Earlier this year, I received a bursary from YOHLNet to attend the Lilac Conference which was in Cambridge on 19th-21st April. This was a gathering of librarians from around the world presenting on key topics to our work and their research. As a graduate trainee this was thought-provoking and extremely exciting as it wasn’t just my first conference as a librarian, but my first conference ever. As such, I would like to express first and foremost a great deal of gratitude to YOHLNet for providing the funding for my attendance.

The conference itself was fascinating, for someone who has only worked voluntarily in a public library and as a Graduate Trainee in the NHS – both of which would be classed an extremely small. I may have lived in my university library as a student, but I can honestly say, there are a great many of us librarians around, and to see them in person and networking with them after meeting people via webcam during my traineeship was a great deal of fun.

The presentations of the conference centred around three key themes: Information Literacy, Accessibility for Libraries and the significance of Health and Digital Literacy. All of the presentations I attended had one or more of these overarching themes in the background of the research and discussion, whether it was a History Student discussing the concept of Bias and Trustworthy Source Material in Research, how to create an easy read guide to help people access the NHS services and appointments, or the various way we as librarians can support our users and improve the accessibility of our services with Cartoons, booking systems, and improving our PowerPoints to increase their accessibility or possibly more in the realm of adventure creating and recording a podcast about different areas of Information Literacy.

I found a great many fascinating ideas, some of which I spoke about at the YOHLNet meeting on Wednesday and others which require more in-depth consideration. The first presentation I attended was by Ruth Carlyle and Sue Robertson and the experience of creating easy-read guides. The project they undertook built upon NICE guidance from 2021 about Shared Decision-Making. Ruth and Sue took us through their process in developing easy-read guides to ensure that individuals with Learning Disabilities had support in accessing healthcare. These easy-read guides have been developed and published with the aid of individuals who need them, and their presentation began 3-days of new ideas and potentials for us as librarians.

Among the three themes I mentioned above, the first information literacy, contained the most prominent topic of the conference,  trustworthy source material and bias in research. This came from the growth of grey literature in academia and students growing use of SM platforms such as Tik Tok as search engines. The importance of bias within research remains a major component for information literacy and teaching students how to critically assess existing research a prominent role for libraries. A second topic of discussion was the developing role of librarians from gatekeepers of information to types of teachers who show people how to interact with that information, how to approach and assess it critically and how to use it in their work. Thirdly, many skill-based subjects, such as engineering and maths at universities do not think that their library are as useful to their students as humanity subjects. We, in the NHS, face a similar challenge with particular groups of staff, alongside the fact that many of NHS staff often don’t have time to visit the library. This means that the role of library inductions has never been more important in reaching our users. Finally in Information Literacy, the conference touched upon the Impact of AI on the distribution of information through more popular channels and the importance of Information Literacy for the wider population in being about to critically assess what they are seeing on a day-to-day basis. This final presentation included a demonstration of how far AI was able to copy a published article in a medical journal using ChatAI, an AI content creator.

The Second Theme focused upon accessibility for our readers with learning disabilities or special requirements. Accessibility was discussed at length by Keynote Speaker Maria King, and she highlighted the importance of accessibility in Training through the presentation slides, using alternative text and the reading order functions in PowerPoint. Secondly, one struggle that we all face is the view of libraries against the reality, even in the NHS where our purpose is to support the NHS in evidence-based practice. Clare Trowell  spoke about how she has used Cartoons, Comics and Graphics in Library Posters and Signage to communicate both about how to join or use the library but also information about key aspects of Information Literacy and the research process. Many libraries have moved to a digital first policy for acquisition. However, it has recent years have shown that there are difficulties experienced with Digital Reading. Essex University undertook a study looking at where students struggled. Some areas we have probably all encountered: students didn’t know how to navigate the various digital platforms and databases, but they also didn’t know how to interact with resources using digital tools and features for reading, annotation, etc. Finally, on the topic of accessibility the conference discussed Accessibility and how significant it was in library catalogues and Reference Management systems and accounting for this when teaching library users in using these applications.

The Third and final Theme focused on health and digital literacy and how important this is becoming in the wider library community both inside and outside the NHS, particularly in public libraries. This included the first presentation I attended. Secondly, there have recently been pilot schemes in the midlands and the south of the UK regarding Health Literacy in Public Libraries, and we were provided with an overview of these. Details of the issues they faced, and the techniques they used to improve health literacy in specific places such as Staffordshire. This pilot scheme also raised the importance of digital Connectivity in relation to health literacy and this idea was then developed by Regina Everitt and the Role of the Library her library placed during Covid at developing their student’s connectivity and access while they were unable to visit the library. Finally, the conference touched upon the Benefit for librarians to understand Digital Applications, in particular those which may be used for research whether that be quantitative or qualitative.


  • Lilac Conference Abstract Booklet


  • Accessible and easy read resources


  • AI Content Creator


Katherine Bladen-Hovell
Bradford District Care Trust