My first Business Librarians Association Conference


I had heard many tales about the Business Librarian Association (BLA) conference in the past. All in all the general consensus was it’s a great conference and having attended my first this week I have to agree. I have come away with lots of ideas and inspiration plus put names to faces from Twitter. I think in today’s shrinking training budgets conferences are essential. They provide a unique opportunity to share ideas and be inspired and are a bit like a music festival – great way to see lots of new ideas at relatively low cost per session.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Making an Impact – demonstrating value.” Which is of course a big issue in libraries of all shapes and sizes. The first keynote was “A is for Advocacy” by Antony Brewerton, Head of Academic Services, University of Warwick. It was a great start to the conference as it was engaging, relevant and informative. I liked the way he took ideas from marketing and adapted them for libraries. I wouldn’t say it was revolutionary but he did make an excellent point in that a problem is that librarians think what they do is common sense but students don’t see it as being so obvious. A point worth being reminded of. Another point worth remembering is the key to our success is service. As he said “People don’t go to the pub for the ale but for the service.”

His talk reminded me what can be done with some simple ideas including something we did well at Brighton, templates so all documents looked the same. The helpsheets I’ve been doing for our Cass students have taken these ideas but maybe we need them across the board at City? It’s that buzzowrd Branding which came out of this keynote.

The first afternoon continued with two talks from a director and assistant director of the local universities. This was followed by an excellent Question Time session where members had been invited to submit questions beforehand and the panel answered them. One of the questions was on social media and a couple of good points which echoed my own thoughts came out of this:

  • Use it in the way students use it.
  • Do need to be where students are.

Plus an excellent idea – Ask students to write on blogs.

I won’t say much about the informal dinner, suffice that free wine is great and a quiz on Sheffield is a bit hard when it’s your first visit.

The next day had a mix of presentation styles which re-affirmed my believe that practicing librarians make better presenters than some of our academic colleagues. The surprise was that until Meg Westbury’s excellent presentation on Friday nobody used Prezi.

There was a presentation on strategy to kick the second day off at 9am, the main point I got from it was that strategies should be simple for people to understand them but I do have some references to look up.

It was then up to Huddersfield to make data interesting. They succeeded. The team talked about their library impact project. Amongst the things they mentioned were that they had been using library usage data to see if their was a correlation between library use and degree class. We had break out sessions to discuss some of the points raised. One of issues our groups discussed was the effect on library services if positive correlation is proved. Will it give us more clout? Will it effect subject librarians? Is their a positive correlation between information literacy and degree class? Some of the information is available in their repository and there’s a great blog about the project.

Chinese students and their experience of life in UK higher education was the subject of Dr. Bradley Barnes’ post-lunch talk. This really interested me as I’m currently working on pages for international students and have a bit of experience with them from INTO. He talked about using an equation to measure the students experience.

Perception (p) – expectation (e) = quality (q) if q is negative then what is perceived falls short of expectations.

What Dr. Barnes explained was that with Chinese students their cultural differences will effect their experience and the quality of that experience. For example they are surprised that our shops and services close at 5:30 and perceive this as lazy. It was interesting to have my own experiences confirmed.

The afternoon continued with a talk from the Norwegian Business School. It was really good to hear how things are done in Norway and the school looks great! They made a couple of good comments, one was that we should use QR codes partly because it looks technologically advanced and therefore impresses. The other was one echoed elsewhere – use students for induction videos.

Friday morning saw the AGM and then member sharing sessions which were really interesting and reconfirmed librarians as the best presenters. They were all really good and re-confirmed the belief that librarians excel at presenting. I was particularly interested in Meg’s explanation of how they built the Judge Business School Library Blog as one of my tasks for the next year is to work with Carolyn on our web presence and we had discussed looking at to do it. Meg’s prezi was also excellent and really showed how good it is as a presenting tool.

So, all in all it was an excellent conference. The hotel was great, Sheffield lovely and I really do have some great ideas to develop. If you work supporting business students then it is well worth the time and cost to attend.