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Reflecting on Meeting the Reading List Challenge 2016

12 Apr

I’ve been inspired to try a new style for writing up my latest library conference experience by my colleague Jess Haigh and her brilliant LILAC write up. So credit for the more structured format for this reflective piece goes to Jess!

The Event

I attended Meeting the Reading List Challenge at Loughborough University, April 5th-6th 2016.   I presented at the event, alongside Alison Sharman, about the strategies for staff engagement with reading lists at the University of Huddersfield.  Part of the presentation was specifically focused on my current project based role at the University, which is all about Business School reading lists.  As my full time job is all about reading lists, I was particularly excited about this event as an opportunity to share my own experiences and see if I could find inspiration from others to try new things.

The event programme is available on the conference website  and my presentation is on the University of Huddersfield Repository.

Day One

Key Themes

  • Reading List versus Resource List – What do we call them?
  • Intellectual Property and Open Data
  • Staff and Student Engagement

What was the best thing I learned? There were lots of brilliant ideas shared about getting staff and students engaged with reading lists. My talk on staff engagement was complemented by the following presentations which also dealt largely with issues of staff engagement:

  • If at first you don’t succeed… by Sarah Rayner and Olivia Walsby (University of Manchester)
  • Co-ordinating complexity by Sara Hafeez (University of Westminster)

Both these presentations were very reassuring. I don’t feel alone in my struggles! Manchester focused on sharing their failings which was refreshingly honest and very useful. Sara from Westminster had some great stories to tell about trying to co-ordinate reading lists in her organisation.  The presentations left me feeling inspired, with new ideas of things to try out.

What was the most though provoking idea? Open data proved to be an interesting discussion.  We were asked to think about how reading list data could be useful for the library, the academic faculty, and the institutionAlso about how useful reading list data from other institutions could be and what barriers there are for sharing this? It is this second part that led to discussions about the intellectual property surround reading lists came into this debate. If we start to share reading list content as open data then does it cause intellectual property problems and issues for universities in a competitive educational market?

What do I want to learn more about? I’m going to learn more about open data because Martin Hamilton’s talk highlighted that I don’t know very much about this at all.

Day Two

Key Themes

  • Top down policy v academic driven processes
  • Reading list best practice
  • Engagement again!

What was the best thing I learned? I surprised myself by enjoying the two vendor presentations. A lot of people left in the break before these, and I was tempted, as we have our own in-house system. I’m glad I stayed as it was very interesting to see what commercial systems are currently on offer and learn about their features.

What was the most inspirational idea? The turning your reading list into a conversation workshop from Sheffield Hallam. We did a group activity to build an engaging and interactive reading list with the help of big paper, pens, glue and lots of bits of paper with example reading list items on. Could this be used to teach academics about best practice for creating reading lists? It might work at a department away day for example. To make it effective I’d need to team up with someone with expertise in teaching to make sure pedagogical issues could be properly included.

What do I want to learn more about? Library systems. I found all the discussions surrounding the technical aspects of library systems interesting and the processes involved in the procurement of a new system.  The presentation from Kingston about being a development partner with Leganto was fascinating.  I can see myself enjoying working in this area of librarianship so I’m going to start building my knowledge of this area.



Apply for an SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award and do it NOW!

7 Jan

Are you a library or information professional in the first 5 years post qualification? Do you want to go to a library conference in Vancouver?  Interested in meeting library and information people from all over the world?  If YES then carry on reading and then apply for this amazing opportunity.

Applications are open for the 2014 SLA Europe Early Career Conference Awards (ECCAs). This year there are three awards, sponsored by Leadership & Management, Legal and Academic Division. The conference is an amazing experience. You’ll get fabulous mentors from your chosen division and SLA Europe to help with getting the most out of the experience. It is an opportunity to meet great people and build a fantastic network to last a career lifetime.


In short you should apply because:

  • I find it quite hard to put into words how brilliant the entire experience was for me so apply and find out for yourself.
  • It is one of the best opportunities for professional development you are going to find, no matter what you are interested in. I’d say last year we were a diverse bunch of ECCAs with different professional backgrounds and interests however each of us found the experience extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
  • You will meet many, many interesting, exciting and inspiring people. People from a very diverse range of organisations and backgrounds too. So whatever you find interesting, chances are you’ll find someone to talk about it with.
  • In addition to the conference-y bit the social side of the event is great.  There is a party for everyone at an SLA conference. It will most definitely be lots of fun.
  • You might as well apply because if you don’t try you won’t get it. And as the old saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed try again. I was successful on my third year of application. Learn from past applications and just keep trying.
  • Also the conference comes with AMAZING ribbons on the badges as illustrated above (and until UK conferences catch on to the idea your going to need to apply for an ECCA to get some!).

So go on, apply now.  As Nike say, just do it.  Here’s the link again to tempt you

SLA 2013 Reflections: The People

1 Sep

My aim for SLA2013 was to make the most of every opportunity for networking. The main reason I wanted to attend an SLA conference was for the opportunity to meet people.  People have always been the highlight of professional events that I’ve attended before.  The times for networking are usually my favourite times at any conference. It is a great opportunity to catch up with old acquaintances, and former colleagues, as well as a chance to meet many new people. Armed with a stack of business cards and my best smile I tried my best to throw myself into the conference.

I’m not afraid of meeting new people and usually thrive at networking events. However I’ll admit that I went to bed on the first night feeling deflated and anxious that I wasn’t the right person to be at the conference. A classic case of letting my own confidence levels take a hit because of the overwhelming scale of the task.  The first day was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, which weren’t helped by jetlag. I spent most of the Saturday exploring San Diego on my own before attending a first timer reception, followed by the Business and Finance Awards reception.  The first day on your own in a new city is always a tough one. Thankfully the first timer reception was a great icebreaker and I met a number of people who would become great conference friends. The Business and Finance Division event was great because it was nice to be recognised by the division and the number of people congratulating me was overwhelming.  Everyone was wonderful however I felt a little lost at sea, unsure how best to introduce myself to people and found it hard to work out what best to talk about.  As a result I went to bed that night feeling worried about being cut out for surviving the conference. Ultimately though I need not have worried because everyone at the conference was so very friendly, welcoming and ready for conversation.

The noticeable thing about the SLA conference was how willing people were to engage with everyone regardless of background or level of experience.  At SLA people are equal.  People are valued. I can’t recall any occasion at the conference where I felt inferior or less worthy of my place in the conversation.  What I do have is many memories of occasions where people at the top were happy to engage with newcomers like myself.  Hierarchy is not a driving force.  SLA CEO Janice Lachance sat at my table during a lunch break. SLA Europe board members invited me to join drinks in the bar each night.

One of the most important set of relationships I developed during the conference was with my fellow ECCA winners.  We helped each other navigate the vast conference experience. We bonded over food, drinks and baseball games.  We shared new experiences and reflected on our different pasts. I learnt with them. I learnt from them. I’m still learning from them.  Reading the blog posts written by fellow ECCA winners continues to bring new perspectives and challenge my viewpoints on the conference and the profession.

SLA 2013 Reflections: Where to Begin?

15 Jul

In June 2013 I was lucky enough to travel to San Diego to attend the 2013 Annual Special Libraries Association conference as an Early Career Conference Award (ECCA) winner. The experience was truly epic in every sense of the word; an 11 hour flight, 18 hour days, thousands of people, over 200 events and a conference centre stretching across more than 8 street blocks. Everything about the experience was massive and overwhelming but absolutely amazing.


Now that I’ve been back for a month (or so) I’ve have had time to digest it all and distil the experience down. I’m writing up by splitting my reflective writing into four parts;

I’ve also been busy writing up my reflections for various other blogs and journals.  A conference report can be found in the July edition of the CLSIG Journal. I’ve written a piece for the SLA Europe Blog so look out for that in the future, as well as a report for the Business and Finance Division Bulletin.

The challenge is trying to work out what to write and what to leave out.  There is so much I could say, so much I’d love to capture in writing so I don’t forget it all in the future.  The experience of being an ECCA and attending a conference of this scale is so mind boggling and overwhelming, so it’s hard to condense my thoughts down into neat reflections.