The Collaboration Conference Delegate Experience

Gaz Johnson's picture
By: 
Kit Eastwood, Loughborough University

A delegate finds inspiration and affirmation for library staff at September’s Mercian conference

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the first annual Mercian Collaboration Conference, In Libraries We Trust, held at De Montfort University, Leicester in September 2017. The day included a keynote address, parallel sessions and many networking opportunities on different aspects of trust, and our profession’s role as partners within our institutions in managing, curating and building collections.  I wrote copious notes on the day and took many key points back to work with me, but I’ll try to summarise and give a brief overview of the day here.

Eric Stoller’s keynote speech discussed digital media and 21st century libraries. This was a thought-provoking address, with Eric Stoller’s dry humour and engaging delivery getting the day off to a great start. His discussion of social media, and how our profession can find innovative ways to use new technologies to engage students, was particularly inspiring. It was great to hear about so many initiatives across the UK where libraries are showcasing their value and building relationships with their users, whilst building institutional identities through social media. Also timely, considering the hot topic of digital fluency in higher education, was his discussion of the importance of using our professional expertise to teach students how to critically engage with digital media as a pedagogical tool, not only as an entertainment or social one. Finally, Eric’s keynote address underlined the library’s role as “core nexus of communication”, which I think perfectly sums up the library space as the heart of each of our institutions.

The four parallel sessions that I attended each approached the topic of trust from a different perspective. Dawn Hibbert’s Shifting sands of Open Access and Grant Denkinson’s How do researchers feel about Open Scholarship? both considered how we build relationships with the academic research community when we tackle the contentious issue of open access. Dawn’s session discussed how to sell open-access to academics, whilst Grant’s was a chance to put ourselves in the shoes of the academics; to imagine how this shift in academic scholarship really makes them feel, and how to use these insights to improve our working relationships. Kate Courage’s Students as partners discussed trust between the library and students. Her talk summarised a successful pilot scheme at the University of Warwick to elicit feedback from English and History students, after analysis of the NSS results suggested dissatisfaction with library resources. By contrast, Northampton University’s Re-envisioning academic services at the University of Northampton for the 21st century considered the issues of trust between management and staff during the process of restructuring budget structures, roles and processes. Lastly, University of Birmingham’s session, In data we trust, explained how their library academic engagement and collection management teams had worked together to use and trust data to drive their revised collection development strategy, which in turn had built a more strategic relationship between the library and the academic schools.

Of course, alongside the keynote speech and parallel sessions, there was ample opportunity to meet new people and catch up with colleagues. I thought the day was great opportunity, especially as it gave me huge insight into how other libraries in our region work to build trust with all stakeholders. Having only recently returned to working in the library sector, after a 10-year break, the conference confirmed that I had made the right choice. I can’t wait until next year’s event!