Enthused, Inspired, Reflective and Exhausted – Two Days at CILIP Conference!

Helen Lawrence provides Dr Carla Hayden with Honorary Fellowship

I am the lucky recipient of the 2017 CILIP Aspire Award and received a full bursary to attend the Conference in Manchester in July. I took this golden opportunity to get out of my academic Library and spend a really inspiring couple of days completely immersed in the world of Libraries and Librarians. I am on the verge of submitting my Chartership portfolio so my radar for professional development opportunities is very finely tuned, this was something I was very much looking forward to.

I said in my application for the Aspire Award that I wanted to get out of my comfort zone… well, I certainly got my wish!
The whole experience was like checklist of things I don’t usually do – being away from my small children overnight, meeting people from different sectors, hearing people speak about interesting things… I read a lot of blogs and articles but it made a refreshing change to be listening to people speaking.  

Having previously only attended one day of the LILAC conference several years ago, I was unsure what to expect. Armed with supportive suggestions from my colleagues I quickly found the atmosphere to be very friendly… I quickly realised I needn’t have worried. Starting over breakfast in the hotel everyone was very friendly and excited to be attending, this was really reassuring for me and set the tone for a really great couple of days. With very minimum effort I got talking to some really interesting people about their Libraries – I found the experience of just being with likeminded people was really enjoyable, everyone has so much to talk about and share.

There was palpable excitement in the theatre before Carla Hayden delivered her keynote… I have rarely experienced anything like this in a Library setting but it was infectious… Dr Hayden delivered a wonderful, uplifting speech about her own career path, the principles that shape her role as Librarian of Congress and the challenges faced by the world’s largest Library.  I was struck by the similarities between the Library of Congress and my own Library, which is also similar to public and school libraries I have worked in… universal library truths that really contribute to the collaborative nature of an event like the CILIP Conference.

At the end of Dr Hayden’s speech I had the honour of presenting her with a CILIP Honorary Fellowship. Personally, this was an amazing moment as she gave me a hug and congratulated me on my award then when we left the stage I had the opportunity to chat to her for a few moments about why I won – pretty surreal and very special. We had a ‘kodak moment’ and this photo is now on my desk to remind me of how inspired I was by her keynote and also what can happen when you put yourself out there– this is an opportunity I would never have had if I hadn’t taken the plunge and written an application. It was also a good ice breaker for a shy conference new girl such as myself… all day, I had people congratulating me and chatting about the keynote so it proved to be a great way to meet people and start conversations.

On a very different note to Dr Hayden, the second keynote by Dr Luciano Floridi -Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information and Director of the Digital Ethics Lab. This was really big thinking about information and power, how we use information online and who controls the questions and answers in our society. There were a lot of new concepts to me but I really enjoyed the cerebral workout, Professor Floridi raised some really interesting questions and it was a very different tone to the earlier sessions, which I liked.

The third keynote was by Neil MacInnes, the Strategic Lead for Libraries, Galleries and Culture in Manchester. I am dismayed by the dismantling of public Libraries in my home city of Sunderland so  it was really heartening to hear about all the great things that Manchester have been able to do. Neil was really upbeat and positive about the refurbishment of the Central Library and many plans for the future.

Maybe it was the sessions I chose, but I felt the first day was more ‘what is possible?’ in a very inspiring way, whereas the second day was more grounded and had more of a ‘what can we do now?’ feeling, so to start with this optimistic success story worked really well for me as it set the tone for another good day.

I found it very difficult to choose which sessions to attend as most of them looked very interesting and relevant to my current role or my professional interests. I had made a draft plan but changed my mind on two sessions and feel I got the right mix of personal development and what was relevant to my institution, allowing me to take back some really great ideas and concepts that will benefit my whole team.

The personal development workshops I chose were both excellent – ‘Five Star Communication’ and ‘Loud Librarians’. I left with so many practical strategies and action points, also some scribbled notes about how I can use these in projects I am already working on. My wider professional knowledge has also been enhanced by sessions on Rethinking Libraries, the introduction of the Ethics Review and the (absolutely fascinating) Technology Briefing.

I found the CILIP Conference to be a very rich experience… two weeks on, I am still remembering things and little lightbulbs are going off in my head to say ‘there’s something in my conference notes about that…’ I am hatching plans to put what I learned into practice. I am so grateful to CILIP my bursary and giving me an opportunity  I wouldn’t otherwise have had to do something that has proven to be so valuable – it has certainly taught me that it is worth reaching for things you don’t think you have any chance of getting - sometimes, you do.

If you're interested in attending next year's events, put 4-5th July 2018 in your calendar and sign up here to be kept informed about speaker announcements in the coming months.


Headline image, CILIP Aspire Award winner Helen Lawrence presenting Dr Carla Hayden with an CILIP Honorary Fellowship in a photograph by Martyn Hucks from the CILIP 2017 Conference in Manchester.

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