LILAC coloured joy and focus

Manchester Metropolitan University
LILAC conference venue at Manchester Metropolitan University

Last week was joyous, as after a delay of two years we were finally able to run LILAC – the information literacy conference founded in 2005. It’s been an annual chance to get together, share good practice and let your hair down on the dance floor so it was wonderful to see everyone. The following are the notes I wrote to use to introduce the conference. I’ve not (yet) shared any reflections from the conference but I hope to do that. People seemed to like what I said so I thought I’d share it on my much neglected blog. Here goes….

I was really pleased the LILAC Committee asked to do the introduction to the conference. I’m so thrilled and excited that we have all been able to get back together and to meet some of you for the first time. It’s so lovely to see your faces! But to see your legs is even better though! I missed people’s legs and I missed the side of you all. I remember in 2020 when I hadn’t seen a friend for about 4 months except on a screen and I had to walk all around him and look at the sides to check he was real! I wrote in the programme to enjoy LILAC with all your senses, and I meant it – enjoy what you see and hear, but enjoy what you eat, what you smell and touch (ok it’s all getting a bit weird now so I will perhaps leave it here – in fact on the day I told people not to lick each other which got a laugh!)

So this is great to be here, but I’m also aware it’s a bit scary and overwhelming. I don’t know about you but there have been many days in the last 2 plus years where I’ve felt a bit emotional. I’ve felt sad, scared, insecure, worried about me, worried about friends and family, worried about the world. But today I’m actually feeling joy to be here. Although I want to acknowledge, like information literacy, emotions are complex and it’s perfectly normal to feel happy and scared and worried at the same time. And that’s ok.

So before we dive in to the delights of Lilac, I want us to take a few moments before we start to think about a few things, to focus on a few things. Even before the pandemic I was reading a lot of self improvement type stuff. I can’t remember when exactly I discovered Brene Brown but I love everything about that woman. I love her books, but I also podcasts now.  When you need a bit of comfort or motivation or grounding she is my go to person. Her voice soothes me. Two ideas from recent podcasts I want to share with you.

The first is the idea of focus – directing your attention is like shining a flashlight in a darkened room. The recent podcast with the neuroscientist Dr Amisha Jhi is well worth listening to. It talks about mindfulness and its power to actually retrain your brain. I did a course in mindfulness before the pandemic (maybe it shows some great foresight on my behalf?) But probably not knowing me! Anyway Amisha tells us paying attention is so important and something we all need to do more of. She also talks about the problems with multi tasking and when we actually need attention – to be able to do deep work and connect with people and the problems that stress can cause with our ability to focus and make decisions. I know we have all probably struggled with that in the pandemic and it is relevant to information literacy, because our ability to process, to evaluate information when we are stressed is really hampered.

And a second podcast my lovely new colleague Jenny put me onto, is Brene talking to Karen Walrond about finding joy and connections in the midst of tough times – it’s ultimately about self compassion. And how to cultivate gratitude. Little ideas in that podcast are taking a photo everyday of something that is beautiful. And noting at the end of a day where you did something to feel connected to another being, where you did something to be healthy, and where you did something to feel purposeful. I’ve tried practicing this each day and it’s helping to find moments of joy even on the days when it rains, and you have a headache and stumble from online meeting to online meeting, or get some bad news, or worry about catching covid or watch terrible scenes on the news.

Blossom at LILAC
Finding joy – the blossom in Manchester on the walk to the conference venue

So over the next few days I hope you’ll revel in each others company but also take some time out as well if you need it. Notice what you need at each point. Be reflective – ask yourself what have I heard, what might it mean and why might it matter? And play that back to others as I believe it’s only by sharing those inner thoughts and ideas with others that we grow and learn and make connections.

Now just take a moment to think and set yourself a little goal to achieve over our time here. Big or small. If you talk a lot maybe you want to listen more, if you love solitude maybe reach out to someone else. If you are often angry maybe look for some joy. If you do things fast, slow down. If like me you are often distracted, try to pay attention to everything that’s going on. And try to find some joy every day.

I’m going to give you 1 minute – you might want to close your eyes. You may want to focus on your breathing for a moment. Just notice what you are thinking and what you can hear. I’m setting a timer…… (Note to future self – 1 minute stood in front of loads of people feels like about 10 minutes!)

Now perhaps you might want to  make a note of something you want to get out of these three days or perhaps you might just have enjoyed a moment of quiet.

The world has turned into a scary place for many of us, but it’s also a beautiful, wonderful joyous place and our time together is so precious.  Being involved with Lilac has given me one of the greatest senses of purpose. Meeting all of you, being here together makes it all worthwhile. Information literacy really matters and you all matter. So have a wonderful 3 days

LILAC conference dinner
LILAC conference dinner

Postscript – I’m so grateful to the LILAC conference committee and all the helpers. It was so fabulous to see many of you for the first time in more than two years.

If you went to LILAC I really hope you enjoyed it as much as me and for those on the dance floor at the dinner, I suspect there can be no doubt I enjoyed myself!

One thought on “LILAC coloured joy and focus

  1. Lovely to read your blog again, Jane! (Hey – it’s Karen Marie from Norway here, btw.) I’m so glad you got to have a real LILAC again. I have fond memories from every LILAC I have ever attended, and it is always such a nice crowd and so much to learn there. I wish I could be there, but I still limit the number of people I see in person, although I am now back at campus. Travel seems like a distant memory, but I hope to be able to attend LILAC again sometime. It was so funny to see you mention Brené Brown. I have been addicted to her two podcasts during these pandemic years, and I absolutely agree on your assessment here. I just finished her new book, Atlas of the heart, yesterday, and there are so many things in there that just made me stop and think again. Anyway.. it was lovely seeing your blog again!

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