The Western Regional Section of the LAI held their annual seminar in the inspiring surroundings of the Church Gallery at the Ballinasloe Library on Monday, June 11, 2018. Our theme this year was Challenging Times, and to paraphrase one of our final speakers, the day saw an exploration of how people have grappled with Challenges ranging those affecting half the global population to those affecting small cohorts of library staff. No matter the context, grit, determination, imagination and collaboration have been key to keeping on keeping on.
Capably MC’d by the WRSLAI’s own Stephanie Ronan and Michelle Breen, the seminar was opened by Catherine Gallagher, Galway City and County Librarian. Catherine focused our attention on the seminar’s theme, Challenging Times, reminding us that there really are no other times — whether they be times of having too much or having too little. Capacity, resources, expectations, all need to be managed, and this is challenging at any time. Catherine’s examples of positive developments in libraries included the recent success of the fully national distribution system among Ireland’s public libraries. Users have really taken to this, with 2 million items moved; yet the challenge of
pulling in new users to this amazing country-wide resource continues.
Our keynote speaker for the day was Dr. Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, here with us to talk about her grandparents, Hanna and Francis Sheehy Skeffington, and their role in the fight for women’s suffrage in Ireland as well as for Irish independence. Micheline traced the political roots and development of both Frances and Hanna,
from the political play of their childhoods, to the political signification of taking one another’s last names, all the way to the ways that Francis became engaged with the Irish independence movement — only to be murdered in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising. Dr. Sheehy Skeffington’s talk then shifted towards Hannah’s subsequent tour of the United States, undertaken as a means, in part, of pushing for a full inquiry into Francis’ death; and then her return to Ireland the continuation of her support for women’s equality in the context of the early years of the Irish Republic.
Dr. Sheehy Skeffington was followed by a fascinated talk by Dr John Bosco Conama who talked about the struggle for getting Irish Sign Language to become an official language of Ireland, focusing in particular on the progress represented by the Irish Sign Language Bill of 2016 — but also on the limitations of the Act. Dr. Conama began the talk by noting how much has changed in terms of attitudes towards deafness since he was a child — when it was recommended to his parents that he not learn sign language at all. The Act marks a certain level of recognition for the need to support people using Irish Sign Language. Yet he noted many of the limits indexed by the language of the Act, including ambiguities on who constitute the
public bodies that are to provide ISL with free interpretation when accessing services — does this include libraries (the audience, when queried, wasn’t entirely sure!)?
The next section of the day involved three short talks, starting with an excellent look at the challenges of pre-employment in the information procession, by MLIS student Colleen Ballard. The key message from Colleen was the importance of being engaged in the field of libraries and information right from entry into the MLS programme, and can start with thinking through one’s personal brand — not something we’re all comfortable with, but an essential skill in a competitive job market! Opportunities to engage in workshops, conferences and similar are plentiful, so one has to be choosy about which pack the most career punch, in fact! And social media has certainly proven to be no fad — “don’t underestimate the power of a Like!” is a good quote to keep in mind from Colleen.
Rita McCarthy from Clare County Library Service followed, with a very interesting talk on setting up a Library podcast. Pitching something like this itself is a challenge itself, but Rita found support from Cora Gunther, county librarian, for the idea. Particular challenges in the production process included conducting interviews and having to troubleshoot in cases of technological failure. The first few episodes are nearing launch on the Clarelibrary.ie website, so stay tuned!
The morning wrapped up with a talk by Gwen Ryan about some of her work as acting School Librarian at Shannon College of Hotel Management, NUI Galway. Her work there included managing information through a flurry of staffing changes. Her challenge: how to go through these changes without losing valuable organisational and cultural knowledge? Gwen’s talk took us through her use of a wiki to keep track of knowledge, used via the mediation of Nonaka and Takeuchi’s theory on the interplay of tacit and explicit knowledge in knowledge creation in organisations.
Gwen’s talk was accompanied by an excellent poster, which was joined by further material that delegates were able to peruse over coffee and at lunch. These were some very interesting historical images of the Sheehy Skeffingtons, as well as a poster about the recently completed Rudai 23 CPD project that was put on by WRSLAI; the poster recently won runner-up prize in a poster competition at CONUL 2018.
The afternoon got underway after an absolutely fabulous lunch catered by Karibas. Check out the scrumptious below; very social media-worthy, and indeed you can see further yummy glory at the day’s hashtag on Twitter, #libwest18.
The afternoon featured four speakers from libraries across the West, spanning public, special and academic libraries. Carolyn Tunney of Roscommon County Council got us under way with an excellent talk about the Work Matters programme. Carolyn described the ins and outs of this programme, designed to inform the public of resources available to them through the public libraries in a new way, particularly as they pertain to employment issues.
Niamh O’Donovan, of Galway County Libraries, took over from Carolyn with a talk about the Right to Read campaign being delivered by Irish Public Libraries. The campaign addresses the particular challenge of Ireland ranking peculiarly low on literacy scores among peer countries globally. Niamh described how the campaign has successfully pulled together pre-existing programming, networks, and stakeholders to present a coherent programme that has been popular with the public.
Overall, these two talks together were a great reminder of the rich resources and services available from our public libraries.
The afternoon next turned to the topic of GDPR, which has presented diverse challenges to many people, including librarians. Stephanie took us through a whistle-stop tour of the basics, including the principles underlying data protection generally, and bouncing in particular off some excellent support resources that have been put together by CILIP in the UK.
The seminar wrapped up with a talk from Maura Stephens and Kathryn Briggs. Maura and Kathryn talked about the recent implementation of the Koha Open Source Library Management System at GMIT Library. Maura began with challenges to the implementation from the standpoint of the project’s manager. Kathryn took over to talk about some of the more technical challenges of its implementation. It was very interesting to hear about the reasons for choosing an open source solution at GMIT, and how Koha works with the diverse systems and services there.
An engaging day as always to take the west of Ireland’s library community into summer, thanks to everyone who came, spoke, and helped organise, well done!