12th March was an exciting day for me as a new professional as I got to attend my first conference – the CILIP North West Members’ Day in Preston.
I travelled with a colleague from LiveWire libraries in Warrington and although our jobs have a lot of common ground (she is responsible for digital development and I am responsible for online information, amongst other things) we are both part-time and we work at different sites so the journey was a good time to catch up and talk a few ideas over.
Arriving in Preston over the scary, rickety bridge to the conference centre we were greeted by a lovely, friendly bunch of fellow professionals, one of the largest turnouts for the member’s day in recent years. There were representatives from health, public, academic and charity libraries as well as a retired member.
The theme of the day this year was celebrating success. A time to celebrate what libraries do well to inspire us all at what are often challenging times for our libraries.
The first speaker was Victoria Treadway @librarianpocket, a Clinical Librarian from Wirral University Teaching Hospital. She spoke about a project she initiated to integrate a librarian into the ward round on the critical care ward to aid healthcare professionals in delivering evidence based care by providing access to the latest research and guidelines on treating the wide range of patients seen in critical care.
The success of the project, both in terms of patient outcomes and the growth of knowledge and confidence for the clinical team lead to Victoria and the consultant surgeon from the project being invited to present at a medical conference in India.
Victoria spoke not just about the visit, but about the range of skills she had gained in planning the trip and the conference presentation which had been useful to her as she worked towards chartership. As well as the expected skills in presenting and academic writing, Victoria had to develop advocacy and fundraising skills to persuade the NHS Trust of the value of attending the conference. Part of this involved her working with IT and other agencies to produce a video about the project and it’s benefits which can be seen here http://www.whnt.nhs.uk/hrod/development/library_services/services/clinical_librarian_service.html.
This really was an inspiring story of how a librarian had embraced new technology to take her skills and expertise to the point where it was needed. The project had helped change people’s perceptions of the hospital library from a place that people may possibly have liked to go to if they ever had time, to a key partner in delivering the best outcomes for patients and helping staff to be more confident in doing their jobs. It demonstrated that our skills as librarians are as relevent, needed and desired by people as ever, they just don’t necessarily want or aren’t able to visit the library. It is up to us to get out there and show people what we can do and find ways to meet people at their point of need.
The second speaker was Stewart Parsons, Project Manager of Get It Loud in Libraries @Libraryfiend @LoudinLibraries. This project to bring high quality music into libraries is probably well known to most librarians. Stewart gave numerous examples of the success of the project and the stellar list of artists who have been featured as part of the project, Adele, Jessie J, Professor Green, The Wombats, Plan B, Florence and the Machine are just a few I can remember.
The projected started out of Stewart’s desire, as a music librarian in Lancashire Libraries to bring young people into the library by helping them engage with the culture and music they were consuming outside the library. Stewart emphasised a libraries role as a place to encounter great culture and from the start the project had aimed to engage high quality musicians, generally people on the cusp of commercial success.
The project is lead and guided by young people and provides many opportunities for engaging with local schools and colleges. Young people take on roles such as publicity, journalism, recording and photography as well as setting up associated fashion and art projects. Many have used the experience gained volunteering with Get It Loud In Libraries to secure university places and jobs within the highly competitive world of music and media.
The project has grown and now delivers gigs around the country. It has secured funding from a range of sources, including the Arts Council, and has gained lots of positive media coverage in media that appeals to young people such as the NME as well as more national press and TV.
Once again the message was we do not need to change our core aims. Libraries have always been places to connect with great culture; what we need to do is see where great culture is and how people engage with it and adapt our services to serve their needs.
Before we were allowed out for lunch the AGM of the CILIP NW Branch was held. While this was largely a formality, it afforded the many people gathered who are not part of the committee a chance to hear about the work the committee does to provide training and networking events for local members. David Stewart, Branch Chair, outlined plans to merge the group with the NW Career Development Group, but also emphasised the need for librarians to support and join their professional organisation: How can we expect to be taken seriously as a profession if we do not have a professional body?
Lunch was a good chance to network. I was able to chat with friends from my course last year, as well as colleagues from other public libraries and colleagues from academic libraries who knew my husband via his Twitter stream!
After lunch Phil Bradley, CILIP President @CILIPPresident @Philbradley gave the keynote address on Librarians in a Social Media World. Phil outlined how the world of search is changing as Google and other main search providers move further and further towards money making models. Why should Google provide you the perfect result straight away if it’s main aim is to show you lots of adverts? Search engines do not rate accuracy and slowly the public is beginning to realise this. The established search engines also struggle to keep up with the range and amount of new and instant material being created on the web and the move the ‘real time’ business and news.
He noted the changing role of the ‘recommendation’ as the main way to find new websites rather than search. With the increase of use of social media such as Twitter and Google+, as well as blogs and aggredation services such as Scoop It and Delicious people are more and more using recommendations by people they trust to discover information they can rely on. The trusted people may not be people they know, but may have gained people’s trust by reputation, friends recommendation or celebrity.
The role for librarians here is clear. We have always been seen as a trusted source of information and recent research found libarians were still second only to doctors as trusted sources of information. There is a huge opportunity here for librarians to take a lead in becoming a trusted local source of information, if only we can convince the IT and other departments who see social media as nothing more than a threat. Phil suggested changing the terms of reference of the debate away from ‘social media’ to ‘real time business’.
The final session of the day was from Margaret Robinson and Jayne Evans of Manchester Metropolitan University Library. They outlined the process they had implemented over the last few years to achived Customer Service Excellence. They emphasised how important getting staff on board with the process from the start. They suggested the process could not have succeeded with out the positive support of both top level managers or frontline staff. The goal of the prize of getting the CSE award was a key driver, but throughout the process the benefits had been seen to both the managers and the frontline staff.
The process had been driven by feedback from both users and staff. They had found online comments forms and long surveys had not been well used. Instead they used informal coffee and biscuit ‘roadshows’ where small groups of staff could feed back customer service niggles and suggest solutions had produced a range of really useful suggestions, many of which were implemented.
For students they had stopped using long surveys, but instead used short ‘straw polls’ with three questions which were asked to everyone leaving the library. This allowed the polls to be focussed on specific issues and resulted in a higher rate of completion. Similar online polls were used after interactions with students via the website.
They noted that very often it was small things that were relatively cheaply and easily changed that really affected customer satisfaction. Although they had yet to find a way of satisfying everyone with regard to the temperature of the library!
Finally they talked about feedback and the importance of closing the loop by telling both staff and users how their comments and complaints had been acted on. They use both ‘you said we Fox’s posters and a changing display on the website which showed a random update from a list of five recent changes to website users.
Libraries are fortunate that our friendly helpful staff are often commented on in customer satisfaction surveys, but there are always things to improve and little things count. This was a useful presentation with several practical ideas in how to consult with both staff and public quickly in a way that produced meaningful results.
The day ended with votes of thanks to the speakers, committee and chair for a successful and inspiring day. I hope to be able to attend again next year.