Thursday 18 August 2016

IFLA WLIC 2016 - Day Four

This is the eighth in a series of posts about my experience of IFLA WLIC 2016. Other posts can be found here.

It's now gotten to the point where I'm having to check previous posts on this blog to make sure I know which day it actually is! As much as I'm enjoying the experience my brain feels like it's on information overload right now. So much so that I've taken a break from this afternoons session and have come to write this blog post instead. 

It has taught me a valuable lesson about taking time out though. It can be tempting with an experience like this to try and cram in as much as possible, especially if it,s not likely to be repeated any time soon. However I would urge people to plan some downtime otherwise all of the sessions start to blend into one a little bit and you wind up not being able to take it all in. I'm quite introverted so a little bit of quiet time is always welcome.

Plenary Session
This morning began with an address by the David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. He talked about his appointment under President Obama and his management of the forty-three institutions which make up the Archives, including the Presidential Libraries. One thing that the Obama administration sought to do was to create a culture of open government and the archives naturally played a big part in this. Holding the records of government, it's the job of the archive to preserve these and then make then available for the nation. In this way the people can hold the government accountable. At a time when political misinformation is a hot topic in the UK this can hopefully only be a good thing! Ferriero concluded his message by calling for all librarians to continue their work of sharing information to make the world a better place.

Hot Topics: Re-Envisioning or Re-Inventing - New Journeys for Academic and Research Librarians
The second session of the day focused on future roles for academic and research libraries and librarians. Given that my job is working to prepare librarians for a change future on academic libraries this session was a goldmine. The first speaker, Lorcan Dempsey highlighted a crucial marketing problem that libraries have. Over the past few years we have gone from thinking about the user in the life of the library and how we can provide services to thinking about how the library fits into the life of the user. This is exactly how it should be and how successful business models have done it for years. What libraries do need now is to position themselves as solving university level problems. What can we use our skills to help the university with? Answers include areas such as research data management and access to research. This is essentially what we have always done but we need to frame it in a different way and make it part of our story.

Another interesting talk from this session was delivered by Suzie Allard who talked about the role of the library in helping researchers to manage their data. Some academic and research libraries are already doing this and doing it well but a worryingly high number don't. A concept that Allard introduced that really appealed to me was the incubator model where a library that is having success with this mentors a different library through setting up the process. Is is something I'm very keen to be involved with. We do a lot of this type of education and training at Cambridge and I'd really like to help share this knowledge more widely. It's something I've discussed with my line manager so watch this space! After the presentations we had a great discussion at my table about the various issues raised and I came away knowing more about the international landscape and with more ideas to try.

Failing Successfully in a Librarian's Career: Is a Setback an Opportunity to Grow or Just an Unwelcome Incident on the Road to Success?
Failure is a funny thing. We've all experienced it but no one wants to talk about it. When it happens to you it's easy to feel that you are the only person in the world who this has happened to but this session contained some really good advice on dealing with failure.

New professionals are usually super keen and willing to try everything that comes their way. This will inevitably lead to failure due to both the law of averages and that fact that innovation is linked to risk. If you keep trying new things then some of them are bound to fail. There is no shame in this but you do need to be prepared for the fact that not everything will go your way. You can accept this and learn from it or let it get to you. The advice of the session (and my advice) is to go with the former!

Even when you get a bit further in your career and land that seemingly perfect job remember that things may not live up to expectations. Job satisfaction isn't something that comes automatically like a leave allowance or a salary, you have to work at it. This isn't about loving your job but rather about not letting the little things take over and turn into big problems.

Other advice from the session included trying to turn negatives into positives, addressing problems sooner rather than later, seeking advice from more experienced colleagues and if all else fails and nothing is working, consider removing yourself from the situation. The final conclusion to the session was to continue to take on new challenges, even if they're risky. Great advice that I know I wish I'd figured out sooner.

Looking Beyond Conventional Information: Big, Open and Research Data
Working with researchers and teaching them how to store their data is a big part of my job so I was interested to attend this session to find out about the international perspective. I was a bit taken aback to learn that colleagues in the US are finding getting the message across a bit of a struggle given how enthusiastically the UK community seem to have taken to it. Kathleen Shearer described research data management as a three legged stool comprising policies, culture and infrastructure/support services. We need to strengthen all three if the culture of open data is to be a success.

A phrase that kept cropping up was data literacy which is the ability to manage and store data. This is a good way to describe it and in a world familiar with information literacy may help understanding from both researchers and librarians. Libraries have a crucial part to play in supporting research data management so staff need to be up to speed.

General Assembly
The final session of the day was IFLA's General Assembly or AGM. The strategic directions for IFLA were outlined as below and updates given on each:
  • libraries in society - providing access and opportunities for all
  • information and knowledge - access in any format and at any place
  • cultural heritage - preservation and conservation
  • building capacity - strengthening the ability of IFLA to advocate for change
This was part one of the general meeting with part two closing the conference tomorrow. Thursday is the last official day of the conference followed by the visits on Friday. Since I'm visiting the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame I have a feeling that will be a blog post people will want to read!

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