As a national CILIP conference there is always the opportunity to hear from people at the ‘top’, and this time on the second day we were addressed by Nick Poole (CILIP CEO, @NickPoole1) and by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas (@wgmin_culture) the Welsh Government Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport. Positive things were said, but as another speaker highlighted, as librarians we are very good at having conversations, but we also need to act, and this may mean not waiting around for that strategic document or plan to land on our desk.
Phil Brabban (@philbrabban) University Librarian of Coventry University Library spoke about building an inclusive service. He explained how the library service at Coventry University had taken a look at their provision for international and overseas students and found it to be woefully inadequate (though probably not much different from many other institutions). Students may be coming from countries where education and library services are provided completely differently (or they may have no prior experience in using libraries), so they are facing a lot of challenges and cultural differences when arriving to study in the UK. Coventry have worked at rectifying their approach, and spoke to international students about what they wanted and needed rather than relying on what the library services perceived them to need. One of the initiatives they created was Pre-Arrival Library Support which helps to prepare students with all they need, and can be accessed before they ever reach Coventry. It has been very effective and also won them the Times Higher Education Leadership & Management (THELMA) Award in 2017 for Outstanding Library Team.
Phil highlighted that actions are better than words, and even doing a small something was better than nothing at all. We should also be continuously re-evaluating our procedures and not just assume that just because we have done something to rectify a problem that we can just rest on our laurels.
Later in the morning Phil joined the panel session about diversity and inclusivity in the library community. As has been rightly pointed out on Twitter (and at the conference itself) this panel was composed of four men and two women, all white, which raises many questions in itself. @Bethanar’s comment for instance attracted an interesting discussion thread.
Really CILIP Wales should have made a greater effort to ensure there was more diverse representation on the panel, and should have been aware that by not doing so they were leaving themselves wide open for just criticism.
The participants themselves did have a lot of good points to make, so I am not criticising any of them individually; but how can you speak about diversity and inclusivity without having other voices directly represented?
I haven’t mentioned all the sessions I attended, and as there were parallel sessions I was obviously unable to attend everything – what helps is having colleagues sit in on different sessions to you so that you can then compare notes!
I came home from the conference feeling professionally invigorated, and pleased that as a cataloguer I had seen tech services included in the conference make up. I enjoyed that many of the key note presentations dealt with the person in the profession and were therefore applicable across sectors and job roles. It was good to see that Aberystwyth as a location worked (despite some apparent organisational doubt), librarians will travel! I also still have a few items and opportunities to chase up (podcasts! references! websites! people!). Roll on next year!