LILAC conference

Reflections of retiring LILAC committee members



Nigel Morgan (Cardiff University) and Emily Shields (Manchester Metropolitan University) are retiring from the LILAC committee after the 2019  event. Together they have notched up an impressive 19 years of LILAC service. As they sail-off into a lilac-hued sunset, we asked them to reflect on their LILAC experiences. 

How did you get involved with LILAC?

Emily: I was first involved way back in 2007 when LILAC was hosted by Manchester Metropolitan and got the LILAC bug. In 2012 I applied to be the ILG treasurer (who also sits on the LILAC committee), a great opportunity to be involved in such a proactive group and work with some amazing people.

Nigel: I joined the team in 2008 as a local rep in the run up to the Cardiff event. I must have earned brownie points for good behaviour as I was allowed to stay as a  permanent committee member.

What roles have you undertaken for LILAC?

Emily: I was the local rep for one year, ILG treasurer for 4 years and for the past 3 years have been the bookings and finance officer. It’s been great doing different roles as each one has its own needs and the skills you learn are so varied. It’s also all hands to the deck at times and I’ve helped others with their roles when needed. The one task that I’ve never been able to do is the food and wine tastings for the evening venues and it looks like I may have missed the boat on that one now I’m leaving!

Nigel: International officer, sponsorship team member and for the past 8 years I have run the IL Awards. But there’s been a bunch of other stuff too; running the annual book grab, hosting meet & greets, helping develop new session formats, decorating dinner tables with sparklies(!), and the arduous task of food and wine tastings. The list goes on.  It’s been eclectic, sometimes wacky and always something new on the horizon.

In what ways has LILAC benefitted your own personal development?

Emily: It’s been a huge learning curve in places. The treasurer role was an amazing opportunity to get skills in an area that my job didn’t prepare me for. I know more about spreadsheets now than I ever thought I would, though VAT still baffles me. The problem solving and event organisation skills have been another key area and as a result of involvement with LILAC I’ve been asked to be on other conference committees which is always fun. Joining the committee instantly gave me access to a personal network of passionate and informed librarians to ask questions of that I may have felt foolish asking elsewhere!

Nigel: It’s the best CPD opportunity ever, taking me way beyond my comfort zone. I’d never envisaged doing scary stuff like hosting award ceremonies, chairing keynotes and turning on the charm for hundreds of delegates. It’s been a huge confidence builder developing organisational and social skills I never knew I had. I’m not a particularly sociable person but when LILAC beckons, I undergo a Jekyll & Hyde style transformation!. It makes me feel very proud.

What was your favourite LILAC location?

Emily: That’s a tricky one as each location brings something unique. The perfect combination would be Swansea’s conference venue, Liverpool’s networking evening (the terracotta warriors exhibition ), Glasgow’s conference dinner venue (the Old Fruitmarket) and Manchester’s hotel which was a 10 minute walk from the venue.

Nigel: That has to be Swansea in 2017. Not least, because it was only 10 minutes from home. But it was also great to bring the crowds to Wales’ second city as Cardiff tends to hog the spotlight far too much.

What will you miss most when you leave LILAC?

Emily: The hoodie that the Treasurer will make me return.

Nigel: I’ll miss the other members of the team. We are a close knit unit and the work ethic is inspiring – we are like a bunch of Duracell bunnies during the event, constantly on the go. It can be stressful pulling off an event of this magnitude whilst under pressure. But we all support each other magnificently. It’s a tremendous team.

What was your proudest LILAC moment?

Emily: LILAC is such a supportive environment not just in terms of the committee but the wider ethos of the conference and those making up this amazing IL community. As a result of knowing all these incredible people I have had a few articles and chapters published (all co-authored!) which is something I never thought I would be able to do. The encouragement and help offered by fellow librarians is unbeatable and LILAC really brings this to the fore.

Nigel: Well, wearing the iconic LILAC tee-shirt for the first time made me feel like the cat’s whiskers! Also, in 2014 I delivered the 10th anniversary presentation at our networking evening in Sheffield. Keeping 300 guests entertained with a history of LILAC was a challenge  but it came off beautifully with the help of my video featuring past delegates from around the world.

What was your most embarrassing LILAC moment?

Emily: I manage all the hotel bookings for the committee and keynote speakers and in one venue I got given a huge suite for the same price as a normal room as I think the hotel thought I was important. Obviously I have always maintained that it was embarrassing to have such stupendous accommodation when the rest of the committee were ‘slumming it’ but I think I can come clean now that I was clearly chuffed to bits.

Nigel: I am not telling you as I am too embarrassed! But on another occasion, fellow committee member Elaine Sykes and I scrubbed-up a treat to perform a Schubert violin/piano sonata at the networking event. It went brilliantly until I hit an appallingly wrong chord at the very end. Hopefully, most delegates were too inebriated to notice! But I was mortified.

What does it take to be a good LILAC committee member?

Emily: Team work! Being on the committee is hard work and you sacrifice some of your own time to be involved, but this pales into insignificance when you get to spend time with some fantastic people. You will also be dead on your feet at 15:30 on the last day of the conference but, trust me, it will all have been worth it.

Nigel: Being prepared to turn your hand to absolutely ANYTHING. You also need an understanding employer to enable you to put in the time. And you have to be able to cope with some very, very late nights!

LILAC 2019

Don’t miss out. Bookings for this year’s LILAC conference in Nottingham are now open. LILAC will be taking place at the University of Nottingham, Wednesday 24th April to Friday 26th April.

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