BLA Liverpool 2010 – Day 1 (Part 1)

For the past four days I’ve been here in Liverpool for the inaugural BLA (Business Librarians Association) conference (formerly BBSLG). Until lunchtime today I was Chair of this fantastic association and remain passionate about the networking, sharing of expertise and support afforded by our annual conference and our many other activities. I’ve titled this blog post Day One (Part 1), but in actual fact it really was Day Two for myself and the rest of the committee as we all got here on Tuesday for a final pre-conference meeting and er… Tapas and wine (categorically not from BLA funds!) 

I haven’t actually had a moment to explore Liverpool yet, but I’m determined to do so at some point, especially as incredibly I’ve not been here before (other than to check out the conference hotel earlier this year). The Hilton, where we’re staying, is almost on the waterfront opposite the Albert Dock where weatherman Fred was startled by a streaker on This Morning’s floating map (more on This Morning in Day 1 – Part 2). Also nearby is the ferry (cross the Mersey) terminal and the Liver building (below) which will  always inescapably put me in mind of (the very lovely) Nerys Hughes and that theme song by The Scaffold. Showing my age.

After my virgin live tweeting in Cologne I decided for BLA 2010 to have a go at tweeting the whole conference and have found it to be a much more useful experience than previously - like everything Twitter related it takes an investment of time to reap the benefits. All the tweets from the conference have been archived on Twapper Keeper by the incomparable @ekcragg if you want to have a gander.

This year’s theme was ‘The Research Agenda’ – how we as librarians engage with researchers, how we meet their needs and how we can get more involved in research ourselves. After my hearty ‘Welcome’,  Day One kicked off with Library Director’s slots from Maxine Melling (Liverpool John Moores University) and Phil Sykes (University of Liverpool) (pictured below). Maxine explored several strategic drivers, including the sustainability of the research culture at LJMU. She described the infrastructure there and the impact it makes on the way they support research.

Phil Sykes began with a quote from Tale of Two Cities “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” as a summary of the world that we as business librarians currently operate in and went on to describe the opportunities for business schools going forward – describing a situation of private wealth and public squalor. He also stated that he felt information provision must be embedded, evangelical and evidence-based and that in the future business librarians will move more towards promotion and dissemination of research and assistance with bibliometric impact. He also stated that he felt that libraries are truly and demonstrably important for research students, but that this value is still overlooked by stakeholders. Phil’s open and honest – and generally upbeat talk went down particularly well with delegates.

Hazel Hall, named ‘Information Professional of the Year’ last December, was this year’s first keynote speaker presenting on  ‘seizing the opportunity of research-led practice’. Her presentation is accessible on Slideshare. Hazel began by describing her seconded role and the  Library and Information Science Research Coalition. Her main messages were essentially that librarians don’t exploit published research enough (and tend to rely on their experience and instincts instead) and suggested that there are not enough librarians getting articles published in academic journals. Quite frankly: guilty as charged.  (Hazel – pictured left in a photo she gamely posed for after the session).

Some key points included:
- Librarians are good at advocacy and measuring tangibles but less skilled at demonstrating value and impact to justify investment (a topic that was later discussed at the Members’ Forum on the last day)
- In 2 years of issues of the top 2 LIS peer-reviewed journals not 1 article was written by an LIS practitioner
- The research record of librarians will need to improve going forward
- Librarians fail to recognise/identify their activities and skills as ‘research’
- Give staff with ‘itchy feet’ research projects to do in order to retain them!

Hazel also invited use to follow @LISResearch on Twitter for research funding opportunities, calls for papers, new LIS jnl issues published and much more. Having seen an example tweets page I followed immediately. She also advised us to check out the ‘One Minute Madness’ video on the conference section of the LISR website to see 22 LIS practitioners talking about their research for – you’ve guessed it – one minute each. Go see!

[End of Part 1]

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