As part of my Fellowship work, I started to annotate my job description for the LILAC Chair and began to have a little reminisce, so I started to write. (I started this blog post before the conference and finished it afterwards so forgive me if my tenses go astray. (This reminds of a song. Possibly a Prince song…) )

Jane Secker and I showing off the new ILG, LILAC and JIL rebrand.

This was my last LILAC as a member of the committee. I’ve stepped down. 9 years spent working with an incredible team of people. I’ve spent six years as Chair, with the last 2 as a co-chair with the marvellous Rosie Jones. (Is it 2 years Rosie or 3?) I’ve got so much back from the work I’ve put in, and I’m so pleased Rosie asked me to join. I believe we were dancing at the time, in an art gallery. I’ve since danced in an old fruit market, at a monastery and most recently in a crypt!

I joined the LILAC Committee in 2009 after attending the Cardiff LILAC as a sponsor for Mimas. Debbi Boden-Angell was the Chair at the time, and as Rosie tweeted at LILAC18, is something of an IL legend. She founded the CILIP IL Group and LILAC and she wrote the first CILIP IL definition. It felt like my LILAC career had come full circle when we invited her to this year’s conference to help us launch the new IL definition.

2010 in Limerick was my first LILAC as a member of the committee and I became the sponsorship officer. I seem to remember it being a lot of fun… it’s a little hazy so maybe too much fun. I remember after that year I always booked time off afterwards to recover. LILAC has taken me to Limerick, London, Glasgow, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Dublin, Swansea and finally Liverpool.

During my time on the LILAC Committee, we’ve worked hard to progress and innovate. We’ve rewritten job descriptions and changed the process for joining the committee, we’ve got a social media presence. We’ve got a new website and booking system, and we’ve rebranded. (and got new t-shirts!). We’ve introduced different presentation formats, pecha kucha, teachmeets, lagadothon and masterclasses and we’ve set up bursaries to try and enable information professionals from different sectors other than higher education to attend. We’ve even played with playful learning and there was the LILAC game.  There has been a lot of dancing, I mentioned that didn’t I? (A bit of Bon Jovi for you Jane Secker:

Debbi Boden-Angell and I on the dance floor in Limerick.

I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve laughed a lot. We laugh a lot. It’s only hysteria occasionally. Honest.

Sam, Rosie and I in hysterics in Swansea,

Nothing that we have achieved and could have been done without the members of the LILAC committee. When I look back at photos and at the presentation archives and I see how far the conference has evolved, I know it’s testament to the commitment and passion of this amazing group of people, who, in their spare time, organise an international conference for 300 people that lasts 3 days. Which in anybody’s book, is a bit of an odd hobby.

But I know they get a lot out of it. I certainly have. LILAC has allowed me to learn. I’ve learnt from keynotes, LILAC presenters, but most of all I’ve learnt from the other members of the team. We buddy up, we mentor, we share experiences and knowledge, we brainstorm.

I can now stand in front of a few hundred people and say hello. I know how to put on an event and I know what sorts of things you need to consider if you are thinking about putting something on. I know how to use feedback to improve what you are doing and I’ve learnt that you don’t need to be afraid of stopping doing things, especially if they’re not working. I know how to attend conferences and get the most out of them. I can network. I know how to put together a brief for a graphic designer. I know which freebies go down a storm. I know that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will kick in and that food and room temps need to be good or you WILL get poor scores on the evaluation. (Who can forget Manchester’s snow? AND yes I was a bit scared about this year too.) I know that librarians are incredibly good queuers and caterers never quite seem to be believe us when we say we need a lot of catering points to avoid queues building up.  I think I’ve learnt how to lead a team.  I know that after 3 days of saying hello and smiling at everyone, I will be doing this as I walk round Sainsbury’s doing my shopping and everyone will think I’m a lunatic.

During my time on the committee, I went freelance and built up my business. Something I don’t think I could have done as successfully without my LILAC network and the confidence that this whole experience has given me. I’m incredibly proud of how far we’ve come in this 9 years. It’s been a privilege to have worked with some of the funniest, most unflappable and most supportive people I’ve ever met.

LILAC Committee in 2012. Glasgow with Queen T. (Tara Brabazon)

Should you read this and be thinking about getting involved in a committee or professional group, as the lovely people from that well-known sporting apparel company say, JUST DO IT. Particularly if you’re looking for new skills to help you to reach your next step. If you are struggling to develop new skills where you’re working (and for whatever reason this can sometimes be the case), then volunteering for a regional or special interest group might be the answer. I would look carefully at the job description. Will it play to your strengths and help you develop new ones? What will you bring to this opportunity? What could it bring you? Check how much time is required from you weekly. Is this something you can commit to? It will possibly involve travel, at least 3 or 4 meetings a year and you will have to work on top of your day job, so you will have to work hard, but you will develop new skills, raise your profile, build your network and make lots of friends.

I know it’s the right time to go. My mum is starting to need me more because of her memory problems and my business is growing which I’m delighted about, but leaves me with less and less time to work on LILAC in the way that the conference and the people involved deserve. I also believe that new people and new leaders are vital for new ideas. It’s time for a new dynamic. I’m delighted that Claire Packham is taking over from Rosie and I as LILAC Chair. She’s been part of LILAC since 2011 when she was one of our local reps in London. She’s been an amazing Deputy for us for the past 3 years, she thinks strategically, was instrumental in our redesign and new system and she works damn hard.  I know she’s going to be brilliant.

Sam Aston, me, Louise Doolan, Rosie Jones.