SINTO organised its annual coach trip to the Library & Information Show at the NEC, Birmingham on Wednesday. There were 28 of us on the coach from the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Dearne Valley College, Sheffield Libraries and Corus.
The show was in a different hall to last year and my impression was that it was a bit smaller again. There was a good showing by Library Management Systems companies, furniture suppliers and library equipment suppliers. LIS has never been very strong on information databases and publishers (it clashes with the London Book Fair) but it did have a fair number. There was the usual selection small companies and organisations that provide an element of serendipity.
There was also a programme of free seminars. This is a bit of an add-on to the main event. The lecture areas, basically, tents in the exhibition hall, are not very large and fill up quickly. The programme is very varied. You don't expect to get groundbreaking presentations on state-of-the-art topics but rather reviews of general professional interest. I attended three presentations; Developing information literacy by Sheila Corrall, The corporate need for the information professional by Lesley Robinson and Wikis, Blogs and RSS by Karen Blakeman. (The presentations are meant to be posted on the LIS web site soon). Also running on the Wednesday was the (charged for) Library 2.0 Forum. I did not attend that myself but I am sure it will be covered by other bloggers.
So how was it for me? I'm a regular visitor to LIS because of our annual coach trip but I am not looking to purchase anything myself so its a bit hard to judge. Every year you can find someone, either am exhibitor or librarian, who says that it is not as good as it was and they might not come back - but my impression is that it still provides a valuable service for the profession. Generally people attend for one of two reasons. Either they want to compare a range of products such as Library management systems or furniture, or they want a general CPD event to keep them updated about what is happening. (Or they want to stock up an free pens!). You can argue that you could achieve both these goals by browsing on-line rather than traveling to Birmingham but it is useful to see and touch products and there is always the opportunity for networking. I met, among others, Ian Snowley - Cilip President, blogger& globe-trotter and was able to renew an invitation for him to visit Sheffield. He is planning to speak at the Department of Information Studies in the autumn so perhaps we can put on a joint event. Perhaps it could be an opportunity for librarians who are not members to ask what is the value of Cilip today? What do you think? [Desperate appeal for feedback :-)]