Mash–up. I was very impressed watching all the plans, open space and all the opportunities that Aarhus library will bring to the public in 2015.
The first parallel session that I attended on the second day was “Advocacy and School Libraries” delivered by author Alan Gibbons. As a school librarian I found everything that he said very powerful. The words “the library without a librarian is called a room” we should all share with others and make the public aware that the library is really a relationship with users and a culture, not just a room with books. Alan strongly supports international evidence showing that school libraries have an impact on higher test or exam scores in reading, language arts, history and maths, and better grades in curriculum assignments or exams. Also they influence a successful curriculum or learning outcomes, including positive attitudes towards learning and wider reading for pleasure. I was very impressed with how actively Alan supports libraries across UK. You can find out more about Alan and what he does on his blog.
With a colleague from Queen Margaret University
The final keynote was delivered by writer and broadcaster Iain MacWhirter who talked about “Impartiality in information provision in the independence debate”. Iain highlighted how crucial information and access to it are now, before the referendum. The media should reflect the diversity of opinion, they should not speak with one voice and their opinion should not attempt to persuade readers. Libraries play a big role in accessing a wide range of views and opinions in this debate which is so important for Scots.
The conference was formally closed by CILIPS President Robert Ruthven. Also, throughout both days, attendees had the opportunity to see interesting exhibitions from sponsors and discuss various issues with other professionals. Overall, I enjoyed the whole event and presentations. I had a chance to meet many enthusiastic people with great achievements in this profession.