Environmental Scanning Part 4; Sharing information about ourselves, trends and themes

As part of preparations for the #BLA15 conference I found one of the most useful things as a first-timer was reading the Year In Review. This is a review compiled by members of the BLA of activities taking place in member institutions over the past year. The entries vary in detail and scope, with some including important events for the whole institution such as an anniversary celebration or a new building, others concentrating on departmental changes or additions to library and/or teaching services. Whilst this means the content varies in usefulness to me personally learning about the practicalities of business librarianship, it was good for learning more about the ethos, values and culture of each institution.

I found reading this document, which is only available to members of the BLA through their website, invaluable in giving me an insight as to the sort of trends happening in Business Libraries in HE. It also gave my institution a chance to introduce me as a new member of staff to the Association.

One thing to reflect on was how reading the document took a longer time than I had initially planned for, as I found myself being diverted from finishing the main document into reading up on certain subjects mentioned within it. One of these was PDA, a topic pertinent to me as my institution uses PDA of ebooks as a marketing tool for the library-with posters prominently displayed about how much money students have to spend, and a running total of purchases on the front page of our discovery service. I didn’t know much about the arguments for and against PDA and so was interested when one institution wrote about weighing up EBA and PDA and going for the former. This led to me reading many articles on the subject. Although this was good for my development, it is another example of how environmental scanning is an endless task that’s pretty impossible to timetable as it could go on forever. What I should have done is read the whole document and made notes on the things to look up later rather than go off on several meandering research trips that, thought interesting and relevant, meant I was essentially spending most of my working week on the same task.

As environmental scanning should be part of everyone’s role (seven heads being better than one) I found my workplace initiative to share the findings from conferences and visits we had partaken invaluable to me, both in learning about current trends in librarianship as a whole, not just Business or Education or IL, and also being able to see other’s points of view within my team of certain issues.

My team as a collective visited some absolutely cracking institutions and conferences this year, including but not limited to #UXLibs (which sounded exhausting but so worth it), LILAC, The Yorkshire and Humber Law Libraries, CILIP, and the SLA conference in Boston. By presenting our main findings we were able to come up with a list of popular themes and trends that we can learn from and investigate. This list was

  • Collaboration/partnership working
  • Teaching evaluation of source material
  • Digital learning
  • User involvement
  • Threshold concepts
  • Use of space

It is this list that I will now be looking at in terms of my Plan of Action for the year. On reflection, it would have been more useful to have my appraisal after the sharing meeting as I could have then made a better informed list of targets based on these themes.

My final blog post in this series will talk about the last conference of the six I went to in June/July; “Subject Librarians-time for a fresh look?” at the University of Hertfordshire.

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