• Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speakers

Who are our keynote speakers? Find out who is speaking at this year's conference and read their biographies and abstracts.

Sandeep Mahal


Love Literacy, Love Libraries

Nottingham is a UNESCO City of Literature with a massive literacy deficit, but in the face of unparalleled political crisis and continuing austerity, they continue to make the best possible case for investment in libraries and literacy. Sandeep’s keynote will cover the city’s vision for a new central library, new approaches to literacy learning, and her work towards achieving the city of literature’s mission: building a better world with words.

She will stress that enjoying reading and writing is not a frothy extra to literacy skills, but a vital aspect of what it means to be literate. Supporting this with research that shows that enjoyment drives attainment and is uniquely potent in powering social mobility: children who are read to from an early age start school with thousands more words than their peers, whether or not a teenager loves to read is a clear indicator of his or her later economic success. She will advocate that promoting the enjoyment of reading and writing can change society and transform lives, and public libraries have a very big role to play in that.


As Director for Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, Sandeep is responsible for leading the company artistically and strategically and working with the highly skilled and dedicated team to make a difference to Nottingham's arts and literature community.

Sandeep started her career in public libraries in Sandwell, (an area widely known as the inspiration for Tolkein’s grim region of Mordor), before moving to The Reading Agency, where she led a powerful partnership consortium transforming the way UK publishers collaborated with the UK public library network.

She has staged all kinds of author events with Zadie Smith, Jarvis Cocker, Adele Parks and Neil Gaiman. Most recently she was Director of The Space – a commissioning agency supporting greater digital access to the arts, co-funded by Arts Council England and the BBC.

Sandeep is a trustee of Spread the Word and a Literary Consultant at Slam Films where she works with Slam’s creative team on all literary acquisitions. In 2013, she was awarded the prestigious fellowship from the Clore Cultural Institute.

She is judging this year’s Costa Prize First Novel Award, having previously judged the British Book Industry Awards and the Fiction Uncovered Prize.


Ruth Carlyle


Health literacy: information literacy for life

When it comes to health, being able to access, appraise and understand information is essential to making informed decisions. This is the sharp end of information literacy. It is not just a desirable skill to achieve a better mark in a student assignment, but essential to choices that will sometimes have life or death implications.

In this keynote session, Ruth Carlyle will introduce the key features of health literacy and the contributory role that information literacy plays. This will include evidence on the scale of low health literacy and its implications.

Some of this keynote may make you feel uncomfortable, as you are invited to get a sense of what it feels like to have a low level of health literacy. For all of us, our personal level of health literacy will vary. Following the shock of a diagnosis, for example, assimilating and appraising information is much harder.
Addressing health literacy is not an issue of individual responsibility; it places the burden of enabling understanding on the person who is communicating or creating communication tools.

You will leave the session with a sense of how you might apply your existing professional experience to increasing health literacy awareness and health literacy skills. You will also be able to access resources and guidance on techniques that reduce the impact of low health literacy. The session will also include tips on ensuring that services you provide are health literacy friendly.

Through your interest in information literacy, you are enabling others to develop the skills that are essential to health literacy. A more proactive engagement in health literacy awareness could be where you have a positive impact for life.


Ruth Carlyle is a health librarian and a health promotion specialist. She has spent most of her career in the voluntary sector, setting up, delivering and advising on health information services. In her first professional post, she set up the information service for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and initiated the contacts that created the International MND/ALS Association. Ruth oversaw both information and professional education programmes at the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the National Eczema Society; then led on the development of local cancer information and support services across the UK with Macmillan Cancer Support. Whilst she was working at Macmillan, the cancer information service network expanded from 37 services to over 200 local services, mostly in partnership with the NHS.

She joined Health Education England in April 2017 as Head of Library & Knowledge Services and Technology Enhanced Learning across the Midlands and the East of England. In this role, she is one of four regional librarians for the NHS in England. Ruth is also the lead nationally for NHS libraries in England on patient and public information, with a focus on health literacy

Ruth is policy lead for the Health Libraries Group and her PhD is on the politics of public involvement in the NHS. She is currently writing a book on the role of health literacy in libraries across sectors.


Allison Littlejohn


[Un]intended consequences of educational change: The need to focus on literacy development

Universities in the UK aim to drive social mobility by providing access to learning and teaching in ways that disrupt and democratise the status quo. These transformations are being driven forward largely through forms of open and personalised learning informed by AI and analytics . Information literacy is an important element in enabling this change and libraries are critical change partners. At the same time UK universities have been under pressure to contribute to the economy and to operate in an increasingly competitive commercial environment. The increasing commercialisation of higher education raises fundamental questions about the place of universities in society and undermines the ability of universities to improve social mobility and to ensure all students are equipped with the critical literacies needed to prepare them for their future. In this keynote, I will analyse these tensions, arguing that many new approaches to teaching in higher education tend to focus on supporting students to pass exams, rather than to learn critical skills and knowledge. Because of this tension, many education innovations benefit students who already are advantaged, rather than acting as an equaliser. Evolving approaches to learning tend to be designed for those who already have well-developed literacies, rather than opening access for all. AI and analytics are underpinned by assumptions and metrics that embed the status quo, rather than fuelling social mobility. This analysis is based on research with Nina Hood, outlined in our recent book published by Springer: ‘Reconceptualising Learning in the Digital Age: the [un]democtratising power of MOOCs. Libraries are already playing an important part in redressing the balance between preparing students for their future lives and increasing profitability. I am looking forward to discussing these important, systemic issues with LILAC colleagues.


Professor Allison Littlejohn is the Dean (Learning & Teaching) of the College of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow. She is an advocate for the role of libraries in Technology Enhanced Education and a follower of the LILAC activities.

Allison has held research Chairs at three UK Universities, The Open University, Glasgow Caledonian University and Dundee University and academic positions at the Universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde, Highlands and Islands and Northern Colorado in the US. She directs a programme of research in Professional and Digital Learning at the Open University. In this programme her research with professional organisations and multinational companies spans the Finance, Education, Health and Energy sectors. She has been Principal Investigator or Senior Scientist on over 40 research projects funded by a range of organisations and was Senior Researcher in Knowledge Innovation & Development for Royal Dutch Shell 2008-10. Allison has published over 200 academic articles, including five books and is regularly invited as a keynote speaker.

Present @ LILAC

LILAC is great opportunity for our fellow professionals to present their ideas, share best practice and show case new thinking in our sector. If you have an idea then we'd love to hear about it. We have many options for the types of sessions you might run from a symposium to a workshop. Visit our Call for papers page to find out how to apply.

Book your place

Places at this year's conference are likely to be in demand more than ever before. Each year our conference grows increasingly popular and this year promises to be no different. Don't miss out and book your place now for this year's conference.
We look forward to seeing you there!

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