From the Conference Circuit #2 – 2017 Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC)

By Esther McLaughlin and Megan Benson, UCLAN

Let us introduce ourselves; we’re Megan and Esther, two Information Assistants at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston. As the two recipients of the first ever George Pitcher Award we were fortunate enough to be sponsored by Ingenta Connect to attend the 2017 Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC).

The LILAC website describes the conference as “aimed at librarians and information professionals [and] brimming with new ideas, innovative teaching techniques, inspiring speakers and exciting social events”. Sounds good, right? Well, you will be pleased to hear that it achieved this and so much more!

This year’s event was held at the scenic Swansea University Bay Campus, predominantly in the impressive Great Hall. The scene itself was rather majestic when we first arrived on the Monday morning: if you’ve never witnessed the joyous mass gathering of librarians, enjoying free gifts and refreshments, then may we personally recommend it? It really is a wonder to behold!

In addition to the array of quirky (and often book-inspired) outfits, we also saw a number of useful and entertaining workshops, as well as some exhilarating keynotes. Obviously we won’t detail every single session which we each attended over the course of the three days, as you all have lives to live, but we’re going to give you some brief reviews of the ones we found most exciting and inspirational.

Luckily, though unwittingly, we’d chosen our first sessions wisely for a Monday morning. Firstly, we participated in Kim Donovan and Julie Charles’ interactive and energising introduction to Brighton University’s playful library inductions, using the Actionbound app. This was followed by a lively taster of how the ‘escape room’ trend can be utilised for University library instruction, given by the ‘playbrarian’ Andrew Walsh, demonstrating that librarians aren’t as staid as the urban myths would lead you to believe!

The afternoon brought our joint favourite presentation of the conference; a dazzling account of the University of Alberta’s Augustana Library’s Human Library initiative, given by Nancy Goebel and Yvonne Becker. For those who haven’t come across the Human Library movement, we heartily encourage you to check it out (no pun intended!)

The concept is that real people with interesting life experiences act as human ‘books’ and are ‘loaned’ to other human ‘readers’. This experience is designed to foster an environment where issues of prejudice and intolerance can be addressed in a humane, sensitive and academic way. It was somewhat awe-inspiring to learn that this February marked the 17th occasion they have hosted the event.

Though we’d both previously heard of the Human Library, it was fascinating to hear a first-hand account of how UoA have implemented it, slightly adapting the model to fit their own purposes and achieving great success along the way. The Human Library is something we hope to emulate at UCLan, based on this sharing of experience, which made this session not only engaging but also incredibly valuable.

The second day brought more stimulating workshops from a variety of countries and perspectives.  In fact, the range of people in attendance from all over the world was incredibly impressive. The exposure to an international perspective surrounding the role of the academic librarian, and the resultant realisation that the issues and hurdles we face day-to-day are literally worldwide, was extremely humbling.

A great example of this was one of Tuesday’s workshops, delivered by Elizabeth Brown of Central Washington University. This session discussed the use of metaphors to aid understanding in information literacy teaching. Unsurprisingly, a room full of people who are all at least fairly interested in words managed to come up with some great ideas to improve understanding. Needless to say, coffee filtering and cake baking all featured a number of times, as well as theme parks with fast-track passes and games of ‘Guess Who!’

On Tuesday evening, the eclectic mix of nationalities and personalities were all brought together at the spectacular Brangwyn Hall where the Conference Dinner and prize-giving was held. In addition to balloon-animal hats we both made some wonderful acquaintances and learnt about more Welsh authors than we’d thought possible. Suffice to say, much merriment was had!

The final day of the conference dawned clear and bright (the weather, not necessarily the attendees!) and brought the ultimate highlight of the event; an incendiary Keynote from Alan Carbery. What could easily be described as a call-to-arms for the information profession, Alan held the entire lecture theatre spellbound as he described what, for the two of us, was a radical new interpretation of what information literacy means in the digital age.

From #BlackLivesMatter to #TwoWomenTravel, via filter bubbles and the infamous Trump Tweets, we were taken on an exhilarating journey detailing the utter importance of ‘Authentic Information Literacy in a Post-Truth Era’. Urging us to interrogate where information is found and presented, Alan proposed that we are now serving our patrons better by being ‘info-centric’ rather than ‘library-centric’.

In her introduction of Alan, Sam Aston said that “legend has it that delegates ‘whoop’” for Alan. This statement is not difficult to believe if you’ve ever witnessed his passion for and thorough knowledge of his topic. If there is one thing that you take from this blog, please let it be that you should watch this charismatic and informative speech on the LILAC 2017 Archive. You’ll thank us later!

Amongst a wealth of fascinating, entertaining and inspiring events throughout the conference there’s no way to choose just one thing that either of us took from this experience, and that’s definitely something which we would like to thank you for, Ingenta.

From simple strategies that can be used on a daily basis, to career-affirming keynotes, LILAC sent us home with our pockets full of new ideas and knowledge. It certainly exceeded our expectations! As it’s an ‘Information Literacy’ conference one would expect it to be informative, which it most certainly was, and the speakers to be literate, which they certainly were. However, the conference was more than just informative; it was also at times hilarious, moving, absorbing and, above all, supremely useful.

So, from these two so-called ‘Young Information Professionals’ we would like to extend our gratitude for giving us the opportunity to attend such a motivating and instructive event. We’ll see you there next year then, shall we?


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