Tuesday, 21 May 2013


So far I’ve tended to write about issues surrounding school libraries, librarians, reading, etc. but I was delighted to be invited to the CILIP Wales Conference last week (May 16 – 17) in my role as Vice President so thought I’d share the experience! Most of the conferences I’ve attended in the past have focused on school libraries or children’s literature so it was interesting to be part of something that involved a wider library sector plus I had already decided that I would try to accept as many invitations as possible during this year, not only to represent CILIP at various functions but also to use the opportunity to promote school libraries, school librarians and the work we do (even if this took me out my comfort zone).

The theme of the conference was “Rising to the Challenge: Developing Library and Information Services through Partnership and Collaboration”and it opened with a keynote address from Liz McGettigan, Head of Libraries, Edinburgh, who spoke about the challenges facing public libraries in a changing information world and how Edinburgh libraries have faced these by creating new partnerships. This set the scene for the whole conference with, amongst others, Nottingham Health librarians talking about working with the local community, the National Library of Wales detailing cooperative ventures and Annie Mauger delivering the message that we need to form partnerships with users and other professionals.
As is usual at these events, I can never make up my mind what workshops to attend as they all sound so interesting. In the end I went to a session delivered by Macmillan Support Services about wellbeing knitting workshops they run within libraries to support cancer patients; a presentation on the refurbishment of Cardiff Metropolitan University Library (which I thought was rather appropriate as I’m in the middle of a library refurbishment myself), and an interactive activity involving the Kate Greenaway shortlisted titles (this one was definitely within my comfort zone). The conference also included the announcement of the winner of the Tir na n-Og Award for the best English language book (Tree of Leaf and Flame, written by Daniel Morden and illustrated by Brett Breckon) and the inaugural CILIP Welsh Librarian of the Year Award. The public library category was won by Bethan Huges of Denbighshire libraries and the academic sector category won by Lori Havard, librarian at Swansea University, who was also the overall winner. It’s great to see another award that celebrates librarians and recognises the work they do.

Collaboration and partnership is something that I think is very important. None of us can exist in isolation, even if we’re a solo worker – we still have users, colleagues, stakeholders to consider. And we cannot stay insular within our own library walls, even if this does feel like the safest place sometimes! If we are to grow as a profession, to continue our CPD, and to advocate for our services and organisations, then we need to collaborate; with other librarians, with libraries, with organisations – in fact, almost anyone we can find to join forces with. I know this is not always easy. Sometimes we are so busy doing the day-to-day tasks that there’s no time to think about anything else, let alone plan and devise joint projects with others. Some of us have little support in our work place and so get scarce recognition for anything we do, which makes it hard to find the impetus to do anything above and beyond. But collaboration doesn’t have to be something huge and life-changing. Start with smaller projects and look for opportunities where, perhaps, both parties would benefit from working together. Just do it – because if we don’t then someone else will see the opportunity and step in, and we will have lost the chance.

Meanwhile, I’m off to see about setting up a knitting group within my library …


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