ALN Conference 2021: A blog post about a conference talk about the blog…

Could we call this a metablog?!

On September 8th 2021, Kelly Hetherington and Ben Taylorson presented a lightning talk at the ALN Conference about this very blog.

ALN stands for Academic Libraries North, which, is pretty self-explanatory – if you work for an academic library and you are in ‘The North’ (Game of Thrones, anyone?), you are welcome here.

The theme for this year’s conference was based around the following statement:

The last year has shown how libraries have demonstrated resilience, flexibility and innovation in a rapidly changing environment. Many challenges have been faced and overcome, such as finding ways to continue to provide our users with access to physical and online resources, and adapting successfully to new ways of working and collaborating with our partners.


During Covid, the library blog has provided a space for us to not only communicate important service changes, but also to showcase our more ‘human’ side (we aren’t robot librarians) and to demonstrate how we’ve kept up our spirits and wellbeing during lockdown.  It has allowed us to introduce staff members, showcase our collections and much, much more.  Not only this, but for the small team who helps to organise the blog, it has provided an opportunity to collaborate with other teams during lockdown and kept up our spirit of being part of a wider service. 

We thought that this was a positive aspect of library life that we’d love to share with our colleagues from across ‘The North’.  We submitted an abstract for a lightning talk: ‘Durham University Library and Collections blog: creating a new ‘voice’ for our services’ and were delighted it was accepted. 

We covered the following areas:

  • Why a blog?
  • An overview of some of our amazing posts
  • How it has been received by our community
  • What the stats say about our readership
  • Plans for the future

If you want to see the slides or our presentation, click here.

Feedback from our presentation was positive:

It was great to hear how Kelly and colleagues at Durham are using a Library blog to share their collections with their academic community – this could be especially useful for some lesser known collections. I was also impressed that the blog is open to all and staff can volunteer to contribute – that’s a great opportunity for staff development!.

Leanne Young, Distance Services & Academic Liaison Librarian (Tourism), University of Sunderland

Leanne’s comment sums up exactly what we wanted to achieve with our lightning talk!

A ‘lightning talk’ is a great way to ‘dip your toes’ into the world of presenting at a conference and working in collaboration with another team member means you feel supported.  So if you are a newbie (like Kelly) and would like to give conference presenting a go, we’d recommend this as an option – it really helps to build confidence.

In our post-Covid world, the conference took part on Teams – all very well organised by Lancaster University – not an easy task.  Everything ran smoothly… the only slightly off putting thing about presenting virtually is you get no feedback from your audience of blank screens – so you lose any audience interaction or encouraging nods.  The social / networking opportunities just don’t feel the same over Teams, but on the other hand, they become more accessible as there’s no travelling costs involved; the conference was free and we could attend presentations between organising other work commitments… so maybe the jury is still out on online v real life conferences. 

Finally, we couldn’t present and not attend some of the other presentations. A highlight for me was a lightning talk about a ‘Skills podcast’ being trialled in Northumbria – it sounded exceptionally professional and I’m sure their academic staff and students find it incredibly useful.

We can’t wait to see what next year’s ALN conference brings.

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