Newcomer librarian’s first time at CILIP Conference 2018
Dr Sergio Alonso Mislata
Graduate Trainee Library Assistant at
The Courtauld Institute Art Book Library
This was my first experience at a CILIP Conference, and I thoroughly enjoyed it through and through. It was a physically and intellectually challenging experience, but one that provided me with so many stimuli and such an insight into so many fascinating questions, that I am already wondering, if I will be able to make to next year event in Manchester. As both a newcomer to the profession and a student, I was looking to dip into as many areas as possible from the different options at the conference. But as a member of CILIP’s Community, Diversity and Equality Group, and a recipient of one the bursaries offered by the group to attend the conference, I was interested in approaching every possible subject from a perspective that could be relevant to the group’s spirit.
On Wednesday 4 July I attended the following presentations:
•Penny Young (House of Commons Librarian), “The House of Commons Library: our role in supporting a thriving parliamentary democracy”. P.Young talked about the importance of the House of Commons (HoC) Library as a support to democracy. The role of MPs is misunderstood to a great extent. It is a very busy role. MPs have to spend a lot of time and energy campaigning, attending committees, debating, communicating with constituents, etc. They need background knowledge about a vast array of subjects to inform their points of view in all of these situations. The HoC Library is facing new challenges and going through necessary changes to meet these:
1. Digital Distribution: publishing public briefings not only physically but also digitally through the Library website.
2. Data Science: growing own capabilities because it is difficult to find the right professionals for the very specific needs of the HoC Library.
3. Accessibility: people are paying for the HoC Library through their taxes, so they should have the right to have some access to it through the publication of briefings, social media and exhibitions.
4. Ways of managing: the service has to be sustainable and effective.
5. Restoration and renewal: there is an ongoing restoration and renewal at the Palace of Westminster that should be completed by 2025. This is an opportunity to reimagine the library.
Penny Young ended her presentation by inviting everybody to visit the Palace of Westminster and enjoy the current exhibition taking place, “Voice and Vote”. This exhibition “highlights the campaign for votes for women and the representation of women in the House of Commons and House of Lords”.
• Sally Walker (Children’s Librarian at Orkney Library and Archive), “My journey to professional recognition”. S.Walker talked about how he had to overcome her imposter syndrome to progress in her career and found that, in the end, that she was doing exactly what she wanted to do (being and amazing children’s librarian, as recognised by the fact that she obtained the Scotland’s Library and Information Professional of the Year 2017). In her presentation she talked about the different activities that she promotes and is involved with, for the delight of children and teenagers, at the Orkney Library & Archive.
• “Preserving the past for the future” seminar. This seminar presented three different, complementary points of view about the preservation of heritage goods:
1. “Heritage collections, wellbeing and digital technologies” by Dr Nick Barratt, Senate House Library. Dr N.Barratt explained how the use of heritage collections can help people on their everyday lives. It can, for example, help people from disadvantage backgrounds to find inspiration to change career paths and lifestyles: libraries and archives are places of creativity and learning where we celebrate our humanity; collections and personal heritage can be key tools for self-development. It can also help communities preserve their collective memory. It can, finally, help the elderly exercise their memory and fight the eroding effects of time.
2. “Heritage made digital: transforming accessing to the British Library’s collections” by Richard Davies, British Library (BL). R.Davies talked about the different ongoing digitisation projects at the BL, normally funded by foreign organisations who want heritage collections obtained originally from their countries to be made available on a digital format to the cultural community they were originally destined to. The design of the website they are working on is very responsive, adaptable to tablets, telephones, laptops, etc. It is also a bilingual design: they are making sure that it is not just a translation, but a truly bilingual design.
3. “UK Blue Shield: the Hague Convention and identifying Cultural Property Protection” by Suzanna Joy, UK Blue Shield. S.Joy talked about the importance of the Blue Shield, a cultural organisation equivalent to the Red Cross, in the protection of the world’s cultural heritage (in the event of armed conflict, natural disaster, etc).
• John Chrastka & Patrick Sweeney, EveryLibrary, “From advocacy to activism”. J. Chrastka and P.Sweeney talked about how they considered theirs a well-weaponised organisation to guarantee funding for libraries. They explained how while the positive image of the library has increased, the willingness to vote for policies that guarantee their survival has decreased, and they talked about their use of data to guarantee that sympathisers become actively involved in the protection of libraries.
• Helen Berry et al., CILIP, “Your Career: growth and experience”. On this panel, different members of staff of CILIP explained the different possibilities to grow as a professional within the organisation: through the mentoring scheme for professionals working towards their chartership, volunteering to be a part of a committee, talking in public events, etc.
On Thursday 5 July I attended the following presentations:
• Samira Ahmed, Journalist and broadcaster, “Who do we think we are? What the Windrush archive scandal reveals about modern Britain”. In her speech, S.Ahmed asked some thought-provoking questions:
- deleting the records of immigrants coming to the UK from the Caribbean, was part of a conscious effort to erase the memory of their past, or were immigration officers just overzealous at trying to do their job right (making sure that the private details of these immigrants were safe from scrutiny)?
- The destruction of these records has led to great difficulties for members from the Windrush generation to proof that, as a matter of fact, they are British citizens, and to the absurd of finding themselves threatened with deportation.
- While Ellis Island, in NY, disembarkment point for immigrants in America, has been turned into a museum on immigration, there are no records for the Windrush generation in the UK, and that it is only another example of the lack of interest in this country the preservation of its past, with archives all around the country in danger of disappearing.
• “Technical practice: using metadata for engagement” seminar:
1. “Knowledge organization, privacy, and fake news: the view from ISKO UK” by David Haynes, ISKO.
2. “LCF – The Library Communications Framework: what’s it all about?” by Catherine Cooke, BIC.
3. “The not-so-secret lives of cataloguers: modern cataloguing in a contemporary information world” by Dr Deborah Lee, The Courtauld Institute of Art.
From these three presentations, I found the last to be the more interesting. For Dr D.Lee everybody is a cataloguer. The term “cataloguer” does not need to be on the job title, but cataloguing and related activities might be part of our working week even if it is only to a degree. We catalogue for users, for other colleagues and for external catalogue users. Cataloguers need to have contact with all of them, otherwise the catalogue is an idealisation, and might not be useful. Cataloguing differs depending on the information organisation. Cataloguers need to like people and have them in mind to be able to do their job right.
• Helen Dodd, Head of Data Governance, Cancer Research UK, “GDPR - Driving cultures of Information Management through compliance programmes”. H.Dodd talked about how GDPR presents an opportunity to bring us closer to our audiences through raising awareness about their rights and about how we use their data. GPDR also presents an opportunity to bring us closer to understand how we use our information, and how we can use it better: organisations are not always tightly structured, they are fluid and fast-moving, there are lots of “unknown unknowns” that we do not realise about, and the implementation of GDPR is a step in the right direction to reduce risks.
• Guy Daines, Head of Policy, CILIP, “Grexit; reflections of a ‘retiring’ librarian”. Guy Daines talked about his career and the different official reports that have been a landmark for the Information professionals throughout the years.
• “An open and inclusive future for the information profession” seminar, chaired by Neena Shukla-Morris, Assistant Librarian, Ardingly College. N.Shukla Morris introduced this seminar by saying that, inclusion needs to be integrated as a core dimension of our practice to guarantee quality. [quality] without inclusion cannot be considered to be quality.
1. “Understanding social and economic inequality” by Dr Wanda Wyporska, The Equality Trust. Dr W.Wyporska talked about the false impression that we have about progress on tackling inequality in the UK, “we have improved in respect to the recent past, but inequality is so big in the UK that the improvement can only considered to be minimum, and the task to do still enormous”. The UK still is the 7th most unequal country on income in the West.
2. “Diversity in leadership: a personal reflection” by Russel Barrow, Hertfordshire Libraries and Heritage Services. R.Barrow reviewed his professional life for us and talked about the difficulties and opportunities to make a difference when it comes to fighting for the integration of minorities in the information profession. He talked about how staff from minority groups have to face situations that other colleagues will never have to deal with or even think about: staff from the majority group will find it difficult to understand the everyday realities of people/library users from minority groups. And these will find it difficult to believe that they are really being understood. Hence the vital importance of promoting the existence of a diverse workforce that everybody can feel connected to. He, for example, had the experience of talking to a prisoner who, as a man of colour, told him how proud he felt to see him as a respected information professional in a managerial position, and how he felt inspired by him.
3. “BAME Library and Information Professionals in the workforce: calling all to action” by Shirley Yearwood-Jackman, University of Liverpool. S.Yearwood-Jackman made a strong case about the importance of fighting for a greater integration of BAME library and information professionals in the workforce. She proposed that, for everybody to be a part of the solution, we need to:
- Seek to understand the challenges at our organisations.
- Be a voice advocating for equalities wherever we are.
- Act to eliminate barriers to BAME recruitment in our organisations and sectors.
- Review recruitment policies at our organisations.
- Get involved in raising awareness and action for change.
• “AI automation and the future” seminar:
1. “Today and tomorrow: preparing for our digital future” by Sue Lacey-Bryant, Health Education England. In this presentation, the future of Artificial Intelligence as an aiding tool for the NHS was discussed.
2. “Artificial Intelligence (AI) : What is it exactly & where do information professionals fit in this potential new world?” by Denise Carter, DCision Consult Sarl. D.Carter reminded us in this presentation that the UK is a data-driven economy and it has identified AI as one of its great challenges.
These were, again, two days full of intellectual excitement. I met lots of people from many different places with different degrees of experience, and shared interesting conversations about the profession with all of them. I learnt lots of things about many different topics related to librarianship in general and issues linked to the Community, Diversity and Equality Group in particular. I left the Conference feeling motivated to keep working on my professional development and to get to know and do more every day. So, once again, thanks to CDEG for awarding me with the bursary that allowed me to be at Brighton this year.
*In the photo dr. Sergio Alonso Mislata (left) with another fellow CDEG bursary winner Jeremy Crumplin