For the first time Libraries Connected, in partnership with Carnegie UK Trust, offered two sponsored places at the 2019 annual seminar. I was thrilled and extremely proud to represent Staffordshire Library Service on one of the places.
Over the two days I was there I heard some inspirational speakers. Simon Quin from the Institute of Place Management gave a fascinating presentation on the top 25 factors influencing use of a town centre. A strong message was 'don’t dwell on what you can’t influence'! In times of austerity in libraries, we simply cannot get stuck in feeling helpless about what is out of our control. All the speakers demonstrated so many fantastic outcomes and that is where our focus can lie instead.
The Ignite Talk by Erin Caselely from Tri-Borough Libraries encouraged me to focus on the internal culture of our libraries. Her phrase 'culture eats strategy for breakfast and culture always wins!' reminded me that providing a great service comes from our staff and volunteers. Leading and creating a positive work environment is key.
On a more light-hearted note, Lesley Sim from West Sussex Libraries showed us a photo of Worthing staff in 1909 and Crawley Library staff now, making us all smile and reminding everyone of just how much has changed. 'Libraries are part of the answer.. and are critical to preventative agendas' Lesley says and I am proud to be one of the people who deliver that.
I ended with library envy as Catherine Lau from Singapore Libraries showed us some amazing spaces and there is no doubt that every library could do with a shelf-reading robot to help us keep books in the right place!
Thank you Libraries Connected and Carnegie Trust for giving me the opportunity to attend. Every person I met and heard from at the conference was committed and passionate about our library services, despite continued austerity. I have come back to my library in Lichfield with renewed enthusiasm and inspiration for the future.
Stock, Services and Activities Officer
Staffordshire Libraries and Arts Service
I was privileged to be able to attend the Libraries Connected seminar this year with a sponsored place from Libraries Connected. The seminar was a hugely positive experience and has inspired me to take forward several ideas for the development of my service, but also for my professional development. The opportunity to expand my knowledge beyond my role was invaluable. It was useful to get together with library staff country-wide to share best practice, problem-solve, and learn new things together. The seminar opened my eyes to the possibilities out there and I have come away feeling revitalised about the future of UK libraries.
So, without further ado, here is my top five favourite moments of the Libraries Connected Seminar 2019:
5. Social prescribing
At number five is the lively discussion we had during a workshop on social prescribing - a great opportunity for discussion and debate with a small group of highly knowledgeable professionals. Starting the seminar with a workshop was useful for me as this was my first time attending and I didn’t know anybody. The workshop allowed me to meet people and get involved with a facilitated discussion on a topic I felt passionate about.
4. Gameplay and story sharing
It was interesting listening to Louise and Patrick from History Pin and Made By Play talk about how social gameplay can be used as a catalyst to connect communities by sharing stories, photos, and local history to ignite dialogue, boost empathy, and stimulate action. A simple but effective idea that could easily be developed further.
3. Remaking Singapore libraries
In at number three is a superb speaker - Catherine Lau from Singapore public libraries. This was my favourite talk of the whole seminar, an excellent way to end the two days! I was struck by the freedom the library service has been given to take their innovative ideas forward, such as the 24-hour lobby, the auto book-sorter, landscaped libraries with book mountains, self-serve reservation lockers, and let’s not forget the ‘robot librarians’!
2. A place for us all
Although not a ‘moment’, one the most interesting things about this year’s seminar was the theme ‘A place for us all’. I wrote my dissertation on ‘a sense of place’ and how place identity is at the heart of every community, carried through the individuals and how they connect with the space they live, work, study, and play in. It was interesting listening to Carole Stewart talking about place-making in libraries and how public engagement shouldn’t be led by our own agenda, but should give ownership to residents to shape their own spaces. What was clear from listening to the speakers was that libraries play a huge part in cultivating a sense of place within their communities and they should be seen as such. Not only this, but also the contribution that libraries can make to wider government agendas such as improving high streets, reducing social isolation and loneliness, and asset based community development. On the long train journey home afterwards I considered this and resolved that we as library professionals need to ensure ‘place’ is a part of every conversation we have when advocating for libraries.
1. Passion and knowledge
And finally, my number one takeaway from the seminar was how much passion and knowledge exists within the library service. I’ve been to conferences before but never where I felt genuinely inspired to do something BIG to make a BIG difference. I was excitedly nervous going into the seminar, but it soon turned to pure excitement as I was so absorbed that I forgot to be nervous! In the days after the seminar I wanted to tell anybody who would listen about everything I’d heard, discussed and seen at the seminar. We are lucky to have such a passionate workforce in libraries with the drive and determination to move things forward and improve the service for the communities that we live and work in. If I remember just one thing from the seminar, it will be this: when you get a group of librarians together we can achieve pretty much anything!
I want to say a big thank you to all involved in organising and delivering the LC seminar 2019 and for giving me the opportunity to attend with a sponsored place. I am now devising a way that I can attend again next year!
Skipton Library and Customer Services Centre