Early Career Librarians Tell Us About Their UKSG Experiences

May 31, 2019 Chloe Wenborn

The UKSG Annual Conference and Exhibition is a major event in the scholarly communications calendar in the UK, attracting over 900 delegates each year from around the world including librarians, publishers, content providers, consultants, and intermediaries. The conference combines high-quality plenary presentations, lightning talks and breakout sessions with entertaining social events and a major trade exhibition. 

This year we offered two Early Career Librarians the opportunity to attend UKSG for free!  

To enter the contest, they completed a short survey sharing their routes into librarianship and the more surprising aspects of their roles.

The lucky winners were Hannah Boroudjou (left), Senior Library Assistant, London School Economics and Laura Palmer (right), Subject Librarian, University of Huddersfield. We were happy to catch up with them recently to hear about their experiences at UKSG. 

Q. Can you first tell us about yourselves and your roles? 

Hannah BoroudjouI’m currently a Senior Library Assistant in the subscriptions team at the London School of Economics Library. The main focus of my job is dealing with our subscription journals, both print and onlineThis is a hugely varied role. A typical week for me includes; managing our journal renewals and cancellations, activating e-collections in our library management system creating title lists to add to our in-house e-journals master list, researching new subscriptions requests from our Academic Liaison Librarians and collating information on access, availability and pricing for our senior management team.  

Laura Palmer: I’m a Subject Librarian for the Business School at the University of HuddersfieldMy role is to support students, academics and researchers in the Business School to find, use and share information and research, to use Library services effectively, and to ensure they are satisfied with our Library services and that these are developed in ways helpful to them.  Every day in my role is different and I can be found (among other things) teaching information literacy and research skills, answering student inquiries, showing new users how to get the most from the Library, attending meetings with Business School representatives, choosing business books for the library collection (and removing unwanted ones!), and conducting research into the use of Library services. 

Q. Why did you enter to win a place at UKSG19? 

LP: With the changing research and publishing environment, including the upcoming REF2021, and the introduction of Plan S, there is increasing demand on libraries to support researchers to understand these developments and to promote and share their research more widely.  I wanted to attend UKSG 2019 in order to inform myself better about this environment, in order to best support our researchers. 

HB: The conference is hugely important to anyone working in the library sector and I have always wanted to experience it for myself but didn’t think I would get the opportunity to go, as library training budgets are often constrained. The Wiley competition looked like the perfect way to finally get my chance.  

Q. What was the most interesting thing you took away from the conference? 

HB The plenary session on the last day of the conference was fantastic. It was really great to see such a range of perspectives on this hugely important development and I particularly appreciated the voice of researchers on this issue throughout the conference.   

The breakout sessions I attended were also enjoyable. I initially attended Sara Ewing’s talk on decolonizing research methods.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it given that the topic was outside of my zone of familiarity, but it has changed the way I look at the content in our curriculum and on reading lists.  

LP: The diversity strand was interesting.  Particular highlights included Femi Otitoju’s plenary, which discussed how our unconscious biases can influence our actions and suggested practical ways around these in order to improve equality in the scholarly communications environment.  Jennifer Bayjoo also spoke about her reasons for founding DILON (Diversity in Libraries of the North) and encouraged us all to work to support marginalized groups.  On a related note, Adam Blackwell’s session on fake news discussed how we can discourage people from believing only who and what they want to believe and encourage belief in facts. 

Q. What effect did attending the conference have on your role AND what has your university gained from your attendance? 

HB: I think it gave me greater confidence in my role. Knowing that I have attended the conference and gotten to experience being a part of the conversation about the future of research in libraries has given me both a greater sense of the challenges facing the sector as well as the opportunities.  

I think my University benefits from as many people as possible attending events like this. It’s obviously great for library staff as it allows us the chance to get up to date with everything that’s happening and to share that information with colleagues. It also allows us to prepare for changes coming down the line. 

LP: Attending the conference allowed me to perform my own role more effectively as I am more informed about the scholarly communications process and environment and am also more aware of emerging technologies and trends.  As a result, I can better advise researchers in this area.  This is incredibly important to my university, as supporting our researchers and developing our research outputs is a key strategic aim. 

Q. What trends/insights did you discover which you might not have without attending UKSG? 

LP: Hearing about new technological developments which might improve the user experience has been really interesting.  For example, I learned about library browser extensions which help users to access subscribed content more easily, the growth in demand for academic audiobooks, and how e-textbooks can be used to improve student access to core texts. 

HB: I don’t think I was aware before of the multitude of voices surrounding Plan S. I had previously been aware that a lot of Librarians and funding bodies were for it and a lot of big academic publishers are very much against it but I hadn’t properly considered the issue from the point of view of researchers and small society publishers before. It was very interesting to hear from both at UKSG. 

Q. Do you think its important for Early Career Librarians to attend these types of conferences and why? 

HB: I think it’s hugely important for early career librarians to be able to attend these kinds of events. So many of the talks at UKSG19 were about planning for the future and the people in the best position to do that are those currently new to the profession. I also think it’s important that a range of diverse views be heard when we have these important conversations about the relationship between publishers and librarians, changes to best practice in libraries, dealing with emerging technology and so on. If early career librarians can’t attend the conference, you are cutting those views out. 

I hope in future many more publishers will do as Wiley have done and considered sponsoring places for attendees at the conference. Given the heavy focus on issues surrounding diversity at the conference, sponsorship of an award specifically designed for people of color might also be a good idea. 

I know I am hugely grateful for the opportunity Wiley has given me to attend the conference and have gained a lot from the experience. I will be telling all the other early career librarians I know to try their luck and enter the competition next year.   

LP: It’s really important for all librarians to attend conferences, keep up-to-date, make new contacts, and discover ways to improve services for library users.  However, Early Career Librarians can particularly benefit as no library course can cover everything and there is still so much to learn about library practice.  Also, since we’re often working in more narrow roles or departments - conferences offer the opportunity to learn about different and emerging areas.  Without bursaries such as this one offered by Wiley, we may not have the opportunity to attend and develop our knowledge. 

Thanks Hannah and Laura! 

It's been great to hear how much Laura and Hannah benefited from attending UKSG 19. If you didn’t get the chance to attend this year, make sure to pencil next year’s date in your diary: UKSG 2020 will be held in Brighton on the 30th March – 1st April 2020.  

Keep a lookout for Wiley’s competition for Early Career Librarians to win a sponsored place. Sign-up to stay up-to-date with Wiley news and follow us on Twitter at @wileylibraries 

About the Author

Chloe Wenborn

Social Media and Content, Wiley //I work with Librarians to create content for The Wiley Network and @WileyLibraries.

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