Presenting and Learning at LILAC

I attended the LILAC 2023 conference, held in Cambridge this April, where I presented my Skill Tree poster and saw some thought-provoking presentations and discussions. This was only my second ever conference and my first time presenting. It was a lovely to talk with other librarians, not only about my project, but about other aspects of librarianship and it broadened my perspectives on many aspects of the work I do at City.

When I say I “presented” my poster I mean that I stood near it at certain designated times and chatted to delegates as they walked past. Anyone who has staffed the Lib Essentials pop-up will recognize the ambush tactic. It was a great experience to contribute to a conference and bringing a poster was a good entry-level way into “real” conference presenting, which is something that I hope to do in the future. For anyone who is nervous about public-speaking, like I am, it is a great way to share your ideas and gain confidence.

It was encouraging to see that delegates really were interested by the concept of a skill tree, and that they could see the design benefits. People liked the layout of the map and wanted to engage further by clicking on the nodes of the actual digital creation, so I had to explain that we were only at the concept stage of the project.

I picked up some great ideas that will help with the development of the Skill Tree. One delegate suggested that I sell the idea to SAGE! For some people it really is all about the Benjamins. The main take-away for me was the concept of microlearning. As you may know, this is learning designed to be delivered in self-contained lessons no longer than 15 minutes, and with a single learning objective. This concept fits perfectly with the nodes of the Skill Tree. Each node on the tree will be a microlearning module, presented like a social media post with video, images and interactivity, and built-in assessment.


Four Lessons I learned from LILAC

1. The kids are alright.

Elizabeth Brookbank from Western Oregon University presented data on how university students use Tik Tok to search for information. This showed that in information literacy sessions we can reinforce what they already know about evaluating sources and thinking critically about the information they gather, rather than teaching them an abstract process with another acronym for them to memorize. We can guide them in using skills they already possess towards assessing academic sources, which are often new to them.

Brookbank’s research demonstrated that young people utilize Tik Tok in sophisticated ways:

  • they understand what its algorithm does in promoting certain results above another
  • they know to avoid, or not rely upon, posts about politics and health because of the range of misinformation that accompanies these topics
  • they use Tik Tok judiciously for product reviews, locating local restaurants and other businesses, and watching how-to videos (seeing something being done is evidence of trustworthiness)
  • they are willing and able to challenge the authority of Tik Tok content providers, something they’re perhaps not so prepared to do with academic authority


2. Authority of knowledge must be questioned.

Dr Delphine Doucet gave a talk about the authority of knowledge by looking at how historians use Wikipedia in higher education.

  • She demonstrated how Wikipedia history articles can have a high degree of factual accuracy but be weak in terms of historical theory and discussion of large themes.
  • Wikipedia took much of its content from old encyclopedias so much current research is absent giving a slanted view for a history student in 2023.
  • Doucet described Wikipedia as 2oth century information in a 21st century format

Alongside Tik Tok, Wikipedia would make a great information literacy lesson on evaluating sources.


3. Information literacy is a practice for survival.

A panel of 5 librarians made the case for seeing information literacy as a key skill for human survival, a very dramatic way of framing the topic. They suggested that, in a fractious and problematic world, Subject Librarians have a role in preparing students for the difficulties of modern life. They made the case that information literacy is needed for a population that is to be healthy, secure, educated and socially engaged.

The panel demonstrated that information literacy can be both defensive (protecting from harm, e.g. guarding people against misinformation), and empowering (a tool for challenging power, e.g. taking part in civic life). It is certainly true that information literacy is an important aspect of a person’s life but how much of the responsibility for teaching it should be the responsibility of a university subject librarian?


4. We need to look in the mirror

The keynotes at LILAC this year were concerned with critical librarianship and asked that we look at the profession through the lens of race, disability, gender, and other social factors. They discussed the barriers that exist to putting theory into practice. There were a lot of theories and arguments put forward in the illuminating sessions, and a lot for my brain to digest, but the over-arching point is that it is important to take the time and reflect on what we do, how we serve our users and ask if we are applying the most recent thinking. I think this is a very positive and healthy thing to do and one that we are quite good at here at City.

I won’t attempt to sum up this complex area in a short blog post but I would urge you to follow the links in the LILAC archive and watch the videos, and consider the arguments put forward.

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