Friday, 2 August 2019

CILIP Conference 2019, by Library and Information Services Management student Kelly Hetherington

Two weeks on from #CILIPconf2019 has allowed me plenty of time to reflect on what I learnt over the two whirlwind days.

Firstly, if you ever have the opportunity to go… GO! It is friendly and gives you a real taste of a variety of sectors of the profession and creates an atmosphere that is sure to inspire information professionals to go out and make a difference.

One of the stand out things I have taken away from the conference was its focus on equality and diversity and that librarianship is overwhelming white… 97% of information professionals in the UK identify as white which is not representative of our society which is 88% (CILIP, 2019).  In her keynote speech, Hong-Anh Nguyen (@DeweyDecibelle) used a quotation from Ed Yong: “I knew that I care about equality so I deluded myself into thinking that I wasn’t part of the problem.  I assumed that my passive concern would be enough.  Passive concern never is.” This struck a chord with me – equality is important to me – but what do I actually do about it? It challenged me to return to my place of work and think about how to start discussions about how we can be more inclusive.


One thing that shocked me about the conference was that delegates would be tapping away on their phones throughout the lectures and workshops – updating the world of Twitter about the conference.  I got sucked into doing this also but, I have to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it… it makes me feel like a naughty kid at school where phones are totally forbidden.  Although it is a great way of updating the wider world about the conference and really useful to look back on, I’m not sure if it allowed me to be ‘in the moment’ and I think next time I attend a conference I might put my phone down and be present!

Speaking of Twitter, in Liz Jolly’s (Chief Librarian, British Library) keynote speech she mentioned the masters library qualification has become ‘fetishized’.  Although her point was meant to illustrate that there are many routes into the profession which should be recognised, some members of the Twitter community commented that they had not gained much from their Masters degree – as a representative of the Information School I felt compelled to wade into the debate to let others know how useful I have found my studies so far and how I have been able to tailor my assignments and readings so they are directly related to my job and career path – and I have recently received a promotion!

Finally – the workshop I was looking forward to and had been asked to blog about –authentic leadership – which fitted neatly together with Liz’s talk which centred around the importance of reflection of ourselves as practitioners.  Jo Walley (@joeyanne) is a former library professional who has changed the direction of her career to focus on coaching and workshops.  She began the session by spreading around a lot of beautiful postcards depicting different scenes (think flowers, sunsets, animals, bridges) and asked us to walk around the room, and without overthinking, pick a postcard that appealed to us.  I loved the fact that we were out of our chairs and moving around.  I chose a postcard picturing a giraffe stretching its neck to reach the leaves on a tree.  We discussed why we had chosen our cards – I decided mine represented ‘reaching your potential’, which reflects my belief that leaders should help the people they lead to strive to be the best they can be.


Jo encouraged to think of our goals and how we could achieve them in a reflection exercise.  This also helped us to focus on our positive achievements – we wrote our answers down on a piece of paper, and I have to admit, I’ve just re-read mine and felt all warm and fuzzy inside, remembering how I felt when I wrote it and reminding myself to keep challenging myself to improve!  We set targets – mine was to stick up for myself at work and I am happy to say that I had the confidence to do this when arguing the case for me to attend another conference in the coming weeks. Overall, a really positive experience.  I would also recommend signing up for Jo’s newsletter which lights up your inbox with positivity every month.

The CILIP conference was an amazing experience and I can’t thank the Information School enough for letting me be part of it – it helped me to feel part of something bigger, as distance learning can occasionally be a bit isolating and I left feeling enthused about my career and excited to take ideas back to my home institution.  Being a parent alongside working full time and studying can sometimes be a bit daunting but attending a conference allowed me to focus on me for a whole 48 hours!

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