Cameron M. Pierson reports back from RAILS 2019
The 2019 conference was hosted by colleagues at Charles Sturt University in Canberra Australia. A city designed with a future in mind provided for an interesting contrast to the conference’s theme of Towards Critical Information Research, Education and Practice. To be critical is not always a comfortable matter, though it provides ample opportunity. Fundamentally, to be critical is to observe where changes can be made that benefit the whole: the community and all of its constituents. Attending a conference with such a theme in mind, where practitioners, researchers and students of various stripes come together, while having Canberra as a backdrop provided for paralleled questions. A city which emanates a stately seat of power, so evidently designed with a future in mind; yet, whose future? And by whose design? These are questions libraries and sibling institutions similarly find themselves facing.
Attendance was diverse in country of origin, ethnicity, age and culture. A passion for information and similarly rooted institutions quickly revealed a community simultaneously characterised by geography and by internationality. Our Australian colleagues made a fine representation. This year also featured a strong showing from our counterparts in the Philippines. Closer to home, Victoria University of Wellington, Te Herenga Waka, contributed to thoughtful and timely discussions.
Professor Anne Goulding presented in lieu of Laura Mason, a Master of Information Studies student, whose work focuses on the information seeking behaviour of survivors of intimate partner violence. It’s a sobering topic, but it nevertheless highlighted its need for study, as libraries are commonly a port of call for many in need. Kingsley Ihejirika, a PhD student in the School of Information Management, presented on the use of social media in academic libraries and strategies for its sustainability. His discussion gave rise to many questions, reminding us that our information ecosystems have and will continue to evolve, and that information service sustains itself by similar evolution. Finally, I presented on how reflections on professional identity can become an avenue to undertake critical practices, such as reflective practice, reflexive practice and critical librarianship.
As we address the profession’s future and design, examining our professional identities can begin the process of observing where changes can be made to benefit the whole, by first understanding our perspective and our place within the wider profession.
Victoria University of Wellington will be hosting RAILS in 2020 – making attendance more accessible than ever. This is an excellent opportunity for all LIS practitioners, researchers and students to present, or even just attend and learn more for yourself.
Cameron has worked in a variety of library and library-related positions in New Zealand, Australia, and the USA. His practice of librarianship has brought him into contact with a variety of people of all ages and information needs, furthering his passion to serve and inquire. His research interests focus on professional identity and information seeking behaviour of under-represented populations. When not working, he’s usually hiking.