Samantha’s LILAC 2014 Part One: Happy 10th Birthday LILAC!

LILAC is the Librarians’ Annual Information Literacy Conference, and this year it was held in Sheffield Hallam, 8th-10th April.  As usual it was jam-packed with speakers and delegates, and was a whirlwind of ideas, information and experience sharing.

I’m going to highlight specific sessions another post, but first I wanted to share with you some of the keynote presentations we saw, some posters, and some Things We Did.  With 14 presentation times, and 6 options for each time, getting around everything is impossible: that’s 84 slots, not including a keynote each day.  In fact, speaking of keynotes:


Wednesday Keynote: Bill Thompson, ‘Information Science and the 1 0 Cultures’.

Bill contrasted our modern-day Two Cultures of ‘the culture of the technologists and coders and that of the users’ with CP Snow’s 1959 Rede Lecture, where he posited that UK society and systems were split between the humanities and sciences.  My main takeaway from his talk was that (and I’m paraphrasing my own notes here) if we’re going to use our technology to have a liberal, open, humanist society, then we need to understand techy things, coding, proprietary app stores, etc., so that we can argue with it.  As Bill said, if you don’t have good digital and information literacy skills, you may end up believing that Facebook can give you cancer.

(And the title is a joke: it’s not Ten Cultures.  It’s One Zero cultures.  Two?  Binary?  Geddit?  Never mind, it took quite a while for the audience as well :D)


Thursday Keynote: Alison Head, ‘Truth be told: how today’s students conduct research’.

Alison is a research scientist at the Information School, University of Washington, and is also the founder and director of PIL (Project Information Literacy), which researches student behaviour in the digital age.  She presented their findings to us: essentially, students want to learn, but are ‘lost in a thicket of information overload’ due to the huge amount of input available to them.

Her presentation is linked above, but here’s some key things that students say:

  • Research is much more difficult than ever before because  there’s too many  choices.  They can be quite daunted and upset about research tasks they face.
  • Getting started – outlining a topic, narrowing down what to study, defining terms – is the hardest part.  (I can relate to this!)
  • The step between high school and university libraries and resources is vast.
  • Finding help with research is hard, especially when you don’t really know what it is or where to start.

Alison went on to stress how important information literacy skills are in this context and how we can help by offering on-demand research services, developing more opportunities to speak to students, and embedding IL skills into courses.


Friday Keynote: Kate Arnold, ‘What value and benefits do we add? Why Information Professionals are essential to successful digital, health and information literacy delivery’.

Kate is the current president of SLA, the Special Libraries Association, which is an American library association with a strong overseas contingent. Kate is their first non-US president.  She stressed that all over all kinds of industries, roles are changing, and old skills are being translated into new ones.  She argues that that librarians are vital to help people develop, learn and practice.  We need to evolve: we’re moving from being gatekeepers of information to collaborators with those who are looking to find and use it.  Our own understanding of our roles within our organisations needs to change to support new needs.



I love looking at conference posters.  They’re often overlooked, but I really liked the location and the way they were laid out this year, it meant they were visible so you could get around and see them all, and absorb new ideas and get a flavour of other people’s ongoing research.   If you go to the LILAC 2014 main page and scroll to the bottom, you can see them all, but here’s some of my favourites:


Finally, it wasn’t all fun and games.  There was the onerous task of socialising with half of Twitter and colleagues from IL-interested institutions around the country (and, indeed, the world).  The networking evening on Wednesday night was held at Sheffield City Hall, where we celebrated the 10th anniversary of LILAC with a slideshow and some video guests.  On Thursday evening, the LILAC Conference Dinner was held in the beautiful Cutlers’ Hall, which included various IL awards and the chance to have a bit of a dance amongst various cutlery-themed exhibits.  At the very end of it all on Friday, just before returning to London, further networking was carried out in the Sheffield Tap, a lovely proper beer pub which opens very conveniently straight onto the platforms of the train station.  A good – and very informative – time was indeed had by all. As usual, this social side of the conference was just as useful for garnering ideas and learning as the official sessions were.

Stay tuned for Part Two: Parallel Sessions.

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