Thursday, 25 July 2019

CILIP Conference 2019, by Librarianship Student Elle Codling

On the 3rd and 4th July this year, I attended the 2019 CILIP conference in Manchester. In return for representing the Information School on the exhibition stand and talking to delegates about my experiences as a student, I got to attend a full programme of talks, presentations, and panel discussions about the world of libraries and information in the UK.

Me at the Information School’s stand, looking excited to get going! (Photo by Sheila Webber:
I’m particularly interested in school libraries, so the panel session on ‘Great school and college libraries’ by Lucas Maxwell (a former School Librarian of the Year), Corinne Walker (CoLRiC), and Alison Tarrant (School Library Association) was a highlight for me. There were some great tips for engaging both teachers and students in the school library (coffee and doughnuts is apparently the key to getting other staff members on board!), and Alison shared some fascinating findings from the recent #GreatSchoolLibraries campaign survey. I felt pretty inspired and enthusiastic about the sector I’m about to enter!

Tweets from the conference (
I also attended session on a range of other issues across the different library sectors, including ‘Don’t be afraid of social media’ for advice on using Twitter and other platforms personally and professionally through your career. A panel on ‘Diversity, books and reading’ also stood out, as it raised a lot of issues in the current children’s publishing industry. Did you know that in 2017, only 5.58% of children’s book creators were people of colour? It was great to hear about what is already being done to change these statistics. Overall, the broad range of topics discussed at the conference really helped expand my awareness of all the different things our profession is currently working on and struggling with. Diversity – both in books and in the profession – was a really big theme at this year’s conference in particular, and there don’t seem to be any easy solutions, but knowing that people are working together and sharing knowledge is really important.

Outside of the lecture rooms, I also really enjoyed meeting lots of new people. As I’m soon going to working in a school library (which can be quite a lonely experience), it was great to meet a lot of other school librarians, many of whom gave me some great advice and tips for my future job! I was also able to meet other students on similar courses to my own, including distance learning students, and we had a lot of fun sharing our experiences. Working on the stand for the Information School gave me a chance to talk to lots of people and expand my network of librarian contacts. I also met some people I’ve followed on Twitter face-to-face for the first time, including the amazing Jo Wood, creator of the Librarians with Lives podcast. Listen out for me on her special conference edition of the podcast!

In summary, the CILIP conference was a great experience because of both the fascinating range of topics discussed in sessions, and the chance to meet members of the library and information community. Everyone I met was really friendly and had lots of advice and support to offer. If you ever have the chance to attend the CILIP conference, it will definitely give you a lot to think about, as well as some great new experiences and a whole load of useful contacts from across the library world.

Elle Codling
MA Librarianship student

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Visitors from Mexico City

Last week the Information School was delighted to host two visitors from Mexico City, as part of the project "Place-making for sustainable development: Learning from Xochimilco", led by Dr Andrew Cox and Dr Jorge Martins.

Gibrán Rivera González is an alumnus of the department and is now a lecturer at Instituto Politécnico Nacional. He has been working with Cooperatives in the city training them in business and IT skills.
The other guest was Carlos Sumano Arias, one of the leaders of the Chinampayolo an agro-ecological cooperative. They are combining traditional agricultural knowledge with scientific knowledge to create a form of sustainable agriculture that promotes biodiversity.

While in Sheffield Carlos and Gibrán took part in a joint seminar. They also visited a number of social enterprises working in the food industry in Sheffield.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Dr Efpraxia Zamani & Dr Laura Sbaffi conduct GCRF fieldwork in Malawi

Between June 18th and June 24th, Dr Efpraxia Zamani and Dr Laura Sbaffi travelled to Malawi to carry out fieldwork for their GCRF QR Pump Priming grant on promoting support networks for informal caregivers of people living with HIV in Malawi. The project focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #3: ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’, and seeks to develop a collaborative network among caregivers, academics, NGOs, local authorities and health trusts for the support of caregivers of people living with HIV/AIDS in Malawi.

Malawi is third in world-wide rankings with respect to HIV-related deaths (more than 35,000 deaths in 2017), with 10.6% of the adult population in 2016 being affected by HIV. HIV/AIDS requires a lot of self-management for monitoring symptoms and conducting a healthy lifestyle, while being self-reliant. As a result, considerable support is required to help patients make decisions, adjust their behaviour and adapt to their condition.

Efpraxia and Laura conducted two separate research activities while in Malawi. The first one was a focus group with ten local family caregivers looking after one or more family members living with HIV. The participants were asked to describe their experience of being a carer, the extent of their support network and the dynamics and perceptions of their local community. The focus group was touching and enlightening, as the participants shared honest and candid recounts of their lives and of that of their loved ones. While caregiving can be self-fulfilling, it can also be taxing, emotionally and financially, with caregivers experiencing exhaustion, burnout, and self-sacrifice.

The second activity involved a workshop, which brought together caregivers, academics, local community chiefs, and NGOs working directly or indirectly with HIV/AIDS patients and caregivers, with the aim to establish a collaborative network toward supporting, empowering and promoting the wellbeing of informal caregivers. During the workshop, the participating partners discussed their activities and their general priorities for the support of HIV/AIDS patients and caregivers. The discussion then facilitated ascertaining specific activities that can be developed and pursued by the partners to address the identified caregivers’ needs. Efpraxia and Laura are now working with all partners in order to identify avenues for further funded research projects to implement pilot support activities. This will help to reinforce the collaborative network just established and, most importantly, will suggest ways to materialise the priorities identified at the workshop, and provide tangible support to informal caregivers in the near future.

Both activities took place in Namwera, a locality within the Mangochi district, in the southern region of Malawi.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Holistic smart approach required to address social inequality in rural and urban areas - Student blog from WSIS 2019

Smart cities refer to urban areas where the power of ICTs is leveraged in order to provide more efficient services to local residents. They typically benefit urban populations at the expense of rural communities where ICT development is inhibited by the poor return on investment (ROI) of such structures. These challenges and opportunities for the global community were a major talking point during the 2019 World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) held in Geneva, Switzerland. Our recent policy brief explored the development of smart cities primarily through the prism of gender inequality and identified the urban-rural digital divide as a barrier towards the development of future smart cities. Calls for developing smart villages aim to address this gap; however, such initiatives are unlikely to replicate the success of the smart city framework in light of these digital divides.

Digital divides within digitally connected cities persist between affluent and less wealthy communities. Furthermore, cities are inherently complex systems constituting networks of subsystems such as energy, transportation, security and other similar services that are fundamental in supporting communities. Partnerships between key stakeholders, such as councils, city administrators and members of the public are responsible for the implementation of smart city initiatives. Barcelona, for example, continues to evolve its smart city strategy by enabling civic engagement with its City Council programmes via the Citizen Participation portal in line with the needs and priorities of the community. The socioeconomic element in city governance, nevertheless, introduces challenges in the design of smart solutions which are rarely easily resolved through a predefined set of rules or procedures. In this context, smart solutions should not be considered a remedy for socioeconomic inequalities within or between urban and rural communities. Instead, societal issues and their consequences should be considered in the development of effective smart solutions.

The objectives against which smart city development is measured are theoretical philosophies related to issues such as sustainability, mobility and the environment. The United Nations (UN) defined several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 11, in support of ensuring cities are “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. These high-level goals enable individualized definitions of success that are difficult to assess against a set of global benchmarks. For example, Rio de Janeiro, one of the more widely cited examples of effective smart city infrastructure deployment, instituted two command centres in advance of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics; the Centro De Operacoes Prefeitura Do Rio (COR) and Centro Integrado de Comando e Controle (CICC). The former is designed to aggregate and monitor data streams from services tracking traffic, weather conditions and emergency responses, among others. This system was initially conceived in response to fatal landslides in 2010 and realized through a partnership with IBM’s Smarter Cities initiative. The latter utilises similar data, albeit largely within the framework of public security, and was developed in fulfilment of contractual agreements for hosting the upcoming global sporting events of the time.

However, these infrastructures do not proactively address the threats posed by landslides. While COR’s smart early warning system might improve emergency response times during such incidents, it does not tackle its causes such as tropical climate effect on soil conditions and steep terrains supporting large populations in areas of unregulated development. A proactive approach would involve the restructuring of existing subsystems related to urban planning that may alleviate vulnerabilities to the natural environment. Integrating these silos could, therefore, provide a more holistic smart solution in mitigating the effects of these incidents upon urban populations. Nevertheless, this may not be feasible due to the complexities of these systems and their current lack of interoperability.

Gaffney and Robertson’s study of CICC and COR found that there was an uneven distribution of smart technology between wealthy and poorer areas within the city. The setup of traffic-monitoring devices, for example, were principally focused in the wealthier central business district (CBD) and southern zones where upscale neighbourhoods were located. In tackling issues of public security, the CICC leverages data from COR as well as from the many installations of monitoring devices placed strategically around areas connected to tourism, sports and transportation hubs. The concentration of security resources within these areas had the effect of displacing criminal activities to neighbouring less-developed areas within the inner city. This is indicative of challenges faced in addressing complex system problems where the targeted resolution of one issue exposes or creates a negative effect in another domain. Taken together, these discontinuities may be seen to intensify rather than overcome the issues smart cities are purported to resolve.

It is clear that piecemeal deployment of smart solutions does not automatically benefit all citizens living within urban areas. Public agency and indigenous knowledge should be leveraged in conjunction with efforts driven by governing authorities in upgrading services for communities. It is therefore imperative that a holistic approach be adopted that accounts for the specific requirements of these communities. Moreover, stakeholders should be wary of employing ICTs in support of such initiatives instead of utilising them as a driver of smart solutions. Smart villages have the potential to address longstanding urban-rural digital divides, but they must be informed by the lived experiences of those who reside within smart cities today.

Evelyn Baskaradas, MSc Data Science student
Dr. Paul Reilly, Senior Lecturer in Social Media & Digital Society

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Co-operation, knowledge and sustainability: Learning from Xochimilco

You are cordially invited to a panel discussion exploring issues around traditional knowledge, identity and sustainability in the context of chinampas agriculture, as practised in Xochimilco, Mexico City.

The Information School, Room RC204 – 10th July - 12:00-13.30

“The Heart of the chinampas” – Carlos Sumano Arias, Chinampayolo (

“Developing collaboration between the university and cooperatives in Mexico City” - Gibrán Rivera González, Instituto Politécnico Nacional

“Reclaiming traditional knowledge for cultural sustainability”- Andrew Cox and Jorge Martins, Information School, University of Sheffield

More than a thousand years ago, in the navel of the moon "Mexico", in a paradise of crystal clear waters, full of fish, birds and axolotes, men created the chinampas to live and feed themselves. The navel of the moon has become one of the largest cities in the world where channels, rivers, springs and chinampas are being replaced by asphalt and concrete. The plants and animals that lived for millions of years in this place are under threat and many agricultural producers have left the land.

In this discouraging context, in Xochimilco located in the southern outskirts of Mexico City, the heirs of the lake culture refuse to see their legacy disappear. Through community work, social participation, cooperative support, collaboration with academic, governmental and non-governmental institutions, Chinampayolo S.C. is strengthening its efforts in the areas of natural resource conservation, tourism, food production, education and commercialization. Their mission is to preserve the Chinampera culture through innovation and inherited knowledge to maintain their identity, dignity, resistance, love for the land and respect for present and future life.

Please note: two of the presentations will be in Spanish with translation to English.

For further information contact Andrew Cox,