I recently attended the CILIP Cymru/Wales conference held in Llandudno 11th-12th May 2017. Thank you to MALD (Welsh Government, Museum, Archives & Libraries Division) for providing me with a sponsored place for the Thursday, this is my report from some of the sessions of that day.

Linda Tomos (Chief Executive and Librarian, National Library of Wales) opened the conference with a networking master class. It was interesting to hear Linda’s breadth of experience in the library world and how valuable networking can be to help develop productive relationships and strengthen professional confidence. Linda recognised that as a profession we are sometimes not “loud enough” and networking is a way strengthen and advocate for the profession. Undoubtedly, the profession has a number of strong networks including, CILIP, SCL (Society of Chief Librarians) and of course WHELF. Collaborative groups such as these create opportunities and strength through their networks. Linda suggested that perhaps it is time to reinvigorate the lottery funded People’s Network to develop a museum archives and library network for the 21st century.

A question from the floor quizzed Linda on what she would suggest is the best way to engage with politicians in order to advocate for our profession. She suggested that networking again was key in this situation; be strategic, develop knowledge of their portfolio, what are the problems and issues for them and then present the library as the cost effective solution to a problem. Politicians listen to solutions.

With an implementation date of 25th May 2018 for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to come into force in the European Union, it was timely to hear from David Teague  (Information Commissioner’s Office, Wales) on “GDPR: a design for life”.  The current Data Protection Act came into force in 1998 and since then the world has seen a period of rapid development. There is a huge issue of trying to control data in a world of constantly changing and developing technology. Our organizations can prepare themselves for the reforms by following the 12 steps on the ICO website. And then there is the issue that when the UK adopts the Act we will still be part of the EU but this will not be the situation once Brexit is implemented. Interesting times….

I attended the breakout session, ” Marketing to thrive and survive” with Giles Lloyd Brown and Sian Nielson from Swansea University. Although a library Marketing Group was already in existence it needed reinvigorating in order to ensure coordination of activities across teams and sites. Changes in the delivery of enquiry services within the Library had also raised concerns around whether the subject librarians were still engaging and reaching out to students. The year has seen a number of successful campaigns, from the use of pop up banners to promote the Library during Freshers Week, to Survive and Thrive, reaching out to students to help with their assignments and promote LibGuides; through to Pryderi the Parrot to raise awareness of plagiarism. Lessons learnt from their marketing activities included the importance of gathering statistics to start collecting evidence of engagement and for future benchmarking. The group’s marketing success has been evidenced this year by winning the HE category of the Welsh Libraries Marketing Awards 2017.

I found Neil Frude’s presentation on “Bibliotherapy: strategy, schemes, struggles and successes” particularly interesting. Although I had heard of the “Books on Prescription” scheme I was not fully aware of its origins and the weight of evidence there is for the positive impact it can have on helping with mental health issues.  The first “Books on Prescription” scheme originated in Wales and was devised by Professor Frude. The scheme provides high quality self help books as a type of therapy suitable for those identified as being at step 2 of the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines for the identification of mental health disorders. Mental health services are increasingly under pressure, Professor Frude stated that 1 in 6 in the UK has a diagnosable mental health condition, and with limited numbers of therapists and psychologists available (1 therapist to 1000 people needing help!) these needs cannot be met. There is strong scientific evidence that therapy books are just as effective for treatment for this group of sufferers as group or individual therapies and is an excellent and often preferred alternative to prescription drugs. The “Books on Prescription” scheme model has been adopted in the UK and rolled out in many other countries across the world. Unfortunately the scheme in Wales has become virtually defunct but there was strong support in the room that the scheme should be restarted and SCL Wales (Society of Chief Librarians) are leading the approach on this. In my opinion the “Books on Prescription” scheme aligns itself very closely with the objectives of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (Wales) and must surely be reinstated in Wales.

The conference evening dinner saw the announcement of the Welsh Librarian of the Year Award. The winner was Wendy Foster, Knowledge Services Manager at Glangwili Hospital Library and a lifetime acheivement award presented to Hywel James, Principal Librarian, Gwynedd Service. It was great to read and see the many nominations across the profession, recognising the depth and breadth of the profession.

Thank you to Kathryn Parry (Development Manager, CILIP Cymru Wales) and all of the CILIP Cymru Wales Committee for providing an excellent programme and stimulating conference.

Rachael Whitfield, WHELF Development Officer