Soggy librarians?

Well, not really. We actually managed to avoid the rain for the most part, I think. I just got absolutely drenched, though. Anyway, I am now dry and must put off writing about Umbrella no longer! I’m afraid this might be a bit of a ‘I did this and then I did this’ sort of a post, but I hope it won’t be too dull.

I attended Umbrella for one day, on Friday. I made it to Hatfield station without major incident, although I did have a slight panic when I thought I’d boarded the wrong train at King’s Cross! Fortunately, I was on the right one! I got the lovely purple Umbrella bus from Hatfield station and made my first observations of a large number of librarians out of their natural habitat. [Back at work on Monday someone asked me whether I could tell that the people at Umbrella were librarians. I’m not sure that I could, really, although most of them did fit the stereotypical white, female, nearing middle age, demographic.]

Once I had collected my badge and quite useful bag from the reception desk I not only looked like I was going away for a week, especially as I had had to wear my winter coat due to my only other coat being ripped whilst doing my hair in Norway (it’s probably best not to ask), but I felt rather lost and not quite sure what to do¹. I arrived too late to attend the Breakfast Briefing, but too early too look round the exhibition, so I settled for having a cup of tea and looking at the large timetable for the day, which was helpfully displayed.

Although I’d planned to follow the ‘Information Literacy’ strand, I actually ended up going to one session from three different strands; ‘Information Literacy’, ‘Workforce Development’ and ‘Communication’, as well as the plenary session.

My first session of the day was “Web 2.0 and Information Literacy: all hype and no substance”, an amusing and informative talk by Peter Godwin. He gave some good examples of how Web 2.0 can be used in teaching library and information skills and gave an enjoyable overview of some of the many Web 2.0 applications. If nothing else, Web 2.0 is certainly fun (for geeks like me, at least!) and I think it really does have the potential to enhance the work of librarians, especially with younger people and students, but also with other groups. I think it’s particularly important that the groups who are already using Web 2.0 applications now use them with integrity and some sort of ‘discrimination’ for want of a better word. Librarians using Web 2.0 have a great opportunity to reach out and market their services to a wide range of people, many of whom may be uncomfortable with the traditional model of a library. It’s also vital that the information gap (yes, I think there still is one – apparently some politician/other big wig said that the information gap/digital divide no longer exists) is narrowed, and quickly, otherwise many people are going to be left behind without access to basic services, if things carry on the way they are. 

Anyway, enough preaching to the converted. For some distraction please have a look at this video featuring a couple of  slightly scary librarians. Peter reckons that this is what many librarians have dreamed of! Is he right?

The second part of the morning’s session was a talk by Helen Conroy from Netskills and Debbi Boden  from Imperial College, entitled “Teachers, trainers, educators, enablers: what skills do we need and where do we get them?” This was an intereting session, and brought up some of the problems faced by library staff when they are expected to teach without having had any training and, (almost) conversely, when they are told that they have to have some formal teacher training in order to do the job that they are already doing. Overall, having some form of formal training was seen as a good thing, whether it was through a traditional teaching route like the PGCE or more library focused training like the Current Library and Information Practice (CLIP) programme.

 The talk was based around a study undertaken to find out what skills library and information professionals feel that they need, how they got these skills, what they feel should be taught on library courses and what CILIP should do to help LIS professionals gain the skills that they need. The results all made for interesting reading. I’m hoping that all the presentations from Umbrella will appear online at some point so that people can see what on earth I’m talking about!

After listening to Helen and Debbi I and everyone else went for coffee. A lot of my day at Umbrella seemed to be taken up with consuming some sort of beverage and cake, which was no bad thing. I think I counted at least five different types of cake on offer during the day.

After coffee and a nice pastry I went to the session on “Building your portfolio”. It was extremely useful and this session alone made it worth going to Umbrella. I really hope that the presentation from this session will be online soon, because I’m sure it would be a great help to anyone chartering or following the ACLIP route.

Lunch was nice. Lots of interesting things to eat. Well, I thought so. I managed to meet my boss (by accident), but he was talking to some other people and I was getting in the way of a catering man, so I wandered off to look at the stands in the exhibition and the poster display. I was quite impressed by some of the posters, particularly the ones from the National Library of Scotland, which looked very professional and were interesting.

I attended the Career Development Group’s AGM after lunch. This was the first time I had attended a CDG AGM and it was a good insight into the workings of the group, as well as another opportunity to eat cake. It was also quite entertaining as Bob McKee was weighed in preparation for his latest  charity weight loss attempt.

The plenary session, a talk by Dr Alex Byrne, President of IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, provided much food for thought. His theme was “Advocacy and Freedom of Information: the challenges facing the Library and Information Profession in the Global Information World”. Phew! As you can probably tell it was quite a ‘heavy’ talk, but really interesting. As I was settling into my seat I was approached by someone who turned out to be Pete. It was nice to meet him in real life, after being in contact via the blogosphere.

My final session of the day was one on “Making copyright cool” and “…introducing real marketing to libraries”. The session consisted of two talks. The first was by Monique Ritchie of Brunel University Library, who is employed as their ‘copyright consultant’. I didn’t realise that dealing with copyright matters could be someone’s full time job, but it seems that it can be. I suppose there is a lot to it, really, especially if one is dealing with copyright issues across a whole university. It was an enlightening talk.

This was followed by a talk from Nigel Thomas of Leicestershire Library Services, who talked about real marketing, clean and dirty data, among other things. He made some interesting points, including the idea that we need to base are marketing strategies around what our users do, rather than what they say they want. It’s a good point, I think.

I left at 5pm to get the train home, so I missed the last bit of this session, but it was a good job I left when I did, as lots of London was closed, due to the car bombs being found. On the way home I started talking to another delegate, and it turned out that she used to work in my current job! We had a good chat, and I wished I’d met her earlier in the day!

Overall, I enjoyed Umbrella. At times I found it a bit overwhelming and wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself, but all of the sessions I attended were interesting and useful.

I hope that I’ve remembered things correctly. If anyone who attended Umbrella would like to correct me on anything I may have remembered wrongly or just completely forgotten to mention, please let me know!

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1. I actually spent quite a lot of time wandering about feeling slightly lost. I think Umbrella might be more enjoyable if you either go with someone you already know, or plan to meet up with people once you’re there.

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3 thoughts on “Soggy librarians?

  1. Pete says:

    Lilian, I agree. Having gone down on my own, it was nice to meet Michael, Claire and David so I knew some faces there. That said, I’m reasonably self-sufficient and happily bimbled about 🙂

  2. deargreenplace says:

    Wow. I’ve been reading everyone’s posts on the event and I’m now suffering from a smidgen of Umbrella envy 😦 I may just whack it on the PPDP for next year’s future ‘training’ needs. Sounds like it was really worthwhile, but I suspect I’d probably have been the same as you – wandering around slightly lost and overwhelmed. Good work guys 🙂

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