Libraries@Cambridge 2011 Conference

Last week I attended the Libraries@Cambridge conference, which was a really interesting day with lots of thought-provoking presentations. It was generally agreed that Ned Potter’s presentation on library advocacy and the echo chamber phenomenon was one of the highlights of the conference, and even though I had seen the presentation online before the event, it was definitely worthwhile seeing it presented live.

Ned made it clear how important it is for librarians to get their voices heard beyond their own online communities if they are to challenge outdated public perceptions of libraries and the services which they provide. He made the point that people would not come to librarians for help if they did not know how librarians could help them, which implies that effective marketing is clearly an essential part of library advocacy. It is also very important to dispel the myth that libraries are unnecessary because all information can now be found on the Internet for free, as this simply isn’t true. Academic libraries in particular must pay expensive subscriptions to the journals and databases which give students access to the articles they require for their research, and in addition there is so much material which simply doesn’t exist in an electronic format yet – in my own library I have noticed that almost all of the textbooks we buy must be ordered as a hard copy because there is no ebook version available.

The presentation ended on a positive note with lots of examples of librarians who had managed to escape from the echo chamber to make their views heard, and I think that everyone came away feeling inspired to make an extra effort to promote their library services.

Another highlight of the day for me was the graduate trainee presentation which myself and the other trainees had been working on before Christmas. Becky, Erin, Tom and Charlotte did a brilliant job of speaking on the day and we had lots of positive feedback. As a follow-up, Annie put our slides up on SlideShare and unexpectedly this resulted in the presentation being featured on SlideShare’s homepage and it gained over 1000 views, which was very exciting. The presentation can be viewed here.

Overall it was a really enjoyable day and the conference also provided an excellent opportunity to get to know librarians from other Cambridge libraries. I came away from the event with a really positive sense of community as it is clear that there is a really strong network of librarians in Cambridge who make an effort to engage and collaborate with each other.

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One Response to Libraries@Cambridge 2011 Conference

  1. The trainee presentation was indeed one of the highlights of the day, and hopefully it will generate more interest in the scheme as one of the best paths of entry into librarianship. But as a contrarian librarian, I found Ned’s talk strangely dissatisfying. Some of the media criticisms of libraries and librarians are justified, and only by being a lot more critical of our own profession can we ensure that the debate rises above the level of pantomime.

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