This is the second part of Sarah’s write up of her experience at the RLC gathering in Huddersfield on 04.07.
Session 4: Local networks
This session was actually one I facilitated alongside Ian Clark of the London and SE group in order to try and share our experiences of being involved with local groups and encouraging others to establish their own local RLC networks. Having never really done much public speaking, I was slightly nervous about being asked questions and such, especially as I was the only Oxford RLC member there but generally feel as though I handled people’s questions well. Ian and I took turns to discuss our personal experiences with London and Oxford respectively, focusing on any issues we had and how we went about tackling those. We’d already surveyed people asking them about what they thought were barriers to setting up or getting involved with local groups so we had some ideas about themes we may need to address and surely enough many of these were raised as key issues in the session. While I wittered on about the various difficulties I’ve had setting things up in Oxford (we’re not as scary as you think Oxonians!) Ian jotted down these main issues on flipchart paper and we then encouraged people to think of potential solutions and stick them on the flipchart on a post-it. The results can be downloaded as a PDF here. It was really useful hearing what others thought may be a good way to tackle problems, and I hope it helped some of the more reluctant attendees to reconsider setting up something local, as it really is an effective and rewarding way of taking action. I did feel quite positive after the session though, and look forward to seeing if further networks begin to crop up in its wake.
Session 5: Gender relations/power structures in librarianship
The initial aim of this session was to look at hierarchies in librarianship from a feminist angle. Librarianship is an incredibly feminised profession and is often seen as a ‘woman’s job’, yet so many people at a higher level tend to be male. We wanted to consider why this was the case and so we split into smaller groups. The group I was in consisted of three incredibly cool ladies who I won’t name due to the Chatham House Rule, but they were really interesting to talk to and just really quite *cool*. Our conversation veered a touch off the initial topic but ended up being so valuable. We talked a little about the way that RLC works, and how negotiating your way in a non-hierarchical, horizontalist space can be incredibly difficult. One member of the group mentioned how she’s attended facilitation training provided by Seeds for Change, who offer training and resources to activist groups. We all agreed that having people taking on roles as facilitators at meetings etc was not necessarily in opposition to RLC’s non-hierarchical values, but was definitely worth considering as being a good way to get things done more efficiently. on the other hand it is something that needs to be carefully negotiated to ensure that hierarchical structures do not become cemented. It would be really interesting to hear what other people think about this so do feel free to tweet me or email the Oxford RLC email address if you have any comments on this.
Session 6: Inequality in education – a school librarian’s experiences of fee-paying and academy schools
This was the final session I attended and I was really, really excited about this. Talking about educational inequality is basically my jam and a big influence on why I want to work as a librarian. It was led by a school librarian who has moved from a role in a fee paying grammar school through to an academy which has had its share of notoriety. It was really interesting (but entirely unsurprising) to hear about the vast differences between her two roles, but seeing the two ends of the educational spectrum juxtaposed quite so vividly really hammered home just how unequal our education system is. I was slightly disappointed that this session didn’t go quite in the direction that I had hoped, which was that we could think of ways we can use our professional roles to try and combat this inequality, but that was not at all the fault of the person who had pitched the session and I still really enjoyed it overall.
Last of all we had a plenary session. I acted as scribe for this, so I took notes and feedback on all the sessions which had run throughout the day. You can see some really quite delightful scans of my terrible handwriting on the RLC Archive here. This was a nice way to round up the day and also get a bit of information about sessions I had not attended. We finished by forming everyone into their local groups to give them the opportunity to have a quick discussion about setting up networks and exchange contact details as a follow up to mine and Ian’s session, so hopefully that will encourage more radical activity across the UK!
After that we cleared out the venue and headed to the pub, of course! This was incredibly pleasant and gave me more opportunity to talk to people I hadn’t managed to chat with much at the event. After a few drinks we went out for curry, but quite frankly I think it’s best to leave the rest of the weekend unsaid – what happened after #radlib15 stays at #radlib15.