An interview with..., Humans of Bristol University

Jez Conolly

Jez Conolly is the Head of Student Engagement for Library Services at the university. See below to listen to the full interview or check out the text for the best bits!

Taken on February 15th 2019 in Jez’s office on Berkeley Square

I was an art student for many years back in the 1980s. I’ve worked for the university since 1990 by the way, so I go back a long way. My academic background is also in film research, so I’ve always tended to gravitate towards writing about cinema. My dad was a cinema manager for over 40 years, from just before the Second World War to 1980! So that’s probably where my general interest stems from.

I started writing articles for an online magazine in 2008 and started making a few connections with different publishers. Along with my wife, we co-edited three volumes in a book series called World Film Locations for Intellect Ltd which is a Bristol based publisher. We covered city locations, so we did Dublin, Reykjavik (which is a difficult one because there aren’t very many films made in Iceland at all) and Liverpool, which was quite a nice one to do.

You’ll actually find that there are quite a few creative people with creative backgrounds amongst the library staff. A member of my team, Beccy Pert, won the Cheltenham Literature Festival First Novel Prize last year! We have quite a few people who are writers and we have someone who’s involved in the graphic novel market, so there’s a whole load of really talented people working for the library.

I think it’s really nice to have that arts and creative background to draw upon in terms of what we do as a service because I think the thing with libraries is that, to your average user, there is often the potential for the service to be regarded as a little bit dry but necessary, so we try and moisten it a little bit to make it interesting and engaging. It helps to know that there are library colleagues out there who have the drive to get their teeth into something more creative when called upon to do so.

We’re really keen to contribute to links between the city and the university. In 2017, Bristol had UNESCO City of Film status bestowed upon it, which is not terribly widely known. I would really like to see how the university can do something around that. I’m working with the subject librarian for TV and Film to see if we can forge links between that department and what’s going on with UNESCO.

I always think the student experience should be porous; they should feel able to go into different spaces or have different experiences during their time at the university and within the city, and there’s no reason why that experience shouldn’t merge and become all part of the same thing. I think staff should be attempting to encourage and enable that porousness to happen. If that means, you know, making a point of going out and doing a thing that is beyond what is on my job description, I’m more than happy to do that. I can talk until the cows come home about this sort of thing!

A course is like a vehicle, and you jump on and jump off and the world carries on anyway; I think it’s very healthy to be as aware of that as you possibly can from as early a point in a course as you can be. I know what it’s like to be on a course and feel almost enclosed by it, and thinking the outside world can go hang, but it can’t really because one day you’ll rejoin it, so it’s better to be aware of that from the outset, I think.

Phoebe Graham BILT Student Fellow 18/19 – working on the project ‘Empowering Students to Impact their Teaching and Learning’.

Jez’s published writing:

Twitter: @BristolUniLib

Instagram: @bristol_uni_lib

Facebook: @BristolUniLib

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