Wednesday, 10 July 2013

CILIP Umbrella 2013 #ub13

Last week I went to CILIP’s big annual conference, Umbrella, for the first time thanks to a bursary from the Cataloguers & IndexersGroup. I will blog in more depth about some of the sessions later, but I wanted to get down some of my impressions of the event as a whole.

Never having been to a conference of more than about 200 delegates before, I was incredibly excited to attend Umbrella, which I think had about 600. Before setting off, I had gone through the list of sessions to try and get a feel for what I wanted to go to and was fairly overwhelmed at the choice, there was a lot going on!

Biddy Fisher giving the opening address at Umbrella

What were my highlights?

Un-brella 2013 - I headed up the night before the conference, so went to the drinks event they put on. It was great for a first timer who didn’t know anyone else there, as it meant I got to know people before the conference began, I would definitely recommend it. Un-brella also ran a number of other events over the two days, including ‘un-conference’ sessions (and ‘Human Bingo’ which was a great ice-breaker) I thought the team were great, and they did a fab job over the conference.

Janice Lachance (CEO, Special Libraries Association) - I found Janice’s talk really inspiring, I could tell from Twitter that not everyone shared that feeling, particularly with her suggestion to ‘release your inner executive’ and proposition that the word ‘librarian’ could be limiting. While I get where people were coming from, personally I did connect with it. I think if you bear in mind the context of what she was saying (many members of the SLA work in corporate environments) it’s more understandable. I found it encouraging that she spoke at Umbrella, it was a recognition that those of us working in less typical library sectors may need to consider different approaches to suit our workplace.

Ben Showers although much of Ben's session focused on the skills we need for the future, I found his discussion of projects that use technology to open up collections and the work of the JISC/OCLC digital visitors and residents project most useful. Likewise Rebecca Bartlett’s portion of the debate (!) about libraries without walls, outlining mobile technologies and interactive tools at the new Library of Birmingham, was very interesting.

Future skills – I ended up in a few sessions that discussed training for library staff, both formal and informal, I’ll blog more on them later, but it was really interesting to see the approaches of library professionals in the UK and around the world. Transferable skills were definitely the buzz words of the conference!

MOSI - attending a wine reception in such an unusual venue (Museum of Science and Industry) and hearing about some of the amazing life changing and life saving activities that libraries are involved in at the Libraries Change Lives award ceremony. It really hammered home the amazing impact libraries can have on their community.

Photo courtesy of @Librarianpocket (Victoria Treadway)

Any down-sides?

Timings – a number of the sessions had four talks squished into the hour, it wasn’t long enough. A good proportion of the presentations I would have really liked to have heard more from, but there just wasn’t enough time to go into them in detail. Perhaps less choice would have allowed for longer sessions?

Seating – or lack of it! It meant eating lunch (it seems wrong to complain, it’s not the lunches you are there for, but they were terrible!) while sat on the floor. At coffee breaks you’re trying to juggle bags, conference programme, cup and saucer with nowhere to sit or a table to rest belongings. I wouldn’t ordinarily mind, but I don’t think it helped to facilitate networking.

But, overall it was a fantastic experience, and I’m so grateful that CIG gave me the opportunity to go, it certainly left me feeling inspired, and with things to mull over, which I suppose is the purpose of a conference!
Watching Phil Bradley give the closing speech

Check out presentations from the conference on the CILIP website.