Reflections on LILAC

Three days of thought provoking and inspiring networking, sharing best practice, catching up with friends and having fun. As one of the organising committee it is difficult to get a true perspective on LILAC 2008 as my head is a whirlwind of logistical arrangements – ensuring we had the correct versions of files, meeting the speakers, chairing sessions, entertaining our keynotes and generally helping out from taking coats in the cloakroom to directing people (badly) around the building and around Liverpool. I’m shattered after 3 days of non stop organisation and hard work. But I feel confident that LILAC has once again been an overwhelming success and is now firmly enshrined as THE library conference to attend.

I certainly won’t forget this LILAC in a hurry. Highlights this year were (once again) the social events, including the wonderfully stunning Palm House where we held our networking evening and the impressive Liverpool Town Hall which hosted our conference dinner. The warm welcome from the city of Liverpool, including a late night tour of the city by a friendly taxi driver and the biting wind and bright sunshine will also stick in my mind! I’ll also remember this year for the truly impressive parallel sessions, which were high quality both in terms of the work that was being reported and the quality of the presentations.

I must mention our keynotes this year, including Anya Timm’s fascintating insight into international students approaches to academic writing and learning. Patricia Senn Breivik was truly a remarkable woman, and an inspiration of how more of our library leaders should be in the UK, urging us to be bold, to take risks and not be afraid to get it wrong sometimes – she is truly passionate about information literacy. Frances Norton from the Wellcome Trust looked at issues of scientific literacy in the general public. Meanwhile, Christine Irving and John Crawford’s overview of the Scottish Information Literacy project is an exemplar to us all of how a country can take forward an issue nationally. And finally, the much anticipated, Tara Brabazon, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Brighton, much reported in the national press recently, gave one of the most outstanding performances I’ve ever seen from a conference keynote from her lack of powerpoint, to Star Trek references. We need to bottle her enthusiasm for librarians and information literacy and sell it, she really has the potential to do for information literacy what Jamie Oliver did for school dinners! Her critique of Google and Wikipedia and Web 2.0 culture was as well coiffeured as her magnificent hair! She must be a real inspiration to her students and you can get a taste of some of what she said in today’s THES.

Sessions that stood out in my mind from the parallels included Hannah Hauxwell from the University of the West of England who spoke about information literacy at the issue desk and the grassroots work that paraprofessionals do in underpinning more formal information literacy initiatives. I also was highly impressed with the work Mary Antonesa and Claire McAvinia from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth to develop an information literacy course for PhD students using blended learning. Helen Conroy from Netskills looked at developing a framework for i-skills development for staff in further and higher education. Meanwhile my colleagues from LSE Library described the development of an information skills course in Moodle. There were so many sessions I wanted to get to but couldn’t, including Debbie Booth from Australia and Linda Colding from the University of Central Florida.

LILAC always likes to do something new and different each conference and this year saw the launch of a new award for IL practitioner of the year. Judged by Sheila Corrall from Sheffield and Maxine Melling from Liverpool John Moores, this award recognises the practitioner who has made an outstanding contribution to information literacy. The winner was announced at the conference dinner and Nigel Morgan from the University of Cardiff won for his pioneering work developing the Cephalonia method. We also had a student sponsored place at LILAC once again and this year asked the student delegate to keep a conference blog. Keir Hopwood of UWE was avidly blogging both before, during and after the conference. Some things don’t change and the conference committee hit the dance floor at the conference dinner in the obligatory manner.

On my journey home I’m reflecting on how fortunate I am to be part of this fantastic conference and how refreshing it is to see librarians really fired up with passion and enthusiasm for a subject in the way the information literacy movement seems to touch people! Thanks to everyone who helped make LILAC the best yet – I can’t wait for next year – I just need to sleep for a week!

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