Friday, July 15, 2011

BLA 2011

Trying to reflect on a three day conference the first thing that comes to mind is how uncondusive to reflection the conference format is. If you were to design an event to prevent reflection you might well gather a lot of people together in a small space, say a conference suite, then pack in one event after another all day long and fill any small gaps with exhibits, meals, posters, coffee, and social events. It would probably help to move people regularly from one room to another and above all bombard them constantly with words, images, ideas and challenging questions.

The best I could do was try to keep hold of what seemed to be the most relevant and potentially useful points from the flood of information and note down enough about those points to allow reflection some time later. In practical terms this means several pages of notes and four * symbols in my notebook.

Sessions that didn't include a * symbol in my notes were not necessarily uninteresting, they just didn't directly connect with any live issues for me at the moment. I know from previous experience that, however inspiring the presentations and training sessions I attend are, thinking through how they could be applied and actually doing something with that inspiration once back in the day-to-day job is a challenge. If I try to act on too many issues I may end up doing none that embody the conference theme - impact!

So what were the four points I want to think about some more, and maybe act on?

1. From Antony Brewerton's Keynote talk on the first day: the library brand is overwhemingly books, books, books and moreover, books. I am a big fan of books myself but this is a dangerously limiting brand image at a time when we need to do more than usual in terms of making a case for spend on online information resources and in encouraging their use.

2. From the Question Time panel: medical students and trainee lawyers get the connection between expertise in using relevant, good quality information sources and employability, but do business students? How can we emphasise the practical usefulness of information skills beyond the academic and into the workplace? Do we need to do more to promote the more 'practitioner' sources we offer?

3. Also from the Question Time panel session: the 'joining a gym' metaphor for students as customers in higher education. I like the idea of a university or a library as a 'brain gym' and the implication of the effort required to make the subscription worthwhile. A good metaphor is a powerful thing - especially in marketing - and this is an excellent one!

4. From Barbara Humphries contribution to the members sharing sessions: the idea of sending postcards to new research students letting them know what the library can offer and asking them to respond with information about their research topic, then responding to this with a personalised guide to resources. I like the way this structures an introductory conversation and, hopefully, encourages a closer relationship between researchers and librarians.

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