CILIP Umbrella #ub13 conference

Thanks to a generous HLG bursary I attended the CILIP Umbrella conference in Manchester at the beginning of July. Being the national library and information professionals conference it boasted a broad range of speakers and sessions and proved to be a thought-provoking, frustrating and inspiring conference for me.


Lauren Smith’s a Critical Approach to Information Literacy gave me the most to think about. Lauren argued that without a critical perspective, information literacy will never be the librarian’s weapon of choice no matter how much we argue that it is our raison d’etre. Critical information literacy is essential for all citizens to be able to participate in the democratic processes of society and to feel included. As a health librarian I am all too aware that the general public would benefit from the skills needed to critique the health stories (and scares) which appear daily on TV and in newspapers. These are all too often reported on or published without anyone checking the actual research that has been produced. Ben Goldacre’s TED talk on this is fascinating and well worth a watch.


The Community Libraries debate (that was anything but) was the most frustrating session I’ve ever sat through. It consisted of five people, three of whom were clearly advocating for community-managed libraries (and however you define this it means the use of volunteers and community groups either instead of, or that causes the reduction of, paid staff). The attitude of the panel was that community-managed libraries are happening so we should all just get used to it. I was (incredibly naively) expecting at least one person on the panel to be of the opinion that the very concept of these libraries is abhorrent and should be actively avoided at all costs. I was expecting a debate. A heated discussion between people on both ends of the spectrum. I wanted someone to give a rousing speech against community libraries. But the the most anti-community library comment I remember (from the panel) was a bit of reverse-psychology about community-managed libraries being inevitable so rather than being in denial (which I don’t think we are) librarians should be angry about them (which I think we are). If this had been a teachers’ conference session discussing the implementation of community-managed schools and volunteers replacing teachers what do you think the reaction would have been?

But what to do about them? When the weight of council pressure is forcing these changes through with little thought of the long-term sustainability and impact on communities what do we do? I can’t say that I know seeing as I don’t know of any campaign which has been successful. But I am proud to have joined a campaign (Save Lincolnshire Libraries) and to at least try.


Anyone that attended Umbrella will know what the winner here is! No? Were you not paying attention?

Victoria Treadway and Dr Girendra Sadera‘s brilliant example of collaboration between medicine and librarianship left so many of us in awe. Critical care is a unique department with patients needing treatment for a myriad of often life-threatening and rare conditions. Because of this, clinicians may not be certain of the best treatments or may need their knowledge reinforcing. Enter the super-duper clinical librarian! For the past two years Victoria has spent time on Dr Sadera’s critical care ward round answering clinical queries from staff within 10-15 minutes (using a tablet). This means the clinicians get answers fast and patients can be treated much more quickly.  It was clear that Victoria and Girendra had built up a really beneficial collaborative relationship and it was a very inspiring end to the first day of Umbrella.

Umbrella presentations can be found here.

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  1. psglaister

     /  July 19, 2013

    I shared some of your same frustrations, I think the debates were falsely advertised to be honest because none of them were debates they were just people talking with a tiny bit of time at the end for questions.The community library was one which was a bit of a damp squib and I ended up regretting going to it. I agree with you about the talk from Victoria Treadway and Dr Girendra Sadera‘s, it was really inspiring and I think it was great that Sadera took time to attend the conference for librarians and information professionals.

    • Absolutely agree with you about the “debates”. I can’t remember who said it but someone mentioned how nice it was that when librarians debate they all agree with each other…! That’s not a sector to be reckoned with is it?!

      Victoria really emphasised how important health librarians can be – I think she did a great job of promoting NHS librarianship to people who may not know much about it. I loved how well they got on and respected each other’s professional skills. It was my favourite talk of the whole conference!

  2. Amy Holvey

     /  August 1, 2013

    Thanks for posting Lesley, great to get an insight in to the conference and thank you for posting the link to the presentations!

    • You’re welcome – I wish I’d made more notes but there wasn’t a huge amount that grabbed my attention. These three were the most memorable of the conference!


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