Event review: Critical Approaches to Libraries Conference, 5th-6th May

Photo of Kate Grigsby
Kate Grigsby

In this blog post, the CILIP Information Literacy Group’s Higher Education Rep, Kate Grigsby, reviews the Critical Approaches to Libraries 2021 Conference. This was an online conference held in May, organised by Michelle Bond and Darren Flynn.


The CALC 2021 conference was overall a really carefully planned and engaging online event. It has become all too easy to get “Zoom fatigue” during the current situation and the clever timetabling meant that each session was succinct and ample breaks were provided. Laughter yoga and meeting some very cute alpacas and llamas provided welcome interludes. 

The sessions were all really informative and offered alternative perspectives from Working Class Academics; An African Scholarly Communications Academic; experiences of disrupting the problematic nature of the Dewey Decimal System; and ideas on the usage of data to enable social and political activism. 

Two sessions were of particular gravity to me personally in my role as a Liaison Librarian. The session ‘Using student focus groups and curators to diversify reading lists at Northumbria University’ by Dr. Biddy Casselden, Dr. Kelly Stockdale and Rowan Sweeny was really insightful. The experience seemed to be useful not only to the library and academics, but also to the students who engaged more critically with their reading list resources to consider their inclusivity. This is something that myself and my team will certainly be exploring. 

The second session ‘Giving shape to a critical collection development policy; responding to #ebooksos’ by Johanna Anderson, Caroline Ball and Rachel Bickley was a great chance to get involved in a really important campaign. I enjoyed the chance to share experiences and the session certainly made me feel less alone in my current role. It also gave me a chance to consider the importance of a content strategy in combating the current injustices in terms of academic publishing. 

I’d thoroughly recommend attending this conference next year, if you get the chance. There are many bursaries available and it’s an invaluable opportunity to gain new perspectives. Thank you to Michelle, Darren and the presenters for such a brilliant event.

Recordings from this conference are available.

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