Back in the Nineties and early Noughties the acronym EBSLG (it stands for European Business Schools Librarians Group folks) meant little more to me than having to ‘mind the shop’ while my then bosses were away at its annual conference. Actually, I must also make reference to another early ‘EBSLG experience’ when two EBSLG members from France visited Templeton College in the mid-Nineties. On that occasion I was rather startled to be introduced to two of the most glamorous and immaculately turned-out women I’d ever met. I could believe they were French, but librarians?!?
Later when I chaired BBSLG (yep that first ‘B’ stands for British, well done) I was partly responsible for the name change which distanced us from our European cousins as we became the Business Librarians Association (BLA). The distancing was not at all deliberate, however, the membership of EBSLG has always been a topic of controversy amongst the BBSLG/BLA as there have been accusations of elitism given that only the ‘top’ business schools in the UK are members. I’m not going to touch too much on that here, suffice to say that while there is more obvious service and budget parity between myself and other library directors at the highly ranked EBSLG schools, I have always learned as much from the content of BLA conferences as their European equivalents.
The first EBSLG conference I attended was at IMD in Lausanne (right), Switzerland, in 2008, which formed an excellent week-long leadership programme with a heck of a lot of assigned reading. It was important to me as I was mixing with other business school library directors from all over Europe, on the same level, for the first time. The beauty of the environs didn’t go unnoticed too. I swam in that there water one afternoon between sessions!
The following year’s 2009 conference at Ashridge Business School, back in the UK, was also significant for me as it partly prompted me to start this blog. After further conferences in Cologne and Paris, last summer I suddenly found myself volunteering to host the 2013 conference. This will be the first time its members will have come to Cambridge in its 43 year history. No pressure!
I’m no stranger to conference organisation, but this is the first time I’ve done it quite so independently (for the BLA conference, the committee helps take the strain more) or for such a complex and long event – four days. Four! Count ‘em! There have been a few problems along the way: the redoubtable Polly Harper – who was my right-hand conference woman for many months – being poached by a very wise Birmingham-based law firm; the fact that booking a year in advance is still too late for many Cambridge venues when you’re planning a conference taking place in ‘May Week‘; and, most challenging of all, an already mad normal workload.
Another factor was my determination to offer a tailored and personable experience for delegates in line with the approach detailed by myself and Elizabeth Tilley for library service users in our boutique book (still stocked by all good bookshops!). This coupled with my often unrealistically high standards has not made this an easy experience, but it will be worth it, provided it all goes to plan.
My intention was to put together a programme that would challenge and inspire in equal measure. I can’t be sure that this will happen until the conference is well underway, and delegates engage or no, but the right ingredients are certainly in place: speakers and activities. Personally I have a very low tolerance for poor content especially when I’ve travelled a long way to hear it and I’m keen that this year’s attendees feel that the long haul to Cambridge (the furthest flung delegates are from the US and Russia) has been worth it.
I stand now on the conference precipice, the day before the conference begins. My office at work is full of delegate bags, vendor info, bottled water, sweets, Lego, maps, champagne flutes, and clothes that I won’t have time to go home for during the conference. I won’t see much of my wife Marisa and even less of my son John over the next four days but I’m looking forward to it all the same. Content aside, the experience of fine dining at the Fitzwilliam Museum (right) and a four-course Gala Dinner at Christ’s College promise to be memorable, as does the sight of over 40 librarians punting down the Cam tomorrow evening!
Before I sign off, I must acknowledge the efforts of my deputy Ange, and of the rest of my team, Meg, Sarah, Cath and Natasha, who have either provided excellent conference admin support to me over the past few months, as preparation has gone up several gears, or kept their heads down ensuring our information and library service has been operating to the same standards. I owe you all a very good slap-up meal soon.
I usually blog during the conference but for obvious reasons I’ve decided to go for a ‘before’ and ‘after’ post this year, I’m a workaholic but I’m not mad! So… I guess I’ll see all you fine people at the other side.