BLA Liverpool 2010 – Day 1 (Part 2)

More from Day One of the 2010 BLA conference at the Hilton Liverpool which involved chocolate, Cheatles and impersonating Richard Madeley (I didn’t see that one coming)…

Following an inspirational Hazel Hall was Moira Bent (below). Moira is National Teaching Fellow and Faculty Liaison Librarian at Newcastle University, and she was presenting on ‘information literacy and beyond’ (soon to go up on Slideshare). Moira admitted that she didn’t like to talk about research ‘support’ as it is a word that suggests to her that librarians are not truly integrated and involved in research, just assisting with it. She proceeded to have a bit of fun with us – suggesting we each come up with three words that we associated with chocolate. As an aside she mentioned that men unlike women always respond with brand names. Proving this hypothesis, Mars was one of my words (my other words were ‘hungry’ and ‘now’!). Moira then asked us to think of three words we associated with research. Her aside this time was that most respondents choose words beginning with the letter ‘i’. And so it proved, some of the most popular being information, investigation and impact. She went on to describe a model she has developed of 7 ages of research (from Masters students to subject experts).

Some key points from her talk included:
– researchers have an “insane passion” for their subject(!)
– the research community is becoming more challenged by difficulties related to location/non-co-location
– That we need to go to where researchers are and leave the library (something we intend to do much more of at Judge this coming academic year)
– Engagement, outreach and empathy with researchers are all vital
– It’s vital that we understand the variety and mindset of researchers
– Staff at Newcastle University tweet new staff publications to demonstrate engagement with research community
– Why don’t we innovate? Fear, time, money, opportunity, strategy – all excuses that aren’t good enough and means we risk the danger of professional suicide
–  Impact is not just about marketing. We need to always be there in front of researchers. We should not be shy about library value
– Information literacy is the key to our success
– Researchers concerns include:  space, where and how to publish, REF, data management etc.
– We need to develop info literate researchers
– We need to do more with less and demonstrate value

Moira’s conclusion was that librarians are an integral part of research process, especially through our info literacy role, but that we need to ensure that we demonstrate our value at all times.

After presentations from our Platinum and Gold sponsors (Thomson Reuters and Proquest) without whom we couldn’t afford the conference, it was time for one of our members to take to the floor. Members sharing is always an important and popular element of BLA (BBSLG) conferences and this year was to be no exception.

First up was Carolyn Smith from Cass Business School (someone who I have a lot of time for, even if she was partly responsible for our temporary incarceration on a coach last night!) who presented on PhD support at Cass. Carolyn described how at Cass they had hit a bit of a brick wall with PhDs and that they wereas good as invisible, hidden, unknown and distanced to them. Although they already offered  group inductions and 1-2-1 appointments they knew that they weren’t seeing enough of them and instituted some new measures including: a focus group, a PhD guide, a research seminar series (plagiarism, Refworks and getting published) and a poster campaign. Carolyn discovered that focus groups that offer payment and are facilitated by neutral (non-library) staff attract more participants. She also learned that it was key to engage with research supervisors. Carolyn ended her snappy and informative presentation with the honest statement that she wanted to pinch our ideas about what else could be done.

BLA committee member Lydia Matheson from Aston University followed Carolyn, giving a presentation entitled ‘How evaluation and feedback have informed LIS development at Aston’. Lydia deservedly won the Leslie Baldwin award (for best members sharing session) for her presentation which fitted seamlessly with – and drew upon – previous presentations that day. After talking around a list of small scale research projects completed at Aston, Lydia went on to urge us not to ignore the blogosphere and gave a practitioner rather than academic approach to research.
Other key points included:
– Literature review is the first thing that falls by the wayside when we engage with projects
– Alternatives to Captivate: Jing, BB Flashback
– 43 student attendees at her focus group due to food and vouchers
– the importance of obtaining feedback before and after implemented changes
– that time investment in ‘extra’ work research projects pays off long-term
– if we’re not sharing with our colleagues within our library how can we hope to share with the wider community?
Lydia concluded by saying that she dosn’t feel she has the time to gain expertise as she is ‘chasing her tail’ all the time and is too busy to perform as well as she’d like. I know a song (or maybe even a whole darn musical) about that one!

The first night of the BLA conference used to mean an informal dinner and or a quiz, but last year we upped the ante with an Irish night (with riverdancing and everything!). However, I believe we surpassed ourselves this year by booking well-known Beatles tribute band The Cheatles.

I’m a bit obsessed with TV and in my very limited free time I write – and publish – books about old TV shows. When I was researching for my book on the Brussels-based resistance drama Secret Army my wife and I spent quite a bit of fun – but thoroughly geeky – time scouting out filming locations in the UK and Belgium. Sadly I was reminded of this activity at this year’s conference as I suddenly realised that the bar in which The Cheatles were going to perform at the Albert Dock (the Pan Am) just had to be the former TV studio where they used to film This Morning – daytime TV show de jour when I was a student. I still can’t see Richard or Judy without getting the sudden panicky feeling that an essay is due! Keen to establish that this was indeed the place I asked Emma Thompson (conference organiser extraordinaire) and she excitedly confirmed that this was the very studio where Richard denied shoplifting and a generation of Liverpuddlians, in full view of the cameras, waved and grinned from outside. Being a bit of an idiot, much later in the evening (after lots of Guinness) I decided that it would be rude not to recreate a Richard and Judy moment and dragooned Emma into playing Judy to my Richard. Photos were taken (below) unfortunately without grinning faces pressed up against the window.

The Cheatles were great value and more of us got up for a dance than I’d imagined. I wasn’t quite drunk enough to get lost in the sound of the Fab Four, besides I discovered that their music is really not that easy to dance to.

After the Cheatles finished, several database sponsors (the majority of whom had remained sedentary before now) took to the floor and how should I put this, er, let their hair down. Suffice to say I have photographic evidence and I am ready to negotiate with you about vastly reduced subscriptions.


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