Our thanks to John Coll SLA Europe’s Past President, John is Head of Access at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. He is responsible for all aspects of access at the Library including reading room services and enquiries, events and exhibitions, learning and outreach, and digital access.


I attended this conference in London which took place over17/18 October 2017. The ILI Conference is a well-established event and this year was particularly popular. Over 300 delegates were in attendance with a large number from outside the UK. (25 alone from Norway.)  ILI is supported by a range of organisations including SLA Europe.

There was a wide range of talks during the conference organised around tracked themes. The following provides a flavour of just a few of these topics:


  1. State Library of Victoria. Kate Torney gave the keynote speech on day one. She is CEO of the State Library and interestingly, former Director of News at ABC Australia. Their Vision 2020 Project is redeveloping their old library creating additional public space, redeveloping old reading rooms and doing so through a combination of government money and fundraising. The total cost is 88m ASD with over 20m ASD to be raised from non-government sources. The State Library claims to be busier than the British Library and the Library of Congress with over 2 million physical visits per annum.
  2. Future ready: trend watching Ken Bicknell Digital Resources Manager at LA County Metropolitan Transport Authority gave an excellent talk on the impact of change and on the Library profession and the need to look at technology trends outwith our profession that may at some stage act as a disruptor. (Blockchain was cited as a possible example.) The talk also had links to some good trendwatching sources for Libraries. The interesting concept of active collections vs hoarders was also discussed in the context of Libraries with many libraries focussing too much on promoting the size of their collections rather than how they were actively used.
  3. UX There were a number of presentations on this topic. These ranged from user-driven space planning at the University of Plymouth and Indiana University-Purdue through to learning from user experience at the University of Hull and the Hellinsborg Public Library in Denmark.  Controversially, Plymouth were arguing that you don’t need to conduct surveys (interesting as we are about commence ours) but I wasn’t convinced by their arguments However, there was some good evidence on the benefits of observational studies as well as the range of techniques used with such entertaining terms as the AEIOU framework and love and break-up letters to the Library.
  4. Marketing to Libraries. I attended a couple of sessions here and again, there were some good examples of innovative work. The use of photo narratives at the University of Toronto to convey the journey of the book through the Library and how to use Questionpoint were good examples of simple approaches that helped their social media campaign and one other libraries might wish to adopt.
  5. Storytelling/compelling narrative. More of a theme across a number of talks rather than a specific topic. From the need to sell the vision of the State Library of Victoria to prospective donors to using storytelling as a means of explaining content at the ETH Library in Switzerland there were some good examples of how and why this is a core requirement for libraries.
  6. Use of interactive technology. This was a very different session with an interactive workshop where delegates were invited to see and play with experimental and existing technology for Libraries. These ranged from QR/NFC applications though to beacons and AR. Not all the equipment worked but it was a refreshing and different approach for communicating the use of such technology. What was clear was that smartphones will be the key means of engaging with much of this technology and libraries need to keep this in mind as we plans future spaces and services.
  7. Research Hacks. Andy Tattersall from the University of Sheffield and someone who is doing a lot of innovative work talked about research hacks. These were curated educational apps to help students and staff in research. Once again, this was a clever and low cost innovation for communicating how to use key tools/apps that can benefit researchers. The list of hacks is available at http://bit.ly/18NiAEa



This was a good conference with an international attendance.  Although the event had a strong focus on topics of use to academic libraries there was a range of talks that would appeal to other libraries and this was evident from the number of SLA members attending working in differing sectors. ILI will be back in 2018 and it would be worth keeping this in mind in terms of future conferences.