Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Northern Collaboration Conference 2014

A delegation from the Information Directorate attended this year’s Northern Collaboration Conference, hosted by Teesside University on Friday 5 September.

New Teesside University building / Photo by James West,
used under a Creative Commons licence
So what is the Northern Collaboration? In theory it’s “a group of 26 academic libraries in the north of England [which] aims to provide a framework within which libraries can work together to improve the quality of services, to be more efficient, and to explore new business models.” 

And in practice that’s exactly what happens - Friday’s conference was on the theme of ‘Engagement and Audiences’ and it was full of ideas worth pinching! On a blazing hot day in Teesside we heard from lots of speakers, all sharing innovations implemented at their institution. Here are just a few of the sessions we attended:

  • Derfel Owen of the University of Exeter gave the keynote address on ‘Working in Partnership with Students’. He explained that students are becoming increasingly fundamental to supporting change in HE, and that institutions are working in collaboration with students in order to improve the teaching and learning environment. His was also the only talk of the day to reference Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen in an academic context. You can read more from Derfel in his book.
  • The University of Manchester gave a great talk about their Eureka! Library Innovation Challenge in which students pitch ideas for improvement to library services, Dragon’s Den-style, to a panel of experts.
  • Stephen Morrin from the University of Salford discussed the challenges he faced in implementing a mobile-optimised library website - the finished product is really slick.
  • Newcastle University's talk about their Herbal Magic project was really interesting - making the connection between Special Collections on herbals and current research on the use of herbs in several diseases was a great idea. The project led to the creation of online resources, assessed activities for postgraduate students, and to outreach workshops for local school children.
  • Our own Jess Stephens gave a well-received talk on the changing face of communications in HE, and on how the Information Directorate is using Twitter and Facebook to engage with students.
  • Sarah Price from Durham University Library gave a fantastic presentation on the cultural engagement activities which they co-ordinated around the Lindisfarne Gospels Durham Exhibition. The partnerships they fostered across the entire north east region were truly impressive. From the stimulus of one exhibition, a gospel choir was formed, they had a Lindisfarne-themed bake-off, and even got an artist to create some Anglo-Saxon graffiti in various public spaces. Oh and they also worked with 20,000 school children!
  • The day was rounded-off by Ann Rossiter of SCONUL who gave an interesting overview of Richard Sennett's dialogical model of co-operation which 'enables understanding of complexity'. You can read an excerpt from Sennett’s book online, or borrow his book Together: the rituals, pleasures and politics of co-operation from the Library.

The Northern Collaboration aims to exchange ideas and good practice, and enable connections between librarians and related professional groups - this year’s conference did exactly that.

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