My first day at Gregynog.

Gregynog

Thank you WHELF for inviting me to this year’s Gregynog Colloquium. What did I know about the Gregynog Colloquium? Short answer-not a lot, I had been told that it was where members of WHELF (and HEWIT) annually converge to share experiences, ideas and thoughts, and as a new professional who has only experienced University libraries and services from a student perspective was really looking forward to the presentations and getting to know more about the libraries, librarians and information professionals within Higher Education Sector.

The programme for the day was very generously timetabled so that people could arrive, register and have lunch before the keynote speakers started. The food was top notch and without a phone signal it was as if we were being lulled into an earlier century’s pace of life, a more social and then attentive (during the presentations) participation. A lesson learned here, for not overstuffing a programme; but allowing your delegates time to think, breathe, eat and settle in.

Alison Harding welcomed us all to the event and briefly surmised the history of University of Wales Trinity St Davids UWTSD- I didn’t know that the Lampeter, one of its campuses, was the oldest degree awarding institution in Wales, founded in 1822. I must visit the Founders Library

The first keynote speaker, Dr Michael Jubb talked about ‘Academic Books and their Futures’. By revealing some of the conclusions from the Academic Book of the Future Project he delivered a thought inspiring presentation (which I’m shrouding in a cloak of secrecy as the report for project that has been commissioned by the British Library and Arts and Humanities Council is due to be published soon*) He encouraged us to think of how we define a book, publishing, authors and readers, and the impact the internet has had on these definitions- and by doing this it became apparent the shades of grey appearing in both definition and then responsibilities. As Dr Jubb guided us through some of the findings of this project, factors such as academics perception of using certain methods of dissemination and the process of supply and demand, and communities surrounding the book certainly backed up a well know phrase that Dr Jubb referenced “I think you’ll find it’s much more complicated than that” (Also a book title by Ben Goldacre)

*Now published- Deegan (2017), The Academic Book and the Future Project Report: A Report to the AHRC and the British Library, London.

Keynote speaker number 2- our very own Nick Poole with his presentation on the "Road ahead". Not a reflection on the journey to Gregynog, but focussing on the ‘Trends and opportunities for the Library and Information Profession.’ What I liked about this presentation (and yes I will acknowledge the bias as I work for CILIP) was Nicks diagram illustrating the breadth of roles that the term information professionals’ covers (slide 4).

I’m sure this list isn’t a complete reflection of the diversity, but in my role as Development Manager for CILIP Cymru Wales, I meet many people who are not working in a traditional library setting (or qualified librarians) but they either have responsibilities for managing such services or oversee the handling of information and I re-enforce that they are part of the information profession (and do qualify to join CILIP- I can’t miss the opportunity to add this).

As Nick mentioned this profession will become “less defined by the place we work and more defined by the skills we have”.

The presentation highlighted the disconnect between the aims of those in power, and the tools needed by society to achieve them; emphasising the need for us to advocate for the difference our profession makes. One example of this is to align our profession with the goals of society such as the UNs Sustainable Development Goals for which we will have to provide examples of in 2019. There was plenty of meat to think about in this presentation- so do take a look at the slides.

The last two presentations of the day were 30 minutes long; ‘Out of this World: 24/7 Online Chat’ and ‘Demystifying Doughnuts: a role for librarians in supporting the use of almetrics’.

As a distance learning student at Aberystwyth University, I have made use of the chat facilty available as part of their information services, so it was valuable to hear Ann Cross and Lou Wallace share their experience of adding to their daytime online chat service with the introduction of the SCONUL out of hours virtual chat service- in only 8 weeks! This sounded like no small feat (Lou listed the process and resources she used to get to the point of launching) and it was fascinating to hear of the partnership that was formed with information professionals in the USA who would handle the service out of hours, in return for the same from colleagues in the University of South Wales. It became apparent that there was a difference in meaning for some of words used within the enquiries- for example dissertation has a different meaning across the pond, and there was also a need for a bit of quality control due to differences in practice. However the service is being used and has a higher take up than the daytime chat. From January to April they had 217 out of hour chats, and 6-10pm is the busiest time. An assessment will be made at the end of the year’s pilot and there has been interest from other university services in this provision. This service is a solid example of the library and information service contributing towards flexible learning, a thread of the University’s academic plan.

The final presentation of the day (if you exclude the house history tour and band playing at the drinks reception later) was by Susan Glen a subject librarian at Swansea University. ‘Demystifying Doughnuts: a role for librarians in supporting the use of almetrics’. This presentation explored the possibilities- coupled with a wisp of caution- of using alternative metrics (almetrics) as an indication of attention, and the role librarians could have in this area. We were given examples of services that provide us with data about the reach a piece of research has and configures the amount of clicks, shares, downloads, bookmarks and saves (to name a few activities) into beautiful images (such as doughnuts) that would wow any potential service director. With every pro though, there is bound to be a con. Whilst the services reach outside of academia- thus providing some reflection of interest in the real world, the data obtained could be manipulated and gamed; artificially tweeted or shared. They are able to cover different methods of output; blogs, software and policy documents but their method of tracking is generally relies on the piece of work having a DOI. Susan ends the presentation by talking about how librarians can raise the profile of almetrics, by having an awareness of them and the scope of use for them but ultimately acknowledging they can be flaky. Based on Susans knowledge and they way in which she enthusiastically presented her session though, I think she feels that almetrics shouldn’t be discarded because of this- and watch this space. Maybe the age of almetric doughnuts are yet to come.

My first day at Gregynog was brilliant, I won’t divulge any of the details about the socialising; it was fun and I loved the piano and violin accompanying the evening’s chit chat- and still have a token. As I listened to the presentations I felt that there was valuable insight into setting up services and gaining a knowledge about the credibility and possibility of using online tools to evidence impact and how these can be applied to any library and information sector and this re-enforced my opinion- to coin another timely phrase- that “we have more in common than divides us.”

16th June. Kathryn Parry

 

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