Friday, 13 March 2015

ARLG conference: Newsletter reflection

The following text featured in the ARLG national newsletter, February 2015. It is a short reflection of my attendance at the ARLG 2014 conference, enabled by ARLG's Alison Northover Bursary.

I was thrilled to be the 2014 Alison Northover Bursary recipient. This funded my attendance at the 2014 ARLG conference, entitled ‘The final frontier: to boldly go where you have never gone before’. I had never been to a conference before and was very excited about attending. Looking back, I was not disappointed…

The conference lasted 3 days and was chock-a-block full with sessions. These consisted of numerous workshops and several key note presentations. The conference programme also included lightning talks by suppliers and the ARLG national AGM.

Each workshop covered one of six themes. These all had cross-sector relevancy: teaching and learning, shared services, electronic resources, learning spaces, research support and CPD. Originally, I wanted to attend at least one of each theme, but after reading the abstracts, I selected sessions most relevant to current role. In general, the sessions with FE relevance had lower attendance numbers compared to those with HE relevance. This came as little surprise as the majority of people I met at the conference were from HE backgrounds. The conference has lots to offer those of us in FE, so c’mon college librarians, don’t miss the next conference!

I attended 8 workshops and attending so many made me realise the importance of good delivery. A successful session needs to keep participants entertained as well as informed, otherwise it can easily blend into the background and get lost amongst the general excitement of the conference. One I particularly enjoyed was an accessibility session facilitated by Virginia Power (then of Bridgwater College). She gave memory sticks to people who answered questions and this really helped the session remain memorable. I also attended a practical workshop by Tracy Totty (Middlesbrough College) on using Google Docs. A practical session was much welcomed as it injected some kinesthetic learning into the day.

The key note presentations were each very different and all very interesting, generating lots of questions from the floor. There was quite a buzz about Madeleine Lefebvre (Ryerson University) who spoke about spearheading a large-scale new build in Canada. However, the key note I found most interesting – perhaps because it was completely different to my own role – was delivered by Fiona Courage (University of Sussex). She spoke about ‘The Keep’, a shared archive and rare book service jointly managed between the University of Sussex, East Sussex Council, and Brighton and Hove Council.

Evening events were provided to help delegates network and have fun. (This conference proved that both can be done simultaneously!) As much as I enjoyed the workshops and presentations, the evening events were the parts I most enjoyed. The quiz helped me relax and meet friendly faces. The gala dinner was a chance to enjoy lovely food in lovely surroundings – what’s not to enjoy?!

I was very nervous about being a conference newbie, especially as I didn’t know any of the other delegates. Twitter helped as it allowed a few of us to make contact beforehand. The committee also helped put me at ease. They were all friendly and very knowledgeable about the schedule of events. There was a committee member present in every workshop to ensure all went well, and I thought this a very nice touch.

The conference was an amazing experience. There is simply too much to tell! Try as I might, I simply cannot squeeze it into the confines of this short piece, so – if the mood takes you – feel free to visit my blog where there is a more in-depth reflection on my conference attendance.

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