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LILAC 2022: Reflections

*blows dust off blog* Wow, it’s been a while since I last posted here! My last blog was in May 2020, and the last before that was July 2018! 

I haven’t blogged regularly for a very long time, for a variety of reasons. I miss it though, and I’d like to start blogging on a regular basis again. Not least because I am just starting a PhD at the University of Sheffield, and I need to get back into the habit of regular writing! Hopefully I will manage more than a post every two years… 

I’m just back from this year’s long-awaited LILAC conference, so this seems like a good way to restart my blogging habit.

I don’t intend to recap every session I attended at LILAC, but I would like to share some reflections. If you are interested in what was actually discussed, the various slides will be available soon on the LILAC website, and there are excellent live-blogged summaries of many sessions on the Information Literacy Weblog.

Last week at LILAC was genuinely one of the most joyful, affirming and inspiring experiences of my professional life. I don’t think I’d realised before going just how much I’d missed LILAC! Through the pandemic, I’ve attended lots of online events and conferences, many of which have been very good (shout out to CALC and FestivIL as two online conferences that really made the most of the online format). However even the best online sessions are challenging: there is the ever-present distraction of work and email, and concentrating for long periods online is really difficult. And although some events (like CALC and FestivIL) worked hard to enable the kinds of informal conversations and knowledge-sharing that happen at in-person events, it’s just not the same thing.

I don’t know if this was just because we’ve all been deprived of this community for so long, but LILAC last week felt packed to the brim with interesting conversations, interesting ideas, fascinating people! I joked that the standard of talks was so high, I suspected everyone had just been saving up their best ideas for the last couple of years.

On a personal level, it was also a relief to find that my mental capacity for engaging with professional and academic discussions has returned. I was unlucky enough to develop long covid after a covid infection in June 2021, which I am now mostly recovered from but left me with serious brain fog and reduced mental and physical energy for many months. I was worried before LILAC about whether I would be able to cope with the demands of a three-day conference, so I was careful throughout to pace myself (including spending less time at the social events than I usually would – was sorry not to join the heaving dance floor at the conference dinner!). Fortunately, although I have had a slight flare up of my neurological symptoms since the conference ended, I am still mostly fine – and they are easing off again after a couple of day’s rest.

I also really appreciated attending this conference pretty much immediately after officially beginning my PhD at the start of April! It was inspiring to see so many people talking about their in-progress or recently completed doctoral research, and I am grateful to the many people who took the time to offer me advice. Plus, I got a chance to actually meet my PhD supervisors, the wonderful Sheila Webber and Pam McKinney, in person!

I’m going to write more about the key themes I picked up on from the conference in the next few posts, in the coming days. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear everyone else’s thoughts! Were you at LILAC, and if so did you find it as joyful as I did? If you weren’t there, any thoughts on attending conferences in covid times, either online or in person?

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