So, I went to this yesterday. It was in Newcastle. For a bit of context this is a twice-yearly meet up for University Science and Technology Librarians to exchange information and share examples of good practice. I’d seen the call for speakers go round on the mailing list and I volunteered to do a presentation on my first couple of years in this my first professional post; making it my own, which was accepted. I also wanted to take this as an opportunity to get some tips and advice from other librarians in similar subject and liaison roles.
Not only was the first time I’d attended one of these meet ups but also my first time to Newcastle – imagine that! I had to restrain myself from not having a little yelp of excitement when I got a glimpse of the Angel of the North from the train!
I arrived into Newcastle on Sunday evening, had a little walk about to find my hotel for the night – a Travelodge near the Quayside, and after a couple a practice runs of my presentation I watched a bit of the Twilight saga film that was on, wondered why the boys in it were mostly topless in their scenes, got confused about werewolves and vampires and how Bella fitted into all of it (she basically gets to do smooching with boys – a vampire and a werewolf with no tops on!) and then had a bit of a broken sleep with people coming back from boozing and being all loud – on a Sunday! Who’d have thought it?!
I was also disappointed that there was no peppermint tea at this Travelodge and those of you that know me will know that I normally take my own with me, but I’d forgotten this time. Anyway, I went and asked at reception and they very kindly showed me their whole selection of fruity and standard tea, but no peppermint! Thankfully Timothy Collinson @timpaa came to my rescue the following day with two peppermint tea bags from the superior hotel they were staying at
Anyway, Monday morning arrived and I made my way to Newcastle University, Robinson Library and then to the research hive where our day was being held. First impressions of #USTLG? They are a really friendly bunch. I recognised some people that I’d met at other events @georginahardy @kirsty_thomson @timpaa and Tracy Ainsley from CDG activities and there were of course lots of new people to meet.
In this post I just want to give you an overview of the day, some of my highlights and things I want to follow up on.
In terms of my own presentation, like the New Professionals Day doing this was another opportunity to restore my confidence in my presenting abilities and again I’m glad I went along and did it, even with slight technical hitch of my slides not working from the file saved on my stick. I’d put the slides together in Google Docs so the original was on there. Fortunately the Internet was working without any problem so I was able to do my presentation from that version. Phew! You can have a look at the presentation; The Environment and Technology Librarian – a new professionals perspective, making the role your own on Slideshare. I concluded the presentation by asking my more experienced USTLG colleagues to share one piece of advice with me to help me to develop my role further – this was requested in tweet or post it format. I didn’t get a full house of responses – but here are a selection of the post it ones I got…
Enough about me, to back track a little bit, the day was opened by Moira Bent, someone who I know through reading her articles and reports about information literacy. Her introduction was followed by a welcome from the Librarian at Newcastle University, Wayne Connolly and now here is a summary of the rest of the presentations and what I found interesting about them.
Jenny Campbell, Newcastle – So what does it mean to be a subject librarian?
In addition to getting an insight into the work of a subject librarian at Newcastle University I enjoyed hearing about the different roles within the role that Jenny identified and could certainly relate to most of them:
- Research support
- Subject specialist
- Financial manager
- Project manager
I was also interested to hear about the use of Netvibes and other social media for current awareness services and will follow up on that when I get back to base.
As is the case for so many of use we’re seeing supporting researchers as a growing area and how we respond to this to provide the required support is, how we decide what that provision should be, how and when we deliver it and how and when we review it are all important questions.
Another area that caught my attention, which I realise is not unique to Newcastle is patron driven acquisitions for print and ebooks. This isn’t something that we currently do at Brighton, but it’s something I’d like us to investigate and perhaps trial. Again, something to follow up when I get back.
I really like the idea of employing students to observe the behaviour of other students using the different study spaces of the library and to gather student opinion at Newcastle. An interesting outcome, which Ian Young from Leeds University echoed was that although there was a request from students for more study space they specifically want quiet space, not social learning space. This led on to a bit of discussion about what to call different study areas in the library and how people interpret quiet/silent etc.
Newcastle has also recently had a refurbishment in the Robinson library and as a result a fair amount of stock has been moved to Newcastle University Research Reserve – in Gateshead. Not just storing library materials but other university materials, HR records etc. A good project for the Library to be involved in and good for the library to be managing this space. I was interested to hear that people can access and study in this reserve and I’d have liked to heard more about how this is managed, given the range of materials stored there, but we ran out of time.
Liz Martin, De Montfort – Embedding information literacy teaching in science and engineering
A good summary of where they were with information literacy teaching at De Montfort for Science and Engineering and to compare it to where they are now. Highlights for me with this presentation were:
- E- induction – This is sent out for people to complete before they even start their course. They can dip in and out, but have to answer questions on each section – this is before they start – late August. No reward at the end, no sanction if it’s not completed. It’s available all year round so if they haven’t done it when they start then they can when they get there.
This is something I’d like to find out more about and see if it’s effective in getting across those operational aspects of using the library and our services.
- Self guided tour – This is the follow up to the e-induction.
- Information literacy – Liz sees all the first years for two hours – embedded in the module, which is a design project which involved a group presentation and report. She is listed on the module as one of the academics.
Have to show evidence if research and IEEE referencing.For the Technology students – studies in media technology two, one hour sessions. Liz gives the title and they plan the assignment from there. People turned up because they are given the assignment title!
- Postgrads – two hours for induction. Four hours in their course. I would have liked to have heard more about what’s involved in this, but again, time was of the essence!
Liz went on to say how she got involved in these sessions. Some of it was by chance and other routes included management boards, specifically about plagiarism and referencing as this was from External examiner feedback.
Steve Lee, Glamorgan – Making yourself indispensable – Science Community Librarianship
I’d spoken about wanting to become more embedded in my department with my activities as a subject librarian and Steve went on to explain why becoming an embedded librarian wouldn’t work for his and that this isn’t the way to go for all subjects – if there are lots of subjects then how can you embed in all of them? For specific subjects then he thinks it could work.
However as Steve went on to tell us about his activities and how he is involved with his subject areas I was convinced that he was in fact embedded! Not necessarily physically within the department or organisationally as part of the faculty, but with the activities he is involved in supporting his students and academic colleagues, in my view he is definitely a key part of the team!
Steve’s message was that we should make the lives of our user communities easier by getting out of the library and meeting our users. We should be asking what they want out of the library and with any problems identified try and work with them to see if there’s a plan of action.
Steve also pointed out that our customer needs are different to our own and that we should recognise and respond to that. He also pointed out that we need to trust our user communities rather than expecting the worse case scenario.
There was a section about librarians as facilitators rather than doing things for people. Steve gave an example of us skilling the academics with our content and skills to deliver information literacy sessions rather than us repeating the same sessions year on year. He also pointed out that it was important to review this content with the academics and make any necessary changes.
The thought that instead of being a constant, always there, we should go in and once our job is done – get out and stay out until you need to review needs/wants of user communities!
Steve runs surgeries in the teaching areas during term time for half hour slots. This means he is there regularly at the same time slots to answer any queries, in their working environment.
It was good to hear about another student and academic engagement from a different perspective and I like the idea of getting out into our user communities. I do this already but through modules and meetings rather than specifically to troubleshoot and help with queries.
I would have liked to discuss more what we mean when we say ‘embedded librarian’ and the implications of this term. I feel like I could be doing more in terms of outreach and this sort of community librarian activities, but it’s how to fit it all in!
All of these activities though I see as embedding the librarian in the workings of the department, whether we are physically there or not.
Jenny Brine, Lancaster – From soviet studies to science and engineering
This was a really interesting presentation from Jenny reflecting on her career path, the transferable skills gained and influences along the way. Hearing about how Jenny has got to be in the role that she has now was really interesting. She’s done ever such a lot! So, here is are some of my highlights from her presentation.
Jenny started out as a research associate, embedded in the department and therefore a member of a research team rather than a traditional librarian post which highlighted differing views of what a librarian is. Her subjects there were around Soviet Studies.
Working in interlending and document supply is useful for seeing where the gaps are in our collection as it’s about what our library doesn’t have. In her experience it also gives a good picture of university research and there is the opportunity for direct contact with researchers.
When it came to learning about new subjects as she moved into different posts Jenny used the knowledge of her nearest and dearest in some instances; her husband is a doctor working in the NHS and her two sons are doing PhDs, so there was a good opportunity to get an idea of how a research group works and how they share resources. Jenny found that there was a lot of peer to peer sharing of information and finding resources rather than going to the library or contacting their librarian.
A recommendation to get up to speed with subject knowledge was to read study skills books for new subjects to get a flavour of what the students undertake.
Jenny also made some useful suggestions for USTLG to develop:
- area on website for reports and articles about being a science an technology librarian
- links to useful websites and equivalent groups
- lists of study skills books
- mentoring for new science and technology librarians
All good suggestions for us as a group to take forward.
Selina Lock, Leicester All change! Restructuring academic liaison
Selina took us on a restructuring adventure, the circumstances around it and explained some of the implications this restructure has had on her role and what she might expect from her new role. Selina took us through the reasons for restructure:
- develop research support
- extend, improve and develop online and blended training in information skills
- develop special collections/ digital humanities
- maintain a named contact for each department
She also highlighted the new structure:
- learning and teaching team
- research support team
- across the two teams there are subject clusters
This new structure comes into place on 1st June. A new addition to the learning and teaching team is a manager and two senior library assistants for subject librarian.
I wonder if this move to learning and teaching and research teams is becoming the norm?
It would be good if Selina could come back to USTLG later this year or next year to let us know how things are panning out.
Kirsty Thomson, Heriott-Watt – Hiding your library training in other classes
Kirsty is sneaky! Well, not really, but she did have some good ideas and examples of the approaches and activities she had tried to try and improve students information literacy. She spoke early on in her presentation about ‘optimism bias’ based on the work of Tali Sharot and then moved on to tell us aboutthe work they’ve done in getting the library skills into the introduction to essay writing module, which was in week 2 and 3 of course. This involved looking at writing styles, group work exercise and the activity related to that. Eg. Which texts would you use for academic writing.
Following on from this they also looked at when to reference. This was an activity in pairs and looked at how to recognise when you’re using quotes, other peoples ideas.
The Introduction to essay writing sessions hid the info literacy aspects within it. Kirsty advised that this makes library and informatin skills more relevant to what they’re doing. More real.
Essays are submitted using Turnitin and then there is a follow up session recapping on what was covered. Kirsty has also had an input on careers sessions covering topics such as researching employers.
So like others today Kirsty worked collaboratively with colleagues in the effective learning team. More advice followed:
Think carefully about what you’re calling your classes eg. Using evidence in your assignment.
Kirsty also had some tips:
- don’t give up on the idea too quickly, but be ready to change classes that aren’t working.
-Link library skills to a assignment. Gives a bit more context.
Tony Wilson, York- Widening participation: building on the role of the science librarian
I was lookimg forward to hearing from Tony about this aspect of his role. Tony is a liaison librarian and he took on an unofficial role as the library widening participation coordinator.
TheLibrary was invited by the university widening participation to assist in putting on an event with the WP office as well as learning enhancement team and others. Involved in developing independent learning day.
This was June 2009 and repeated in September 2009 for specific schools.
The Library session was called researching and evaluating information. Additional sessions included academic writing, referencing, academic integrity, tour of the library, library challenge, chance to talk to student ambassadors.
-Make use of the student ambassadors with these events.
-Aim to work more closely with other university departments.
As Tony pointed out as this aspect grew and developed it became too much for one person
Then the requests came for extended project qualification ( EPQ)- universities are considering this for entry.
Typical content for researching and evaluating information workshop
- sources of information
- effective searching
- Getting the most out of google
- evaluating websites
- the hotseat – describe the ‘term’ without using the word.
Not just 6th forms! Some stuff for school age and primary schools.
Currently investigating new exercises and materials for these events. Collaboration with teachers.
Why do this?
- gives a good insight into pre university student skills
- find out about wider, free resources
- help WP agenda
- widening participation is now a key part of the library activities. Iexpected that this will become a standard part of an academic liaison.
I’d spoken to colleagues at Sussex about their work with the EPQ and other activities with school/ college groups and that was after hearing about it at the first Brighton Libteachmeet which was just short of a year ago. Again hearing from Tony about this has once more sparked my interest in this area.
We’re already involved in a number of projects and so I can’t imagine doing anything about this practically at this time, but certainly something that I think is important and would be good to devote some time to, even if it’s just to find out about what happens centrally with WP and where we could add to those activities.
So there we go, a very quick round up of my day at #USTLG.
Maybe my chartership post will be finished soon but we’ve the reflective writing session and the first Sussex tweet up tomorrow…