On 7th July 65 Business librarians decended on the Hilton Hotel Liverpool for the Business Librarians Association Annual Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “The Research Agenda” with a promise of addressing the following questsions:
- How can Business Librarians discover and meet the needs of researchers?
- Would we be better placed to help researchers if we have some involvement in research ourselves?
This was my first BLA Conference as a newly fledged Business Librarian and I was looking forward to the opportunity to network and share ideas/expertise with other Business Librarians and I wasn’t disappointed! A lot was packed into the 3 day conference and I have decided to provide a summary of the highlights from each day below. For a complete report of the conference take a look at Andy Priestner’s blog Libreaction
After a warm welcome from Andy Priestner the day kicked off with the Library Director’s presentations by Maxine Melling (Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU)) and Phil Sykes (University of Liverpool). One of the key strategic drivers at LJMU is to support the sustainability of the research culture. Maxine outlined some of the strategies employed in supporting researchers at LJMU including: providing space for researchers; research support web pages; targeted spending on research based resources and the development of digitial collections.
Phil Sykes started his presentation with a quote from Tale of Two Cities “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” He used this to illustrate that the environment in which Business Librarians currently operate is the “worst of times” and that we need to plan for adversity and look for opportunities in which Business Librarians can contribute to the competitive success of business schools. Some of the opportunities he outlined include:
- In the traditional way by providing timely and appropriate information provision which is embedded, evangelical and evidence based. We need to be better at proclaiming the value of the library and demonstrate that what we do adds value
- Helping to promote and disseminate the fruits of research through institional repositories
- Developing links with the private sector and research sponsors
To finish of the first day there were a couple of members’ sharing sessions. Carolyn Smith gave an interesting presentation on how they support PhD students at Cass Business School. The types of services they are currently providing are: small group inductions; 1-2-1 appointments; a PhD library guide; posters on library services in PhD offices; engagement with research supervisors and a research support seminar series. They had tried to hold a focus group to find out what they want from the library but nobody turned up and Carolyn asked the delegates for ideas. Suggestions to attract more participants were to provide some sort of payment (cash or vouchers) and there should be a neutral person (non library) leading the focus group to encourage open and honest discussion.
The final presenter of day 1 was Lydia Matheson who spoke about the small scale research projects that have been undertaken at Aston University. Projects included the use of smart technologies, VLE inductions for distance learning students, information literacy, a reading list project and an enquiries blog.
Mark Greenwood (Manchester Business School) provided the third members’ sharing session with his presentation on Manchester Business Answers 24/7 an online FAQ database which was set up to help students navigate around resources. Mark gave a live demonstration of the databases which is searchable and can be accessed anywhere at anytime. All the answers in the database are tagged so that users have the option to browse or search for answers. Mark explained that it is another way of getting to the information which is already on the library website. As well as the answers links to online tutorials, guides and materials provided by other libraries.
Following on from lunch on the second day was a panel discussion on support for research. The panel was made up of Val Stephenson, Head of Research & Learning Support at LJMU, Stéphane Goldstein (RIN), Professor Andy Young (Director of Research at LJMU), and David Glauert (Academic Account Manager at Thomson Reuters). The key message from the panel discussion (and the conference as a whole) is that librarians need to demonstrate impact in supporting research in the academic community and beyond. Any Young made some particularly thought provoking points on the key challenges ahead:
- Funding cuts not only affect research but research support
- Research is funded by public money so needs to reach a wider audience and researchers need to demonstrate the benefits of their research to UKPLC
- To increase invisibility there needs to be a widers dissemination of research results.
- Integrated research management systems help to make life simpler for researchers and academics.
- Librarians have a role to play in supporting researchers through providing advice and guidance (particularly to early career researchers) on where to publish and interpreting journal rankings
Day 2 ended with a chance to explore some of the sights of Liverpool followed by a fantastic gala dinner at Liverpool Town Hall. A great night was had by all.
Day 3 began with the BLA AGM followed by the option to attend one of three interesting workshops on ‘mind mapping’, ‘healthy lifestyles’ and ‘colour me beautiful’. I attended the healthy lifestyles workshop where we had an interesting group discussions led by a team from the Food and Nutrition Research Group at LJMU. We worked in small groups and were meant to cover five topics but our group just had a general discussion on nutrition and exercise. One of the Research Group Deborah was facilitating our group and provided a wealth of knowledge on the science of nutriton and measures of health. I came away from this workshop feeling good about my current lifestyle and eating habits.
The final session of the conference was the Members’ Forum where we had the opportunity to discuss in groups a number of issues surrounding supporting research. The three topic covered were: how can we measure the impact of the library service and its training? How are we coping with budget cuts? and ideas for the BLA Conference 2011.
So what did I think of my first BLA Conference? As a new Business Librarian I found the conference an excellent opportunity to network with fellow librarians and I have come away with lots of ideas and new contacts. Even the journey home was inspiring where Emma Cragg and I had an excellent brainstorming session on ideas for teaching and inductions! I hope to be able to attend BLA 2011 in Sheffield next year.