Information Assistants on Tour: UKSG Forum 2016

The UKSG Forum has been up and running for four years now. It’s a dynamic and popular event for those in the world of scholarly communications. Falling just before the festive season, the event supports their mission ‘to connect the knowledge community and encourage the exchange of ideas”. And, I would say that it did that and more. The event was held in the aptly named Grand Connaught Rooms. It was a day jam-packed with the exchange of ideas, networking opportunities and delicious refreshments.

Photograph showing a perfectly proportioned and symmetrical grand stair case with marble balustrades

The Grand Connaught Rooms main staircase. Picture by 2016

Each year the Forum has a particular focus. This year, all eyes were fixed on “The innovation game: breaking the rules”. The organisers (including our own Deputy Director of Services, David Summers) had engaged in a spot of imaginative innovation themselves, choosing to theme the event around a football match in recognition of the venue being the site on which the Football Association was founded in 1863. Delegates were invited to attend regaled in football strips and scarves, and plenary chairs were stylised as ‘referees’ – equipped with whistles, and yellow and red cards; which they weren’t afraid to use when presenters ‘lightning talks’ overran. All in good fun!

During the day there were 8 plenary sessions, each lasting half an hour with no two sessions being held in the same room. This was great, it kept us moving and you could select a pick-n-mix assortment of attending plenaries, taking refreshments, networking and visiting exhibitors. Each plenary grouped three lightening talks together around topics such as Systems and Technology, Data, Library Interaction and at 12:00 the all-important Library, Engagement and impact session (…our’s).

The title of our lightening talk was ‘Inspiring evolution: changing the working culture of the library through innovative practice’. So what did we have to say? Well, we shared our experiences about how we’ve taken a transformative approach towards embedding innovation into our culture and how this has seen us achieve so much more than just solving problems. We spoke about how our group was formed from across all grades and teams and we described how a flat hierarchy has enabled us to foster an inclusive ethos of collaboration. We shared the good and the bad; the initial stumbling blocks we encountered to the wider shift in staff engagement and participation to the positive impact on the users experience.

 Image with the words "the library towards 2020" depicting the central atrium a Lancaster University Library; a light canvases enclosed space with a ficus tree at its centre.

Our talk culminated with a visionary statement:

“Our Innovation story is not techno-centric it’s people-orientated. It is a story about unlocking the creativity and talent within our workforce. It is time to challenge the status quo, to move beyond tradition. It is time to view things through a new looking glass,  to dream,  to experiment,  to take risks, to foster the forward thinking innovative culture that will create the libraries of the future. ”

…. and breathe

There were so many refreshing lightening talks throughout the day. Rebekah and I had three personal favourites. Firstly, Sarah Pittway’s which evaluated the significance placed by hiring managers on whether a candidate for a post holds a library qualification. A case in point; Sarah doesn’t hold a specific library qualification. Alternatively, she holds a PhD, PgCert, MPhill and a BA (Hons) – although modestly, she only mentioned her PhD. As a Team Leader: Academic Services, University of Worcester Library, she brings a wealth of education, practical experience and insight to her role. Her talk demonstrated convincingly that library and information qualifications are, and should be widely respected but hiring managers should also seriously consider the inclusion of the phrase “or equivalent experience” in job advertisements, capturing the atypical but perfectly capable and talented candidates… a phrase, which I’m proud to say, our library already includes.

Secondly, we loved Andy Tattersall’s (University of Sheffield) talk on Research Hacks – a series of short animations which he narrates with a signature sense of humour. They’re aimed at teaching academics how to share their research and work smarter. Topics so far have included Google Drive, Mendeley, Apps for referencing, early morning productivity hacks, and many more. He explained that anybody can replicate his efforts using relatively inexpensive equipment, software and a simple formula; an old idea, reframed in a novel and engaging way.

Last but not least, Wendy Morris (Kingston University) and Leo Appleton (University of the Arts London) delivered a thought provoking and motivating talk. They suggested that we should break the mould and start to view the library and information sector through the lens of the comic book world. We were all asked to consider where we felt we fit in on the ‘Superhero scale of professional pride’; from Ant man, to the Incredible Hulk. They encouraged us all to celebrate our successes – to take pride in our work and the positive difference we make.

Image displaying the speaker and a rising scale of 10 superheros from Ant man to the Incredible Hulk.

Picture by @darylrayner 2016

UKSG Forum, it was a pleasure. Until next time!


Northern Collaboration Conference – Liverpool Hilton – 15 September 2016

Collaboration: delivering innovation, engagement and impact

Attended by Josh Sendall, Callum Pownall and Liz Hartley

There’s information about the conference and a link to the presentations on the Northern Collaboration website .

Photo of Josh and Callum outside the Hilton Hotel

The conference theme drew upon key issues for us in delivering support for teaching, learning and research in the current HE climate. How can collaboration aid us in delivering innovation, impact and engagement?

How do we nurture innovation and deliver new and exciting initiatives and services?

How do we encourage psychological engagement with different stakeholder groups to plan and deliver a successful library experience?

Do we need libraries? What difference do we make to the experience of our users? How do we demonstrate impact?


Three of us attended the conference to present a paper ‘Coffee, Cake and Biscuits: cultivating engagement and inspiring cultural change through innovation.  Rebekah Constable who had done a lot of preparatory work on the paper unfortunately couldn’t attend on the day.

tweet aabout using people and talents of an existing workforce -not all about new technology

We gave some background on why and how we set up the Lancaster University Library Innovation Group.  Our overriding aim is to improve the experience of our users by unlocking our own creativity.  We discussed how we came up with ideas, our achievements to date and the effect of the Group on stimulating innovative working in the library. We finished by reflecting on what comes next.

We didn’t exactly trend on Twitter but our presentation generated a fair bit of interest and received good feedback on the day.

Tweets - lots to follow up back in the office, including staff from all levels makes the innovation group a force for change,Lanc Uni Library has a tree, love non-hierarchical groups

We all enjoyed the keynote addresses, especially Richard Watson’s, the author of Digital vs Human.

Liz’s highlights were Nadine Sunderland’s talk on the University of Cumbria’s great work with their Head Start programme (providing online information skills, academic writing and referencing training to pre-entry students) and Bob Frost talking about the University of Central Lancashire’s pop-up library service – taking the library out of the library. Loved the travel case with the pop-up screen.

Pop-up library transit case and screen

Josh went to a talk by Karen Crinnion and Susan Millican from Newcastle University. They shared the success they’d had in Using games to introduce postgraduate researchers to the Library. In one task they gamified evaluating the quality of resources. Another game involved using large foam jigsaw pieces with bibliographic details on (Title, date of publication, publisher etc. all jumbled up); the aim of the game was to piece them together in the correct order to create a complete Harvard reference. Novel ways of making the mundane more interesting!

As well as seeing the pop-up library presentation from the University of Central Lancashire, Callum enjoyed the talk from Michael Fake and Liz Waller about the White Rose Libraries plan to develop a shared collection to free up study space.

The conference really highlighted the interesting and innovative work going on in northern university libraries.

And there was cake!

Cream cake