Well I think it’s about time I talked about some other things for a bit! I have also stumbled upon a bit of a glitch in that for some reason the 23things Google Calendar page is blocked by our network so I’m mulling over what useful things I have found from it without being prompted!
Yesterday I attended a Higher Education Teaching and Learning Conference held by my college. It’s become an annual event as this year was the second, but it’s the first I’ve ever attended. Lots of things mentioned were really incredibly interesting, although of course not all relevant to libraries.
The college is a mixed-economy college – this basically means we have both further and higher education provision and the higher education provision accounts for at least 10% of our student numbers. This is a relatively new change and something which the college is still settling in to; sitting in on validation meetings for courses over the past academic year has really shown to me the massive benefits we can offer as a non-university provider. There seems to be a lot of stigma to fight against, but actually the merits involved are enormous when students are not necessarily in need of the ‘traditional’ university experience.
There is a huge issue about creating a ‘HE Culture’ within an FE institution. I’m quite interested in how the library can help with this; the library played a much more significant role for me when I was at university than any other level of my education – aside from primary school actually, which kick-started my reading habits which ultimately led to me studying an English Literature degree! The library is emblematic of academia to me – I remember the library much more clearly than the lecture rooms I sat in. So how can such a fondness be replicated in a college setting?
I think perhaps the most significant challenge is size and money. My university library was enormous, with study spaces for every kind of study, a cafe, ‘mobile phone zones’ and more computers than you can shake a stick at. On the other hand, I’m not sure I ever actually held a conversation with a librarian the whole time I was there. The shelves were full of a glorious range of books but at that point I had no real idea about online journals so just used what was on the shelves in front of me. I’m not sure if this was indicative of the time I was at university and will have changed now – when did information literacy become a priority in academic libraries? It has certainly become a major feature of the college library I work in now, particularly so for the students studying on higher education courses. I can not quite express how useful I think students would find it if they understood what it was we were actually showing them – unfortunately we generally have one hour a year with each of them (if we’re lucky!) so it’s quite a challenge! It is certainly something which we’re building on though, and definitely seem to be making some good headway. The one-to-one sessions which are on offer really started to gain momentum too – it was the second year of us having them but the first year they were properly advertised and mentioned in our Library sessions; a lot of students wanted help with their dissertations and it was so lovely helping them to realise that they can actually do all sorts themselves, they just hadn’t quite realised it yet. This kind of personalised support wasn’t available as far as I was aware when I was a student. However, I’m sure many of our students may say the same thing themselves – promotion of all the library can offer is of such paramount importance, the trouble is it is such a major challenge. Fortunately I work in an institution which really values all the library can do for students, but it’s still something which needs to be tackled more aggressively I think.
One of the issues which has unexpectedly arisen is Research Ethics – this hasn’t been much of an issue with further education studies so we’re not really fully grounded in all the implications this may have on required knowledge of library staff. I assume it’s fairly minimal, but it’s certainly something to investigate.
I’m going to read around the influence of libraries upon the HE culture of FE institutions. To me it’s a fundamental cog in the transition and I’d be interested to know if there’s any excellent little marketing ploys or tactics going on that we haven’t yet thought of.