Librarian Workshops – Cementing the future of libraries

Today’s post comes to us from our community member Sandy Brandt. You can find Sandy on Twitter as @Libsandy. Thanks Sandy!

The obvious advantage of attending workshops is investment in your career. It also fortifies the future of libraries, since library users benefit from a revitalised you (and your service) and consequently keep returning.

As an Information Science undergraduate, every workshop cemented my knowledge and eventually I was able to participate more, ask questions, and add ideas or comments. I often had to face my fear as I was placed into scenarios and forced to contribute. Head-knowledge combined with workshop activities reinforced my learning and increased my confidence. Challenges were many: standing up with a microphone to give feedback; creating in a makerspace workshop; working with a multicultural team of strangers; contributing to scenarios with lists, ideas and solutions; using new technology and databases; explaining a concept to a room full of delegates, simply because I mentioned it in a discussion. I’ve experienced nervous embarrassment and I’ve felt victorious. Some days I stuttered, others I led. I have had mental blanks and have contributed valuable input. Sometimes I felt like the odd one out, other times I made lasting contacts and friends. Because of the positives, I kept going back for more. Today, a Bachelor’s Degree allows me to feel qualified to attend, but the learning never stops. Each workshop delivers a new concept, a new encounter, and a new experience.

Three workshops have stood out for me:

Photo: "Catching Salmon at Pike Place Fish Market - Seattle" by Howard Ignatius CC BY-ND-NC

Photo: “Catching Salmon at Pike Place Fish Market – Seattle” by Howard Ignatius CC BY-ND-NC

Seeing the Big Picture. Looking to the future, we were challenged to visualize before you act and to not merely keep doing what has always been done. We were shown a video of a vibrant fish market in Seattle, and as we were asking ‘what has this to do with libraries?’ it became apparent that here was BIG THINKING that worked to improve and satisfy the community, to the point of being tremendously successful. Although used in a different market sector, it was a concept that can be carried over to libraries. We were told how we’re always trying to change others, but it’s often we who need to change. Four years later everyone is talking about disruption and change management in libraries.

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The Makerspaces workshop gave us hands-on experience of what could be done with very few resources as well as with high tech. To begin there was a challenge: in front of each of us lay a square sheet of tin foil. We had 5 minutes before we were to show fellow attendees what we had created. The lesson was made – ANYONE can create! We were coached on making a bookmark that lit up, using conductive thread, a button, a battery and some felt. Like children, we were enthralled at the simple circuit.


Most importantly, we learned that we don’t necessarily have to be technically minded, scientific or inventors. We simply need to make space available, collaborate with the community, facilitate, and watch the ‘making’ happen!

A 3-day Library Trends: Leading into the Future workshop, presented by the Mortenson Center, University of Illinois library, revitalised a bunch of tired librarians, almost at year-end.

Qatar workshop © S Brandt

Qatar workshop © S Brandt

It challenged the outdated concept of ‘libraries as warehouses of information’ vs “dynamic and adaptive community anchors, a hub of activity and creativity within a sharing economy” (Chu 2016). We were encouraged to think beyond digitisation. We were introduced to new job titles for librarians, like the UX librarian, the Content Librarian, or the Embedded Librarian. We were presented with two new user groups in libraries, i.e. the undocumented learners (illegal immigrants/migrants) and senior students (studying later in life to gain expertise in a field). We used the STEEPED method to classify library trends and were asked to consider how to implement change in our libraries. We looked at the SOAR method of assessment and transformative action plans using SMART goals. We were challenged to look inward as local and global leaders. We were introduced to the UN Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and challenged on how to contribute through our libraries.

Librarians, regardless of the stage of your career, attend workshops! Do it for yourself, your employer, for the profession, but most importantly, for the users/patrons/clients of your library and information service. As trend-setting change agents, passionate leaders, proactive, highly skilled and efficient professionals, we will contribute to establishing up-to-date ‘must-have’ library and information services for our users, now and well into the future.

– Sandy Brandt

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