Get stuck into the SWAMP

A swamp, not SWAMP - Photo CC from MikeLove on Flickr

I was recently invited to attend the SWAMP staff conference in Llandrindod Wells. SWAMP is not a new boggy feature of the landscape in Llandrindod, but is the amusing and sensibly-named South West And Mid Wales Partnership, and is a merger of two previous library regions (mid Wales and south west Wales). 

This was their second staff conference and there were about 50 librarians in attendance, from all library sectors including public, school, college, university and health. Proceedings kicked off with Talking Tables. This wasn’t some strange phenomenon worthy of Mulder and Scully but a good way to quickly get to know the people on your table and to work together on two things: one a light-hearted puzzle and one about the ‘challenges facing your sector’. 

With my job role and the need to know pretty much everything that’s going on in all library sectors in Wales, this was one of the most useful and insightful parts of the day for me. Later the organisers summed up each table’s list grouping the issues under key headings. These were (according to my notes):

• Finance – funding, fees, policies, economic climate
• Big Society – de-professionalisation, volunteers, succession planning, loss of experience, mergers, staff loss & lack of leadership, maintaining and improving the estate
• Expectations – increasing expectations eg to increase use, to remain relevant, to provide high level of service (student fees), to do more with less, to keep ahead of technology
• Change – managing change, future planning, technological change

I enjoyed all the speakers and presentations: Karen Blakeman on finding social media places where your customers and potential customers hang out; Liz Smith on how her school library has been working with the school on information literacy, including the amusing and helpful picture ‘5 bums on a goalpost’ of the five W’s we should think about (and the How), when dealing with information needs; and Jane Purdie’s Take That themed presentation on attracting lapsed users back to the library (we want you back, Back for Good). 

There were also two interesting workshop sessions and both the ones I attended had lots of useful ideas and good points coming out of the discussions. 

With the conference aimed at front line and middle-managers it’s clear that there’s plenty of enthusiasm and interest among library staff in Wales and they’re not stuck in a swamp (sorry) but busy relighting the fires (sorry) inspiring people to use their libraries. 

About alysontyler

Civil servant, yoga teacher and former librarian.
This entry was posted in Challenges, Conferences, Information literacy, Marketing, Social media & social networking. Bookmark the permalink.

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