Many thanks for this guest posting from Elen Wyn Davies, Deputy Subject Librarian for Health Sciences, Swansea University writing up her experiences of attending the CILIP Cymru/Wales Conference 2014:

Held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cardiff, this year’s CILIP Wales conference theme was Making a difference: Libraries and their communities. I attended on the second day of the conference, which had a great mix of talks and workshops from the Public, Higher Education and School Libraries sectors, and as always it was difficult to choose which workshops to attend.
The speakers were excellent, starting in the morning with Judith Andrews from Birmingham City University and Darren Smart from Essex County Council. Judith discussed the implementation of Customer Journey Mapping at her University, this is not something I have ever been involved in and seemed like a very time consuming exercise. However the benefits Judith described for the students and the staff was definitely worth the effort, providing better workflows for staff and most importantly providing a better service and experience for students.
Darren provided a very thought provoking talk which underpinned the importance of collating fact based evidence, especially impact evidence from end-users, in demonstrating the values of Libraries to those people who make decisions on the funding and cuts in public Library provision. “Libraries are more than a glorified bookswap” is Darren’s mantra and his examples of how libraries and those staff working in them make a real difference to their community were truly inspirational.
After a quick coffee and cake break we returned to the main room for a talk by Douglas White from the Carnegie Trust, discussing what role libraries have in getting the final fifth of the UK population online.

Photo: CILIP Cymru Wales

Photo: CILIP Cymru Wales

The Carnegie Trust have published a number of reports “Making digital real: Case studies of how to help the final fifth get online” and “Across the divide: Tackling digital exclusion in Glasgow” which highlight the continuing digital exclusion of a significant percentage of the population. This can most starkly be seen in Glasgow where 40% of people don’t have access to the internet. Cost seems to be one of the key barriers however this reiterates the key role public libraries have in not only providing a community with the free tools to be able to get online but also through providing help, advice and support to people.
The first of the workshops I attended was just before lunch and I attended Amanda Bennett’s talk on demonstrating and embedding librarian skills into a teaching module. Amanda and her lecturing colleague Sandra Dumitrescu showcased the fantastic collaborative work they are undertaking in setting up an E-portfolio assessment for Early Childhood Studies students at Cardiff Metropolitan University. This talk demonstrated the real value and difference Amanda’s input to a teaching module is making to her students’ learning and search skills.
After a fantastic lunch and an opportunity to network I attended the second workshop of the day, and the talk I was most looking forward to. Mala Mann from the Support Unit for Research Evidence took us through the complexities of undertaking a systematic review, giving us a real insight into her role and complex search strategies and advice she provides to the community she supports.

On Mala’s recommendation and keen to find out more about Systematic Reviews and search strategies I have now signed up to attend the Systematic Review Network Conference to be held in Cardiff on the 4th June to learn more.

Photo: CILIP Cymru/Wales

Finally after even more cakes I attended the final couple sessions of the day. These were very interesting talks by Angela Noble, Schools Literacy & Resource Advisor for Monmouthshire and Torfaen and Barbara Band, School Librarian in Wokingham and this year’s CILIP president. The topics were completely new to me as I have never worked in the schools sector but the work undertaken by both speakers was impressive, inspirational and their enthusiasm for their jobs really came through in their talks. School Librarians and the Schools Library Service and the role they have in children’s education is sadly underappreciated and under threat due the budget cuts. In Barbara’s own words “nobody notices when I do my core job – it’s all the extras that get noticed!” and she really does go above and beyond her job remit showing a real passion and dedication to School Librarianship.
What I will take away from this year’s conference is Librarians and Libraries do such amazing work and really make a difference but what we really need to do is shout louder and showcase our worth to the right people. Evidencing what you do and the impact you have on your community is even more important in the current climate.
Congratulations to the winner of this year’s Welsh Librarian of the year Peter Keelan, Cardiff University and congratulations to the CILIP Wales organising committee for another great conference. See you next year.