The third place? Lucy Roper’s reflections on the roles of libraries

Posted on: 17 July, 2019

The latest blog from UCEM Information Governance Manager, Lucy Roper, sees Lucy discuss her recent attendance of the CILIP Conference 2019 where the role of libraries and librarians was put under the telescope with interesting perspectives offered from a range of prominent experts…

Part of my role as UCEM Information Governance Manager involves keeping abreast of the latest developments and benchmarking the work I do against that of others. I also undertake regular Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities; an element of this was being able to attend the National CILIP Conference 2019.

CILIP is the UK library and information association. CILIP is the only chartered body in the world dedicated to uniting, supporting and advocating for information professionals and librarians – the people who help the world make better decisions.

This year the CILIP Conference took place in Manchester and featured keynotes from Kriti Sharma (Vice President of Artificial Intelligence at Sage as well as being on the board of the Government’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI)), Liz Jolley (recently appointed Chief Librarian at the British Library), Hong-Anh Nguyen (Information Service Manager at The King’s Fund), Patrick Lambe (Principal Consultant at Straits Knowledge) and Aat Vos (Creative Guide in partnership with Designing Libraries).

This year’s conference had five main strands, offering the chance to look at multiple different aspects of the profession:

1) The Big Ideas strand featured sections on books and reading, Libraries Change Lives, digital/innovation/disruption, business, innovation and enterprise, and information literacy.

2) A Specialisms strand delivered sessions for those working in or interested in public, HE, learning, health, and corporate libraries.

3) The Skills and Technical strand was split into four options, with aspects covering data quality management, bibliometrics and data analytics; Information Governance; and finance, procurement and contracts.

4) A careers and personal development strand with a number of practical and insightful sessions to help build careers and take steps to fill in professional knowledge gaps.  The sessions looked at key and emerging areas for information professionals, including data privacy; leadership; and professional registration.

5) The knowledge and information management strand which looked at various areas including CILIP’s Knowledge Management Chartership and the newly-adopted ISO standards.

These great CPD opportunities also allow us to raise UCEM’s profile and network with like-minded people. At the conference I participated in the #LibrariansWithLives podcast and became #LibraryFamous by promoting the work of UCEM and my specific role within Information Governance and overseeing the day-to-day management of the e-Library. I was asked for my highlights and what was I going to take away with me from the event.

I am often aware that online experiences can be a bit disjointed at times and therefore it is important that we try and ensure that virtual library resources and experiences run as smoothly as physical libraries and resources.

Key areas for review and development include accessibility, ensuring diversity and inclusion in everything we do, and encouraging openness and engagement.

Libraries are not just about collections of books…

“The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities” (R. David Lankes)

The final keynote speech was by Aat Vos, who presented on ‘Libraries as place: how public libraries can transform themselves as third places for all’.

Aat’s recent research showed that libraries are increasingly becoming social places. This will create a new role and new opportunities for libraries in addition to the traditional lending of books. What are the parallel social developments behind this research outcome? What does this new library role mean for the UK library market and its current situation and challenges? During his keynote talk, Aat offered a new perspective for librarians and showed how they can not only broaden their vision, but also how they can transform their libraries into successful third places for all.

1st place: Home

Home sweet home keyring with a key

2nd place: Work

Man sitting in an office

And what would be your 3rd place?

Woman reading a book in a library

As a creative guide, Aat is dedicated to reviving the public domain. He evokes social change through the design of third places. His multidisciplinary approach combining architecture, marketing, design, and communication has made him a great source of inspiration for a wide variety of clients such as government organisations, municipalities, libraries, and many more.

Whilst the presentation for this conference may have focused primarily on public domain library buildings with accompanying project case studies certainly being inspirational and thought-provoking, this keynote also resonated with me on another level. At UCEM we are not only educating and enabling our students to enhance their careers and increase professionalism, but we are contributing to a better Built Environment.

For more on Aat, visit or

Obviously, I would add another building, space or 3rd place…

Woman in a swimming pool with a drink

As the Information Governance Manager, my role is to be the UCEM e-Library advocate, demonstrating to all staff and students about the great value and impact their library can have on them throughout their time at UCEM.

A library is not just about a physical space with shelves and collections of hard-back books.  Librarians are valuable search engines but with a heart, that listen, learn and understand the library and information requirements of others and provide the necessary services that cater for all and provide responses in a format that suits their needs.

My role is to put library users at the heart of everything I do.

Knowledge Foundations logo Knowledge Foundations

For more from Lucy, take a look at the latest edition of Knowledge Foundations.