In keeping with the three year cycle, the CILIP Ireland and LAI Annual Joint Conference and Exhibition returned North in 2018. Hosted in the Canal Court Hotel and Spa in Newry, Co. Down from 19th to 20th April, the conference attracted more than 100 delegates from across the island of Ireland.
Events began on the morning of the 19th with the official opening of the Exhibition. Seventeen exhibitors were on hand to display and demonstrate a wide variety of library supplies. Delegates were afforded the opportunity to network in a relaxed environment, explore the exhibitions and meet the exhibitors.
The Conference theme was "Inspiring People, Inspiring Libraries" and delegates enjoyed a packed programme with plenary sessions over two full days covering a diverse range of topics ranging from collaborative communities to library transformation. There were also smaller learning sessions addressing topics including open access advocacy and engaging children through the development and delivery of library services. These learning sessions facilitated exchanges of knowledge and experience between participants and included updates on the decade of commemorations and discussions on effective emergency planning and further education advocacy.
Nick Poole, CILIP CEO delivered the opening keynote address with a thought provoking and inspiring speech where he called on delegates to engage in telling a new story about libraries and the difference they make. He explained that the theme of a new public libraries publicity campaign involves viewing them as a multi-faceted “Common Room”, able to support a huge range of needs. It is intended to be a reminder that while much of what public libraries are today is familiar to us, it can be very new and surprising to people outside the immediate library sector. While we may be familiar (perhaps even a little jaded) with “innovations” like Wi-Fi, cafés, exhibitions and events in the library, many are not. ‘A Common Room’ is an exhortation to all of us to re-tell this story with a fresh enthusiasm.
A discernible mood of optimism permeated the conference and the theme continued throughout both days Nick’s talk led nicely on to the first plenary of the day delivered by Neil MacInness, Strategic Lead, Libraries, Galleries and Culture at Manchester City Council. Neil’s inspirational presentation described how Manchester libraries have been transformed over the past decade. Referring to the library strategy which has underpinned the transformation programme across the city, Neil outlined the key challenges encountered but also the opportunities available and the practical steps undertaken to achieve success.
Day one concluded with a final plenary session delivered by the new Chief Executive of Libraries NI, Jim O'Hagan. His presentation was entitled “A Newcomer's Perspective" and reflected the challenges and opportunities of leading the public library service in Northern Ireland. Jim shared his first impressions of the library service and described how Libraries NI are responding to the challenges of a changing public library landscape.
The second day of the Conference featured a stirring keynote address where two excellent examples of Library innovation were showcased. The first example, "Healthy Ireland at Your Library", was described as a project to develop public libraries in Ireland as health and wellbeing hubs in local communities whilst the second example, "Work Matters at the Library", was explained to be a project designed to provide support for business and employment through access to recourses, training, events and networking. Both projects highlighted the invaluable role that libraries and their staff are playing in local communities.
Throughout both days, plenary sessions presented a timely opportunity to consider and explore key themes and developments within the profession. The Conference also facilitated numerous networking opportunities where those themes could be discussed at length during the learning sessions or informally during break times and at the conference dinner.
A stream of tweets from delegates and speakers reflected the overwhelmingly positive buzz which was apparent throughout the Conference. In fact #CILIPIreLAI18 charted at a very respectable number 3 on the list of Belfast trends!
We take this opportunity to thank the presenters and all those who attended. We look forward to seeing you again next year when the conference moves South to Co. Kildare.
You can view all the presentations from the conference here.