Very early on Wednesday morning, bleary eyed and yawning, I made my way to Brighton for the CILIP Conference 2018 thanks to a bursary from the Academic and Research Library Group (ALRG). Spanning two days, the conference was a great experience from the interesting discussions I had with fellow library professionals to the engaging keynotes speakers and seminars. Here are some of my highlights from the conference:
Keynote Speech: My journey to professional recognition
Sally Walker, Orkney Library and Archive
One of the first keynote speakers of the conference, I found Sally’s story an inspiring one. Showing us the journey of her career from beginning to end, Sally’s passion for children’s libraries and the difference they made was apparent. She discussed the many libraries initiatives she has helped come to life, such as inter-generational library sessions where children visit care homes and interact with the residents.
She also talked about her imposter’s syndrome, how it made her feel she wasn’t good enough and reminded us that if anyone else felt that way it’s simply not true. She summed up how she now feels about her work at Orkney Library with a quote from the children’s book, Pax by Sara Pennypacker: “I’m exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing, and that is peace.”
Panel: Voice and Vision: The importance of diverse representation in literature for children and young people
Juno Dawson, Author
Nicky Potter, Otter-Barry Books
Nadia Shireen, Illustrator
The last panel of day one, I was looking forward to it due to my interest in children’s literature and creative writing. One point made throughout the panel was that people in publishing needed to recognise that the need for diversity is not a trend and has to be continually progressed and developed. Another interesting point raised is that when people consider diversity they fixate on one marginalised demographic and to truly represent diversity we need to think of the whole picture e.g. race, disability, class, LGBT.
Another topic discussed was the diversity of authors and representing different voices in publishing. One speaker suggested that there was a lack of diversity due to people not seeing themselves in books when they were younger, so they didn’t consider themselves part of that world and the world of writing. So for people from diverse backgrounds to become a part of publishing, they needed to be encouraged and welcomed into that world.
Keynote Speech: Who do we think we are? What the Windrush archive scandal reveals about modern Britain
Samira Ahmed, Journalist and Broadcaster
A passionate keynote from Samira; it was interesting to see the perspective of someone who heavily used libraries but didn’t have experience of working in them. She gave us multiple examples of how archives and libraries have preserved stories from the past and challenged ideas. Items from archives and libraries can help us track the progress of thought, but also on how these items are categorised by professionals. She gave us a past example of how a chief librarian filed news clippings about LGBT rights under D for deviant due to his own religious beliefs.
In regards to the Windrush scandal, Samira was shocked at how carelessly important documents that protected people and told us about this period in history were destroyed. She argued that Britain needs somewhere to preserve these documents so this doesn’t happen again, similar to the museum of immigration on Ellis Island, so we can protect history and, more importantly, people’s status in the U.K.
Seminar: Learning and information literacy
Sarah Pavey, Consultant and Trainer
Dr. Ruth Carlyle, Health Education England
Jacqueline Geekie, Aberdeenshire Libraries
This seminar gave me great insight into information literacy from the perspective of three different library sectors and what challenges they faced. Sarah discussed school libraries and how recent changes in the curriculum has changed the school librarian role from a multi-subject one to focused on English. The new curriculum has also impacted how information literacy is taught in schools as there is now more focus on coding in IT instead of searching and evaluating information online.
In the health sector, Ruth stated that the demands on the NHS are changing due to UK demographics. People are being diagnosed earlier and have more complex health conditions. I was shocked to hear that 43 percent of adults don’t understand basic health information, meaning they cannot accurately administer medication without support. This means that heath libraries need to support the public with developing their health literacy to meet these demands, as well as supporting health professionals. However, this is difficult with ever decreasing budgets so collaboration between all library sectors is necessary.
For public libraries, Jacqueline talked to us about digital literacy and how it can benefit the public. Digital literacy is important not just because it helps people navigate a world full of misinformation, but it can also help people save money and increase social mobility. There is a misconception people think digital literacy is using technology, when it’s about finding and analysing information online. To increase digital literacy, professionals need to find a hook to engage people e.g. teenagers/children helping older people use technology. One of the most important points made was that increasing digital literacy cannot be done if the public library sector is de-professionalised and de-staffed, as volunteers cannot fulfil the expert roles of librarians and their knowledge of digital literacy.
It was a long and busy two days, but when I got home I realised what a great opportunity it had been and how much I learnt. The quality of speakers was high and the best part was seeing everyone’s enthusiasm for libraries and the profession.