Conference Feedback Underlines Value to Regional Library Staff

Gaz J Johnson

The third annual Mercian Collaboration conference delights, educations and entertains delegates from across the region.

This year the Mercian Collaboration’s annual member exclusive conference event took place in the eastern part of the region, at the University of Nottingham’s prestigious Trent Building. The theme, Building Bridges, brought delegates from 19 of the Collaborations’ 23 member institutions, with a surprisingly even split between East and West Midlands. Supported financially by the Collaboration itself, and five external sponsors, once again regional delegates were able to benefit from a quality-assured and varied event without the necessity of paying any entrance fee!

The sessions were both interesting and useful, the presenters were all very good.

Great variety of topics in the sessions and they were all interesting.

I enjoyed the collaborative theme and that sharing of ideas was encouraged throughout the day.

Attendee feedback was sought following the conference [1], and many delegates took the opportunity to highlight those parts of the event which had most strongly resonated with their expectations. In this respect, it was fantastic to note the overall conference was rated as very good or excellent by 95% of feedback respondents. Given the event strives to curate a broad cross section of speakers and topics drawn from across the Mercian Collaboration region, it was equally satisfying to note how the event’s variety was also very well received, with 81% rating the topics presented as very good to excellent.

[The] Keynote speech was very thought provoking and I enjoyed the networking with colleagues. Also, the sessions were all timely and interesting.

'This year's keynote was so much better than last year's keynote. Nice to have something that's actually relevant.

The keynote speech has always been a key element of all Collaboration conferences, in that it sets the tone and provides delegates with thought to ponder on and discuss throughout the day. This year we were delighted to welcome Janine Downes and Judith Keene from Worcester, to talk about their fascinating and unique working partnership and its impact on library operations. Happily, 84% of respondents rated the keynote as very good to excellent, representing a strong recognition of the value attendees derive from it.

It was great to be able to share practice and learn from others.

'It provides an occasion for creative thought, learning and sharing best practice - and great for networking.'

Meeting new people and also taking ideas from what I learned which could work in our organisation.

While talks and workshops form part of the professional development aims of the event, another underlying key conference aim is to draw together a wide representation of library staff, to facilitate informal as well as formal networking. Because the event draws library staff working in all areas and at all seniority levels, this sets the Collaboration’s conference apart from many other academic library sector events. You never know WHO you might have the chance to talk to over lunch. As the above comments suggest, delegates not only recognised but strongly supported this aspect as being beneficial in meeting their informational and professional development needs.

Naturally, not every element of the conference was perfect, but no event can be, which is why feedback comments highlighting areas for reconsideration were also appreciated by the organising committee [2]. The Mercian Collaboration’s conference continues to form a major, but developing, aspect of the organisation’s annual activities and benefits to members’ staff. Consequently, all comments have been reviewed by the organising committee, and will feed into the planning processes for the next event (#Mercian20).

Clearly, the Mercian Collaboration’s conference demonstrably continues to represent an excellent and cost-effective member benefit. If you didn’t make it to this year’s event, and after reading the above comments have begun to think about attending in 2020, don’t take our word alone for how valuable the event was: you can actually read an outsider’s view from WHELF’s Gill Morris, on her experiences too.


[1] An evaluation report from the conference committee, will appear in the Collaboration’s 2019 annual report, and many of the conference presentations are already available for consultation.

[2] New committee members are currently being sought. If you are interested, then contact the Conference Group Chair or Sponsor for more details.