SLA Conference, 19th June 2019

SLA Conference, 19th June 2019

On the 19th June, I spent the day with Library and Information, and Senior Library and Information Assistants at CPD25’s Annual SLA Conference, which was held this year at the Museum of London.

After a lovely welcome from super organiser Martin Edwards, I took my seat for a day of talks about Wellbeing and how different institutions support their staff’s wellbeing.

First up were a team from a group from Middlesex University talking about wellbeing services available to staff.

Since 2015, Middlesex have been changing counselling and wellbeing services and gearing up to better support staff and students.  Before then, there were no counselling services onsite but, since a new company, OPTUM, was brought in to manage this, a lot has changed.

The University has since started to train Mental Health First Aiders and have brought a Wellbeing question into their staff survey.  There are also Wellbeing champions and much more is being done to help create a lovelier atmosphere.  This new approach also took counselling away from HR, which has encouraged more people to seek help.

Additionally, Care and Concern Panels are arranged to give staff and students a team of people to help them and point them in the right direction for help; and staff have access to an online mental health platform called Silver Cloud.

They also talked to us about how knowing boundaries and limitations are important – for example, knowing if you can help or who can – and learning to say, “No” when you do not have the time or experience to help someone properly.  There is a difference between disappointing someone and letting someone down, we were told.

Middlesex run various workshops to help with mental health.  These include workshops that just allow people to come together, do an activity and talk; as well as ones to help students deal with procrastination by breaking down a task into small parts to help break down their anxiety about doing it.

The next part of the day involved a visit to the Museum of London’s library which is a small room buried in the heart of the building where researchers are able to visit by prior appointment.  The collection consists of books and documents relating to London, including those bought for exhibitions down the years.  The current librarian has recently spent a lot of time trying to get their catalogue records digitised and hopes to make the catalogue available online.  We also saw an interesting selection of special collections items including and book said to have been embroidered by Elizabeth I and a diary kept by a Londoner who filled it with lovely paintings.

After lunch we had a chance to visit the museum itself before returning for short talks from delegates.

A photo of the display on Booth's Poverty Maps of London, one of which was used in the Great Clerkenwell Caper Challenge at last week's Away Day
A photo of the display on Booth’s Poverty Maps of London, one of which was used in the Great Clerkenwell Caper Challenge at last week’s Away Day

Razwana Akram from the Royal College of Nursing Library talked about events she has helped organise as part of her role as the department’s Health and Wellbeing Advocate.  Much of this involves interacting with a Health and Wellbeing Calendar and picking out different events and trying to incorporate them into a programme of wellbeing events or supporting colleagues making healthy lifestyle choices.

Banana Day (!), World AIDS day, Mental Health Awareness and Christmas Jumper Day have all been utilised as ways to bring the library team together.  Additionally, a Health and Wellbeing bulletin is published on the intranet, which raises awareness including through publishing personal experiences; a competition was run across the college to increase steps stepped over 100 days; and talking at lunch is encouraged through a scheme called Space to think.

Jonathan Siah from UCL’s Speech and Language Therapy Library talked about organising walking tours at lunch.  He talked about how walking is not just about physical movement and that, as walking is a big part of our role, it can become stressful.  He therefore seeks to set aside time for it and embark on a walk that is stress free and enlightening.

As such he has organised walks with staff and students; and he has produced leaflets to help people do self-guided walking tours in the areas around UCL (well, led by the library’s cat and book bin keeper, Lavender).

Next, Louise Bailey from the University of the Creative Arts talked about De-Briefing, a formal system in place at UCA for revisiting and talking about incidents after they have occurred with those affected.

These can be “Hot” Debriefs, ones performed on the fly straight after an event (and largely making sure everyone is OK) or “Structured” Debriefs, which are much more formal and delivered as part of general practice.

The idea is that staff are made more emotional resilient to help students and each other through being able to sit down and talk over things that have happened.  It also helps create records that could be used if a civil action occurs after the event.

Finally, for this section, our own Claire Audelan spoke about the mental health awareness work her and Monika have done here at City.  But I will leave that section as Claire has already written about it here.

Actually finally, we ended the day with a session about mindfulness with Keith Hackwood who, among many things, is a mindfulness teacher.

He talked to us, very interestingly, about Mindfulness, explaining how what we call Mindfulness today is a blend of neuroscience research and Buddhist teachings.  These were blended together, mostly by Jon Kabat-Zinn, into a Mindfulness course; and Mindfulness has become quite the buzz thing over the last few years especially, with the US Marine Corps spending the most on it to help their employees become more resilient and efficient.  Also, on the more negative side, it is often used by companies to build resilience in employees before cuts are made.

All major mindfulness practices are nature practices and were originally performed outside.  It is a kindness and generosity, being present to what is going on, and being open to things.

Keith finished by taking us through a mindfulness exercise based around meditation.  I don’t know if I was meant to exactly, but I had zoned out very effectively and nearly fell asleep.  He has a very relaxing voice.

Overall, it was a very interesting day (so thank you to our CPD25 organisers for that) that has given me various ideas about Wellbeing initiatives.

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