BIALL Conference 2015

I attended BIALL’s 46th annual study conference from 11-13 June 2015 in Brighton.  The conference theme was Charting the C’s: Collaboration, Cooperation, Connectivity.  It was my 5th BIALL conference as a delegate, but 1st as a committee chair and speaker (see also BIALL Conference 2013).

Brighton BeachI arrived on the most glorious summer’s day, and Brighton had a definite feel of the Mediterranean.  My first stop was the Justis Pre-Conference Party, which is often the highlight of any BIALL conference.  This year we ate fish & chip at Victoria’s Bar on Brighton Pier, met up with friends old and new, and formed our BIALL conference ‘breakfast club’.

Day 1: Thursday 11 June 2015

The conference was opened by BIALL President Marianne Barber, who welcomed us to Brighton, and gave us ‘permission’ to miss a session to talk to suppliers, or enjoy a stroll along the sea front.

Plenary Session 1: Commercial and Regulatory Evolution of Legal Services

Prof Stephen Mayson (of Mayson, French and Ryan fame) delivered the first plenary session, the Willi Steiner Memorial Lecture on the “Commercial and Regulatory Evolution of Legal Services: Implications for Information Professionals”.  The Legal Services Act 2007 enabled alternative business structures, alternative routes to law, and increased the role of the non-lawyer in law firms.  80% of activity in law firms is unreserved, and can be performed by non-lawyers.  Parralegals and law librarians are increasingly involved in client-facing or business-related activities. Information is moving from print to digital, from purchase to license, and just-in-case to just-in-time.  Legal research is more than retrieval: it also includes interpretation and presentation.  Law students are not prepared for legal research in practice, but law firms should not expect trainees to be ‘practice ready’, professional education and training is a lifelong skill.

 Academic Group Forum

BI-ALLSIG is a closed special interest group for Academic Law Librarians.  The BIALL conference hosts the Academic Forum: an annual opportunity for academic law librarians to meet and discuss matters of collective interest.  The meeting was chaired by Angela Donaldson (at her last BIALL conference), and I was the unofficial secretary (taking the minutes).  Over 30 academic law librarians attended the meeting, from universities and law schools from the UK and overseas.

I asked if members would be interested in a symposium on supporting international exchange law students (there was some interest and I will follow up with an email to the group); and we also saw a presentation on an employability tutorial for law students (with a business intelligence focus) from Hannah Poore at the University of West England.  There was also a discussion on Westlaw and SFX, and more widely legal research databases and their integration with third party resources.  Something for BIALL’s Supplier Liaison Group to follow up on.

We at the University of Leicester are currently implementing a new library management system and resource discovery platform (Alma and Primo from Ex Libris).  I took the opportunity to speak to a few key suppliers about integrations with Primo, and was rather concerned at their lack of awareness of Primo as a ‘thing’, let alone how it might work with their products.  I am awaiting call-backs from their account managers.

Plenary Session 3: Infiltrate and Conquer

Emily Allbon, law librarian turned legal academic, and founder of Lawbore and Learnmore, delivered a session on collaboration entitled “Infiltrate and Conquer: Showing the World What Librarians Can Do”.  Emily is a passionate champion of collaboration, she showcased some of her work with students, academics, librarians, publishers, and encouraged us to make collaborations of our own.  She warned against the Echo Chamber problem: where libraries operate in a closed system, and encouraged us to make connections outside our libraries.  Emily has used technology to showcase her skills, and make people want to collaborate with her.  Inspirational stuff!

New and Overseas Delegates Welcome Event

BIALL BadgesOne of my responsibilities as a committee chair was to attend the new and overseas delegate welcome event which took place during the afternoon break.  I was surprised at how many people I knew, both from BIALL council and committees, and also the new delegates who were new to the conference, but not new to me.

I was also able to collect our committee member badges (an idea suggested to BIALL council by my committee), which were very lovely indeed and treasured by committee members!


Parrallel Session 2A: Law v Learning Styles

Chris Walker and Karen Crouch are former colleagues from the University of Law, so it was great to catch up with them, and the work they are doing in student study support.  This was also my first experience as the ‘official BIALL live tweeter’ (#BIALL2015 #2A).  They have used the VARK questionnaire to assess students’ learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Read/Write and Kinesthetic.  They argue that ‘law’ is a text-based subject, and favours students with read/write learning styles.  The session involved some fun audience participation, as we were asked to draw dots, and write instructions for tying shoelaces.  This demonstrated how difficult it is to write and follow instructions, and how easy it is to interpret instructions differently.  (Now substitute ‘instructions’ for ‘the law’).  Chris finished with a word of caution: the evidence on learning styles is mixed, and we should not be defined by learning styles.

BIALL’s First Night Reception: A Night at the Museum

Night at the Museum InvitationThe first formal social event was A Night at the Museum, held at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, and sponsored by ICLR (of The Law Reports) to celebrate their 150th anniversary.  A ‘walking bus’* of several hundred law librarians left the hotel, and walked along the sea front through The Lanes to the Pavillion Gardens.  An alternative to the hen and stag parties Brighton is so familiar with!

We were greeted with a gin and tonic (they know me too well), and set about exploring the museum by way of a quiz.  I was pleased to team up with Margaret from the Bodleian, whose classical education was much appreciated.  I made use of my own special education, and acquired us an extra gin and tonic from the friendly waiter.  The evening encouraged much collaboration (on quiz questions and answers) and cooperation (help holding food, drink and quiz sheets), and a great time was had by all.  I think many delegates will be making a return visit to the museum and gardens.

* The concept of a ‘walking-bus’ had to be explained to many overseas delegates!

Day 2: Friday 12 June

Plenary Session 4: The Monkey and the Camera

Emily Goodhand @copyrightgirl had the unenviable task of delivering 1.5 hours on copyright law!  The session opened with an introduction to the infamous case of The Monkey and the Camera.  A monkey takes a selfie, who owns the copyright? a) the monkey, b) the photographer, or c) there is no copyright.*  Emily tested our knowledge of copyright law, and it became very clear that we were in need of some education. She then went on to outline some of the recent changes to copyright law (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988), and their implications for librarians in higher education: s29a, Text and data analysis; s31a Disabled people; s36, For education; s42, Preservation copies, and s41-42 Copying by librarians.  The session was similar to a SCONUL copyright session I attended in February 2015 – but it did make more sense second time around, and time flew by as Emily rattled through the new law, answering many questions from the audience along the way.

* As things stand, there is no copyright.

Pepper v Hart 20th Anniversary Celebration

20th anniversary cakePepper v Hart is a legal research course run by BIALL’s Professional Development Committee in partnership with Lincoln’s Inn Library.  This year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the course, and invited Guy Holborn and Catherine McCardle, who are instrumental in the course’s success, to cut a birthday cake (it was also Guy Holborn’s birthday).

BIALL Cake AfterAs chair of the committee, it was my responsibility to give a short speech, orchestrate a ‘happy birthday’ sing-along, and serve the most enormous cream cake in the world (well Brighton)!  It was by far the most stressful part of my conference, and I have had many sleepless nights since about cutting cream cake. That said, the cake was delicious, and gone in seconds.

Plenary Session 5: The Library Without Walls

Sara Roberts session was the most powerful and inspirational of the conference.  Subtitled “Striving for an Excellent Law Library Service Post-Earthquakes” she recounted her experience at the University of Canterbury after Christchurch (New Zealand) was devastated by a series of 11,000 earthquakes from 4 September 2010 onwards.  Ostensibly, a tale of extreme ‘disaster recovery planning’, and accelerated ‘library change’.  Sara gave a very moving personal account of life during and after a major disaster: one that causes your library to close – and your family to be without water and electricity, and to use a long-drop for 6 months.  The disaster forced the University to reassess ‘what makes a law library’?  The law library was relocated into the main library, student numbers and the library budget reduced, printed library stock was reduced, and replaced by online resources.  These are changes familiar to law librarians across the world, but they were very acute changes in Christchurch, not gradual over years and decades as we have experienced.

BIALL Annual General Meeting and ‘Have Your Say’

BIALL’s AGM and Members Forum takes place at the annual conference.  As a committee chair, I had a few new responsibilities: preparing the committee annual report and budget, helping to check members into the room to ensure the quorum, and responding to any committee related questions during the forum. The AGM is a formal affair, with lots of proposers, seconders and voting.  You can vote with two hands if you are both a personal and institutional member!  We approved minutes, reports and a change in the constitution to remove the word ‘postal’ from our balloting procedures.  The Members Forum is more informal, and there was a question relevant to our committee (about 1 day conferences in the regions), so I also had to address the forum.

Parallel Session 3B: Techno Teach

We saved the best until last!  I delivered my first conference paper jointly with Lisa Anderson (University of Birmingham) on Sharing Good Practice in Legal Information Teaching.  Originally envisaged as a TeachMeet for law librarians, we showcased some of the technologies available to support legal research skills teaching, and focussed on the connectivity theme of the conference.  We covered voting systems (Turning Point, Participoll and Socrative); screen and lecture capture (Jing, Captivate, Camtasia and Panopto); social media (Twitter and Padlet); low tech alternatives (visualizer and magnetic paper); and things to consider before using technology (pedagogical purpose, size of audience, hardware, wifi connections, inclusivity, data protection).

Around 30 delegates attended the session – much more than we had anticipated (it was a sunny Friday afternoon by the seaside*, and we were up against parallel sessions from Oxford, Cambridge and Canada).  And the session went well – we had lots of questions and positive feedback afterwards, and over 180 people have viewed our slides online since.  This was a relief because 30 minutes before our session, the software we had requested was not installed on the presenter’s PC, and the wifi at the conference venue was (at best) flaky.  We designed the session to be interactive and student led – so the audience voted on the running order of the session, and had opportunities to discuss their experiences with each other.  All in all, a very good first experience as a presenter.

* We treated ourselves to an ice-cream on the beach afterwards!

BIALL President’s Reception, Annual Awards and Dinner

The final social event was the formal President’s Reception, Annual Awards and Dinner.  It should perhaps be renamed the BIALL Dine and Disco?!  It was held at the Hilton Brighton Metropole (conference venue), and sponsored by Lexis Library.  We were greeted with a Kir Royale, and then found a table in the main ballroom.  The first awards were presented (journal, supplier and law librarian of the year).  Alas, I did not win the coveted Wildy Law Librarian of the Year, but Anneli Sarkanen was a well deserved recipient.  The dinner and drinks were followed by the Lexis Library Awards (best commercial and non-commercial library services), and then the disco.  Law librarians love a disco.  None so more than BIALL’s PDC committee, who were all on the dance floor, and are now considering offering courses in ‘disco dancing for law librarians’!

BIALL Dinner

At midnight, I turn into a pumpkin, so  after a few hours of dancing I made my way back to my room.  Next year, the BIALL conference is in Dublin and I am already looking forward to it.


Missing Link Conference

Missing Link Conference: 19 March 2012, Birmingham City University.

Making the connection between information literacy and an excellent student experience.

Papers presented a snap-shot of information literacy projects and methods in the new higher-education environment.  From traditional inductions and lectures to the use of e-technologies to deliver online tutorials.  Tweets from the conference were made under the #missinglink12 hashtag and archived in Storify.

1. Preparing health and social care students for university.  Neil Donohue and Monica Casey (Salford University) described their pre-induction programme, delivered to students before degree starts, and delivered in collaboration between library, academic and student union.

2. Creating a reusable online information literacy tutorial for researchers. Chris Bark (Coventry University) and Liz Martin (De Montford University) described the East Midlands Research Support Group (EMRSG) consortium project to create on online tutorial using Xerte.

3. Getting your foot in the door – library liaison and research skills in university departments. Nicola Conway (University of Durham) described the Scholarly Skills Exercise whereby library services and information literacy skills are embedded and assessed into the curriculum in a first year induction module.

4. eLearning, innovation and information literacy. Sarah Pittaway and Catherine Robertson (University of Birmingham) described how they have used Xerte to deliver online library and information literacy tutorials.  Tutorials were embedded into curriculum via VLE (Web-CT), and students completed tutorials either as self-study or supervised in class. Aim to free-up librarian’s time to teach higher level information literacy skills.

5. Collaboration between Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) and Library and Learning resources to improve student experience. Jenny Eland and Christiana Titahmboh (Birmingham City University) described how information literacy and employability skills are embedded across university degrees. Also highlighted benefits of teacher training (PG Cert. HE) for librarians, so as to better undertand academics, and deliver more effective teaching and learning to students.

The conference helped me to understand the concept of embedded librarianship – the dream that library and information literacy skills should be delivered as part of the curriculum.  Our ability to achieve this depends upon the relationships we build with our academics through academic liaison. 

‘User education’ has progressed somewhat since my days at library school.  Teaching does not equal Learning.  Librarians are now teachers: indeed many librarians now undertake teacher training (PG Cert. HE).  This enables them to understand the culture of academia, gain respect from academic colleagues, and practice good teaching techniques in the classroom. 

I also discovered the ‘pre-induction’ – a pre-course introduction or orientation to the university and library service.  While I could not commit to additional teaching hours, I do think there is merit in delivering a pre-induction using e-learning technologies, thus enabling librarians to concentrate on teaching advanced information literacy skills.

I was surprised by the negative comments surrounding the use of VLEs (virtual learning environments).  Librarians are increasingly making their information literacy resources available on public websites and blogs, because they offer  more permanent repository, and open access to students before, during and after their degree courses.

In the next 6 months, I will have the opportunity to work on a pre-induction study skills programme for distance learning foundation degree criminology students, and embedding library and information literacy skills into the master of laws academic writing module.  I hope that I will be able to use the opportunity to develop relationships with the academics and raise the profile of information skills in higher education.