EAHIL2023 was inspiring

By Mala Mann | Published: 2023-08-12

Amanda Ross-White, Health Sciences Librarian, Bracken Health Sciences Library, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Travelling has become fraught since the pandemic. There is a significant question about why attend a conference at all, let alone one so far away from my home. Yet I attended EAHIL in Trondheim this year with great anticipation, my first EAHIL in 14 years! What is it about conferences, and this conference in particular, that draws me in? As someone who has been a librarian for over 20 years, and in my current position for 18 years, I attend EAHIL as a way to shake up my notions of librarianship. At EAHIL, I get the opportunity to engage with colleagues who have fresh ideas and have new ways of looking at our roles. What’s more, I get to interact with these colleagues. This isn’t a passive sit down and listen to a lecture, it’s a back-and-forth conversation. I ask questions. I have time to think and consider their responses. I see how librarians in different settings, with different challenges, solve problems, and bring these solutions back to my job.

EAHIL2023 was inspiring. Hearing R. David Lankes’ talk about the challenges being placed on books in Texas seems distant from challenges we face, at least until we see how far-right movements are growing in influence globally. Not a week after the conference, a gender studies professor here in Canada was stabbed on campus. Protests in Cork, Ireland have threatened librarians there. Far-right movements have long been a concern in Norway as well. This is truly a global problem. As librarians, we need to learn from one another about how to face these challenges before they happen, not after.

Mia Høj Mathiasson developed this idea further in her talk. Her ideas of librarians as agents of social change, and the role of sustainable librarianship, had me thinking about how we can be active and not just reactive to these social changes. Sustainability doesn’t mean that we are static, but rather that we are intentional in our changes and work towards economic vitality, social equity, cultural vitality, and environmental responsibility. As I mentioned, I have been in my job for 18 years. It is easy for me to become passive in this role. But if I want a better future, for myself, my children, the students we teach, I need to bring these principles of sustainable librarianship into my daily practice.

I attended several workshops and paper presentations. Each of these provided a chance to learn a new way of thinking: about library leadership, about systematic searches (how to conduct them, record them and improve them), about our values as a profession. Each time I engaged in exciting and thoughtful conversations about how these ideas could be applied or modified to our own contexts. I loved hearing from colleagues about what these presentations would mean for them, and how they would apply these ideas. We shared our successes and our failures. These conversations provide the most important part of the conference. For me, I learn as much from the conversations as I do from the speakers.

Next year’s conference will be in Riga, and I am already scheming to join you. I certainly won’t wait another 13 years.

Author: Amanda Ross-White, Health Sciences Librarian, Bracken Health Sciences Library, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.