Sunday, 14 October 2012

Events, Conferences and Advocacy (Things 15 and 16)

Events and Conferences

I have been in the library profession for nearly three years now and have had the chance to attend a number of professional events and conferences. I know it is stupid to say but here it goes anyway... I am always taken aback by the friendliness and welcoming atmosphere at conferences. There always seem to be two cliques though... professional conference goers/organisers and those that get to attend a conference a year. I’m not in anyway surprised by the welcoming atmosphere and I love the opportunity it gives for me to network and put Twitter names to faces but I also feel somewhat like an outsider twice over, as a professional who doesn’t get to attend very many conferences and as a public library Librarian. In regard to the latter it is more often than not at conferences I attend that I am the only delegate from the public sector. This may be partly due to the climate we find ourselves in at the moment but I also feel that many conferences are aimed at the academic/private sector.

Then why I hear you say don’t you speak at one of these conferences or events? And the answer comes back... lack of self confidence, time and resources. I know it’s an excuse but it’s the one that I’m using for the moment. Not to say that the conferences I’ve attended have not been informative, helpful and educational but a balanced delegate list would help to advance networks and the sharing of best practice. These conferences and events are also helpful with keeping up with current awareness and building on my knowledge of the wider profession.

The idea of presenting at a conference or event scares the living death out of me I’m not going to lie but I think I would relish the chance to present a view of the public library sector at the moment. Unconferences such as Library Camps go some way to helping those like myself who aren’t gifted public speakers but the other side of the coin is working out whether you have something to contribute which is valuable to the profession or whether I’d just be filling time in a programme but I think that’s an issue I need to get over rather than a professional opinion.

When I was a student I was a representative of the North East CDG. With two student representatives and members of the committee we organised a careers event for that year’s librarianship intake. This included guest speakers from alumni and staff sharing their experience of the job market. I was also in that year part of the librarianship social society and so this helped me understand the organisation behind events in terms of finding a viable venue, and organising a programme attractive to your target audience. This event was attended by approx 25 students who gave excellent feedback and was a brilliant first step into networking and establishing professional relationships which are still helping me today.


I was lucky enough to be published in the Pubic Libraries Journal (PLJ) before it’s cessation in 2010 and have also written pieces for group newsletters regarding events and visits attended. This blog is also a perfect advocacy tool and I like to think people learn a little bit more about modern librarianship by reading it. The Internet and Twitter have become amazing advocacy tools over the last few years and the media are focusing a lot on libraries in the present climate and yet I still have people come into the library to sign up that are astounded when I tell them there is no charge.

This is why I believe events such as National Libraries day are so important to promote the versatility and breadth of the modern library service.  Now more than ever advocating our profession is essential, not only educating the world at large but those users who have only scraped the surface of our services.

I have not been a part of any national advocacy at large but have taken part in some on a local scale and getting out into the public whether it be a street stall or a school assembly and setting right some of the myths surrounding public libraries. These events needs to be well organised and publicised but are well worth the effort. It is something I would be very interested in pursuing given the chance and time.

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