This conference is relatively small and new (the first having taken place at the University of Stirling two years earlier) but it had a very friendly atmosphere, was extremely will organised and was crammed with interesting presentations and workshops. The key theme of the conference was set out in the opening session where delegates were asked to discuss and share their challenges and opportunities for effective relationship management. Discussion centred on both the challenges and opportunities brought about by change, whether this is changes to individual roles, routines and processes, collaborative partners, library structures, wider university structures or more overarching changes to the environment in which academic libraries are operating. The presentations and workshops continued with this theme detailing the experiences at different institutions, not just of successful ventures, but, significantly, those that failed too.
Both of the keynote speakers provided highly enjoyable and thought-provoking presentations that got everyone talking. On day one, Dr Ruth Murray-Webster spoke about change management and the importance of understanding change from the perspective of the recipient of change. She argued how resistance to change should not be viewed negatively and avoided, but instead utilised to promote positive change. However, I found one of the most powerful comments she made was that “routine tied to history and identity is much more difficult to break.” This brought about many questions related to how certain routines and practices are tied to the identity of librarians and got me thinking about how this applied to my own research. Then on day two of the conference, Dil Sidhu, Associate Dean at Columbia University, gave a highly engaging and entertaining talking about how to influence and persuade – both key skills for relationship management. I think everyone was shocked when he said that, on average, each of us will have 1,900 messages trying to influence us daily.
Unsurprisingly for a conference that has a focus on relationship management, there was plenty of time to meet and network with a range of library professionals, and I was delighted to find that many people had an interest in my research. Thank you to the organisers and sponsors for the opportunity to attend this conference, I came away brimming with ideas and excited about getting stuck into my PhD.
Hopefully this conference will run again in future, and I would definitely recommend other LIS students to apply for any funded student places that might be available, particularly MA and MSc students, as it will give you a real insight into the growing importance of relationship management in academic libraries and the opportunity to learn from the experiences of lots of dynamic and enthusiastic people working within liaison and relationship management roles.
For more information on the discussions taking place at this conference have a look at #rmlibs on Twitter.