Titanic Tales

CILIP in Scotland President 2012, Professor Peter Reid of the Robert Gordon University and I were lucky enough to be invited to the Library Association of Ireland and CILIP NI’s Joint Conference in Belfast last week. Belfast was looking at her best, having just celebrated the centenary of the magnificent launch of Titanic, Harland and Wolff’s fated ship #402. On our arrival, we nipped out into the evening air to see the new memorial gardens at City Hall. Staying in the luxurious splendour of the Merchant Hotel, which had been transformed by its Titanic theme, we were very well looked after.

CILIP President Phil Bradley opened the conference by challenging the profession to get onto social media platforms. It was timely to reflect on how involved the profession is. Sarah Godowski made us all think about our branding and our spaces in her presentation and I enjoyed looking at us through Sarah’s eyes. Some of you will be aware that the Irish Library Council has just been axed and a small team of five (actually that’s more than SLIC and CILIPS put together) moved into another Local Government body. Obviously change and meeting the needs of libraries and people during the Great Recession was acting Director Annette Kelly’s theme. I went along to hear Dr Patricia Canning talking about her work with The Reader Organisation with groups, particularly the women in Hydebank Prison. It was very touching and brought the power of literacy and reading back sharply into focus. I was delighted to be in Peter Reid’s own session ‘What on earth are they teaching them in library schools these days?’ I sometimes am guilty of using this phrase (it might have been a direct quote, usually accompanied by a slap of the forehead) but I was really pleased to hear about the planning, scrutiny and thoughtfulness with which our professional educators prepare the future workforce. And, I do understand, it’s education not training! I ended up chairing Phil Bradley’s second session of the day on netvibes, which I still haven’t got around to using, but I will.

There was a formal reception at Stormont and the launch of the Universal Membership card, followed by dinner. Day two was a very rich programme, starting with Margaret Hayes, Dublin’s City Librarian talking about the 4th UNESCO City of Literature and I shall be reading Dubliners the One City One Book Read (and catching up on last year’s Ghost Light) as well. Debby Shorley of Imperial College, University of London (and my dinner companion from the previous evening) gave a most interesting view of the academic sector, in particular mentioning RLUK. The final paper before going to the airport was Nicky Parker on Manchester’s transformation both as a city and a library capital! What a huge amount of faith, investment, imagination and planning has gone in to the library service and that will definitely be on my visit list now.

You can read my tweets in storify.
Rhona Arthur, Assistant Director


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