My name is Kamila Brown and I am a Senior Library Assistant/IT Support Assistant from Arts and Social Studies Library in Cardiff University. Thanks to the CILIP LIRG (Library Information and Research Group), I had an amazing opportunity to attend my first ever CILIP conference #CILIPConf19.
This year’s conference took place in Manchester on the 3rd and 4th July, in the University Place, conveniently located on Oxford Street, in the heart of the city. The conference programme offered a range of interesting seminars, workshops and keynotes. I must confess that I found it very hard to choose which of the five parallel sessions to attend! I decided, however, that I would attend sessions, which would mostly benefit my career path, and which are of a great interest to me.
On the first day of the conference, I arrived at the venue around 11 AM o’clock. Having missed the first keynote (due to my very late train from Cardiff) I began the conference with the ‘Don’t be afraid of Social Media’ workshop, as Mike Jones (University of Winchester) and Jo Wood (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafass)), presented the world of social media platforms from a slightly different angle. Amongst the topics they touched on were, how to make the most out of social media to create your professional profile as a library worker, pointed out the benefits as well as negatives of using social media, and demonstrated how social media tools can be used for personal and professional purposes. My interest lies mainly in the former ones.
Jo, who is also the creator of Librarians with Lives (LwL) podcast and blog, pointed out that using social media doesn’t always bring positives, and that she, herself, finds it overwhelming and stressful at times. I can relate her remark to my own experience with social media, where seeing someone with far more followers that you have, and watching someone else’s updates adding up very fast, leaves you worried that you don’t know what to post or that your posts aren’t as great. This can be intimidating. It was actually comforting to know that it isn’t just only me feeling this way. On the other hand, Jo and Mike highlighted that social media can bring many positives, and this includes, learning, gathering ideas, being a part of global communities, keeping informed on the latest news, the immediacy of information, etc. These, in particular, are great benefits of using social media for professional purposes. Interestingly, the results gleamed from an online survey conducted last year (involved library workers), showed that people who were already using social media found them helpful, useful, informative and engaging. The key, as Jo and Mike emphasize, is to think about who you want to be. Others, such as strategizing your content, curating your feed, managing your time, checking facts, finding your tribe, and joining an organised chat were the tips which I found the most useful for building and managing my own social media profile.
They also pointed out that some users remain clear about which platform they choose for professional or personal purposes. The presenters, however, also pointed out that some users adopt the ‘profersional’ approach (yep, no typo there), whereby an individual chooses to apply a mix a professional and personal content on social platforms. This, for example, can be observed on Twitter.
Jo and Mike also talked about different types of social media users. There are two broad categories, i.e. passive (lurkers) and active (broadcasters) users. In the survey that they conducted there was also a category of ‘an engager’. This made me aware that at this point in time, I am 99% of the time a passive user, or a lurker, especially on Twitter.
In the context of building one’s professionalism and identity (whether it is an online one or not), the keynote, which definitely stood out for me was the one delivered by Liz Jolly, Chief Librarian at the British Library. What I mostly admired about this keynote is that Liz brought her personal experience into the presentation, and for me as a librarian in training, this is a unique opportunity listen to, and learn from it.
“The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities” (R. David Lankes). With this quote, Liz encapsulated the key point of librarianship. As life changes, communities are changing with it, but, ‘what we do, is enduring’.
One of the biggest challenges facing librarians that Liz highlighted is dynamism. The services that we provide are continuously changing, and us librarians in result, are exposed to continuous, almost lifelong learning. She didn’t seem to only mean completing professional courses or doing a degree in Librarianship, but more importantly she stressed the importance of reflective learning. The way to be a better professional is through reflective practice. Looking at Liz’ synopsis in the CILIP conference booklet (prior to the conference), my attention was particularly drawn to this statement “[…] securing the long-term future of libraries and librarianship means going back to the roots of our profession and looking ahead with confidence.” And this constitutes the quintessence of reflective learning.
Another important aspect of the profession that Liz pointed out were learning from each other and developing resilience. In the history of the librarianship we can observe times where the profession suffered from a lack of funds, etc. We librarians therefore must articulate what we do, and we must demonstrate our value to the society. Above all, Liz highlights “let’s stop pretending that we are neutral because we are not”. Being neutral is not an answer.
Our role revolves around enabling learning and changing people’s lives. Also, core to our roles, as she continued, are “listening to, and learning from, our communities”, as they [communities] best understand and identify their needs.
In her presentation, Liz also addressed the lack of diversity (this also touches on social class). I must admit that her presentation was the most motivating and inspiring to me, and above all, unforgettable.
One of the most important outcomes for me from the CILIP conference is that I finally had the great opportunity to meet library professionals from various sectors. From the beginning of my professional career, I have always worked in the HE sector and this conference opened some new routes for me, in which I can look at many topics from a fresh perspective.
I would wholeheartedly recommend attending the CILIP conference in Manchester, especially to those who never had this chance before. The CILIP Conference is a great way to celebrate of our profession, and us, information professionals.
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