ILI 2011

ILI 2011 (apologies for poor photo!)

Last week I attended my first full Internet Librarian International conference. It’s an event I’ve often followed virtually and this year was really pleased to be able to attend and present on using web tools to improve productivity for librarians (see previous blog post for more information).

I attended really interesting sessions, met great people and had engaging discussions.

Now that I’ve had time to reflect, the main themes I took from the conference were:

1. Embedded librarianship

This was discussed at the SLA evening panel discuss, in numerous sessions and Q&As, and came up frequently in discussions with others.

It is clear that librarians, whatever their sector, need to be embedded into their organisations and with their end users. It’s been said plenty of times that we should ‘go to where our users are’ and this seems to be becoming even more crucial as librarians across the sector are experiencing cuts and organisations may be questioning the value of the library service and the librarians. We hear all too often the argument that ‘all information is online’ and I think most librarians agree that it’s the added value in how we can help people find that information at an appropriate time and in an appropriate format, and it’s clear that this is where we need to focus.

In the academic world, librarians are spending more time with faculty, and in the commercial world librarians are trying to understand their users needs to provide the information they want when they want it (e.g. current awareness bulletins for lawyers). These are definitely good developments and I’m sure we’ll see lots more of that in future.

2. Preparing for the future 

The conference theme was ‘Navigating the new normal – strategies from success’ so there were a number of discussion about what the new normal is and how we prepare for what is likely to be the new normal of the future. There were no definite answers about what to expect, and I still stick by one of my views (and I think strengths) of the profession:

The one constant in the information profession is change

I actually really like this; I think we need to be flexible and adaptable and I’m happy to do that. The world isn’t static and information certainly isn’t – either the content or the format – so as information professionals we need to be able to change to reflect the changes in society.

3. Play!

It was good to see this promoted, and something I definitely agree with. The idea behind this is that as information professionals we should not be afraid to play with new tools, investigate new ideas, and see how we could utilise them. One of the fundamental aspects of the 23 Things initiatives is that we should play with tools on an informal basis to learn more about them, and then think about how we can apply that to our work. It’s something I have been doing today actually (with Pinboard and IFTTT) to figure out how best to bring together information of relevance to one of the project I’m working on.

There are obvious problems with ‘playing’ with things or testing things out in a professional environment, but an important way to learn how to use them is to play. Something Phil Bradley always recommends (which I tend to follow) is to try something out in private or in a personal capacity, and then consider how it could be used in a professional sense when you feel more comfortable with it. We shouldn’t be afraid of trying new tools but on the other hand we shouldn’t throw ourselves into the deep end by investing a lot of time/effort/money setting up numerous different ideas. However, I really do think we need to stop being so afraid to fail that it slows progress and if something involves minimal investment it might be worth experimenting with on a small scale. So go ahead – play!

Now what?

I really enjoyed ILI2011 and I have a lot to follow up on. There was a great deal of interest in the 23 Things for Professional Development course I’ve been involved in organising, so I hope to be able to share our experience with this via publishing the findings of our evaluation survey (shameless plug but please complete it if you have been involved in CPD23 at all, even if you chose not to participate – it will really help us!) and dissemination at future conference presentations (maybe ILI2012 would be one suitable avenue).

It also seems there are quite a few librarians interested in productivity tools and processes which I presented on so I’m hoping to continue sharing any tips I learn or software I find useful either on the blog or via Twitter.

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