On Thursday I attended my first CILIPS Autumn Gathering, thanks to the West Branch, who very kindly offered me a sponsored place. The conference themes Community Wellbeing and Professional Engagement really appealed to me. Several of my chartership objectives relate directly to community wellbeing, as I’m particularly enthusiastic about the role of libraries and reading in health and wellbeing.
CILIP CEO Nick Poole delivered a call to arms in his keynote address, using the power words resilience, solidarity and unity. He said librarians are resilient and will always adapt but must not allow this resilience to be abused. There must be solidarity within the profession in the public right of equal access to knowledge. Unity is needed across the different library ‘tribes’, eg. librarians, school librarians, information scientists, etc. The traditional public librarian was in the business of selling stories, but we need to sell our story better and the positive differences we make to our communities. We as librarians need to be opportunistic and out there creatively, demonstrating our value. If we don’t speak up for libraries, we can’t expect anyone else to.
One of the best sessions of the day for me was Riding the Tiger by the Tail: Lessons learnt from running Public Libraries News, during which Ian Anstice explained how and why he manages this ever-growing online resource. He gave some useful blogging tips, including the importance of linking, trustworthy knowledge sharing, never commenting on your own authority, and reporting all sides – the good and the bad.
Ian also spoke passionately about public libraries, and the good work that Scotland is doing for the profession. He was particularly impressed that we have a National Strategy for Public Libraries, something that England does not.
It was both inspiring and saddening to learn that Ian commits up to three hours of his own time each night to running Public Libraries News, and is forced to use annual leave from his full time job to attend conferences like this and inspire fellow librarians. Nick Poole thanked Ian for this incredible contribution, but expressed regret that it has come to this.
It was the session Dementia: Awareness, Information and Libraries that really inspired me to attend this conference. Dementia is something that I have had an interest in for a long time. My job before EDLC, back when I was at university, was Activities Co-ordinator with BUPA Care Homes. I loved working with people living with dementia, and found it so rewarding to engage with residents and make even a small difference to their day. As part of my chartership I have been working on a PLIF funded project Words for Wellbeing, in partnership with local dementia advocacy service Ceartas. In these informal sessions, people living with dementia and their partners or carers get together with library staff and chat about Glaswegian and local words and look at local photographs or film, using these to stimulate conversation, reminiscence and story-telling.
Tommy Whitelaw from Dementia Carer Voices truly spoke from the heart about his experience of dementia as a carer for his mum Joan. His words were so heartfelt, it was difficult not to get emotional. Dementia Carer Voices promotes a fuller understanding of the carer journey and provides a platform where carers can express their views and experiences of caring for a loved one with dementia. Tommy called on us to write a pledge by answering this question: What one thing will you take away and change in order to make a difference to the lives of people with dementia and their carers? I’ll be making my pledge, you can make yours here!
Tanya Duthie, Senior Library and Information Officer at Leisure and Culture Dundee told us about their innovative Dementia Information Service. This PLIF funded project is now a permanent service in Dundee, consisting of a collection of resources for people living with dementia and their families, all in a welcoming and safe environment.
Tanya provided a useful and fairly inexpensive shopping list for anyone looking to establish a dementia collection, and encouraged all public-facing staff to become a Dementia Friend. I recently became a Dementia Friend, and have requested a badge so that I can wear it at work in the hope that someone living with dementia or a member of their family will recognise it and have a chat about our resources. There is more for me to learn, but I hope that my future in libraries involves working with people living with dementia, and finding ways and resources to support them and those around them.
Also, it was lovely to watch my chartership mentor Yvonne Manning accept her Honorary Membership. Well done Yvonne!
I thoroughly enjoyed the Autumn Gathering, and certainly hope to attend again next year. A huge thank you to West Branch for this opportunity!