I am so grateful to the YOHHLnet committee for awarding me a bursary to attend the Librarians’ Information Literacy Conference (or LILAC for short). It ran from 11th-13th April at Manchester Metropolitan University. Though I was a bit nervous to attend my first in-person conference since 2019, I needn’t have worried at all as I had a fabulous time!

LILAC celebrates all things information literacy. It brings librarians together from all over the world and from all different sectors. This was perfectly illustrated by my buddy group: we had me representing the health sector, two librarians from the House of Commons, and a higher education librarian from the University of Texas at Austin – quite the mixture!

The conference lasts three days and there is a dazzling array of choice when it comes to which sessions to attend. Probably my three personal highlights were:

Inclusive Teaching Practices to Improve the Learning Experience for Neurodivergent Learners – Maria King, Edinburgh Napier University

Maria was a fantastically engaging speaker and I would highly recommend signing up to any talks she gives in the future. She started off by explaining what neurodivergency is – it’s an umbrella term that covers things like dyslexia, autism, ADHD, and dyspraxia. It’s different to the term neurodiversity, which is used to describe the different ways brains can function and includes neurotypical people. What I liked most about her session was its focus on practical ways we can help the neurodivergent learners we serve. Small but meaningful changes can include being flexible on start and end times of sessions (already very important in the NHS!), offering to record sessions so learners can access them again at their own pace, and sending out the slides ahead of time, which gives e.g. dyslexic learners the ability to format them to their own needs and preferences. I would highly recommend looking through the linked slides and taking on board some of Maria’s suggestions if you are looking to make your teaching more inclusive and accessible.

Teaching how to structure a literature review through 1990s movies – Kirsty Thomson, Heriot-Watt University

This title was so intriguing that I just had to go and find out what it was all about, and I am so glad that I did. Kirsty’s session was so much fun! She found that her students had lots of questions about how to write a literature review and was in search of a memorable way to teach this in a one-off session. She uses Jurassic Park, Titanic and Romeo + Juliet as examples to engage students with looking for themes in pieces of work and connecting those themes together. For example, Titanic and Romeo + Juliet both have a theme of love against the odds. You can also teach other features of literature reviewing using the films as examples – e.g. Leonardo DiCaprio is in two of these films, so maybe he is a key author in the field and you can look for other examples of his work using Google Scholar? Though I typically teach 1-to-1s or in very small groups, rather than in larger groups like Kirsty does, I think this method is so fun and memorable that I would love to find a way to incorporate it into my own practice.

Are you a teaching librarian? How two ‘imposters’ grew a library help centre – Kevin Brittle and Cory Newbigging, National College of Ireland

Kevin and Cory spoke a lot about imposter syndrome, which has been a big topic of conversation in library land over the last few years, and one which I think has particular relevance to working in the NHS. I still have moments of self-doubt, where I worry about the legitimacy I have when conducting searches or giving training sessions to clinicians with much more knowledge and experience than me. It was quite reassuring to hear from two people with similar feelings, and to hear how they approached setting up their new service with the motto ‘brave not perfect’ as their guide. I think that is such a good way to frame your perspective and give you the confidence to try new things. Not everything will work out the way you intended – or even work out at all – but the value is in being brave, saying yes to things, and learning through doing.

If none of those appeal, then fear not – you can find the full archive of presentations from LILAC at this link.

Overall, I cannot recommend enough that people apply for conference bursaries, and LILAC in particular. There is so much to be gained from the conference experience – not just the formal keynotes and the parallel sessions, but also the chats you have whilst filling up your coffee cup, or walking back to the hotel, or even queueing for the loo. I found it both personally and professionally fulfilling to spend the three days connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. In addition, conferences also give you valuable time and space away from the everyday demands of your service and allow you to reflect on your practice and how you can make improvements which will help your users.

Kathryn Aylward
Assistant Librarian
York & Scarborough Teaching Hospitals