CILIP Conference 2017: Part 2 – Day 1 sessions

Note: This is quite selective and doesn’t cover everything I attended because that would be dull for everyone.

Keynote: Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress

Plenty has been written about the Keynote by Carla Hayden and I won’t add too much to the noise but I would best describe it as being hooked up to a drip of pure librariany goodness for 45 minutes. Afterwards I turned to the person next to me and said that it had topped up my enthusiasm for all that is good in the profession. I didn’t tell her that I felt so inspired that I wanted to go and wrestle a bear (and win) because that isn’t the kind of thing you say to a stranger at a conference. I was also glad that I didn’t ask Carla (she calls us her ‘British Peeps’ so I think I can first-name her) whether D*****d Tr*mp had used his Library of Congress card yet during the Q and A at the end as apparently that would have been a Very Bad Idea.

Take-away messages:

  1. Accessibility is crucial
  2. Being interviewed by Barack Obama for a job is simultaneously amazing and terrifying
  3. Librarians are the original search engines (we know this already but it’s good to be reminded of it)
  4. I want a guy that does my social media for me and leaps out to take photos. Essentially, I want someone to manage my work life.

Marketing workshop – Terry Kendrick

Marketing is a big component of my role as I manage a remote service. Most of this was relevant to what I do, but here are some key points:

  • Surveys don’t enable you to understand your users in depth. Personalisation is very important
  • The value proposition: does the user get back more than they invest in the relationship?
  • Marketing isn’t about sending out lots of messages. Timeliness and relevance is crucial. It should be a clear, sustained effort
  • You need to think and work like an app so that you can be spot-on with user need. You need to take your users’ pain away, not add another distraction. Be very clear about how you can get them from where they are to where they need to be
  • Invest time in people that will be around for a while and use you a lot. You cannot convert everyone into a library user [This was hugely refreshing to hear as I used to be obsessed with winning over the non-library users. They won’t listen to me but are much more likely to listen to their peers who use the library and love it]. Make people positive about the library, get them using it and they’ll promote it on your behalf.
  • Get testimonials from people that use and like you. This is very relevant to me at the moment. I have quantitative data about my service coming out of my ears but rich, qualitative data is incredibly powerful.
  • Marketing should be experimental. Look at what actually happens, not what might happen It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.

I hope it’s apparent that I got a huge amount out of this session and have already discussed it in supervision with my manager. There is so much that I can implement in my organisation and above all, it was tremendously reassuring. I finally have permission to stop chasing the unwilling.

Designing for excellent customer service – Neil Potentier

If you run a remote service, your customer service has to be excellent. I think we’re pretty good at getting it right for our library users, but there are always improvements that can be made.

Key points:

  1. Users can damage your reputation but moaning about you to others, but not actually telling
  2. You need to create a culture of continuous improvement. The concept of customer satisfaction is outdated and organisations must aspire to be excellent. This reminded me of my visit to the London Library earlier this year, where their ethos is to ‘Delight’ their customers.
  3. Staff should be able to deal with any query asked of them. This was couched as a utopian concept but in a two-person service like mine, it’s a necessity.
  4. Recurring theme of survey saturation. People are bored of being asked to rate services and surveys don’t tell you anything new or useful

I am a little concerned that we’re really good at reaching out to our colleagues across the country but perhaps less successful at engaging with those in the same building as us. This is compounded by the fact that our desks (in an open plan office) face away from the majority of staff. Plans are now in place to rectify this…

A collection of asides

  • In the ‘What makes a great communicator’ session, attendees were asked to take two minutes in private to find their “power pose”. Here’s mine:


  • I get very cross about public libraries that are reduced to information hubs in leisure centres. Also, telephone box with a few manky paperbacks in is not a library
  • If I’m promised a free cupcake, I will behave in an increasingly irrational manner until it is given to me.

Once I got over my temporary wobble about networking with strangers (and introducing myself to the unwilling/disinterested), I had a brilliant first day at the conference. I felt that I chose my sessions well and had plenty of ideas that I could take back to my library. Moreover, I had secured a large bag of free swag from the exhibition AND I’d eaten a lot of sugar. Day 1 of the conference was a definite WIN.

Coming next: the evening reception and the art of lazy networking




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