Friday, 11 November 2011

Reflections on the first half term

It's been a hectic half term. We've done about 60 inductions. We tailor our inductions by level and subject, in terms of introducing specific online resources and the way that we communicate. For example, for an Access to HE or Foundation degree group (who are typically mature students) we wouldn't labour the LRC rules (no eating, phones, two warnings then you have to leave and all that good stuff), we'd ask them to let us know if other students were distracting them by misbehaving. Our inductions are very hands on, with students searching and using the online resources and e-books. This engages the students and helps them learn how to find the resources at a later date. I believe the hands on use of e-books at induction embedded the use of e-books and led to us being #7 in the UK for use of the JISC e-books for FE package (in the stats that came out up to March 2011, weighted by size of college). On the feedback from the inductions 97% of students found them to be very or quite useful. So now the plan is to work on the other 3%!
We've also done Information Skills sessions for the first time this year. Session 1 covers effective web searching and evaluating web sources, Session 2 covers referencing, plagiarism adn bibliographies. These were delivered mostly through Xerte e-tutorials with LRC Support Tutors introducing the session and supporting students throughout. For next year I will modify this: the Second session was too advanced for Level 2 learners while some groups felt that they had nothing to learn on web searching. They do, but the question is how do you show students that they do? In the LRC survey in June I asked students about their level of confidence around study and information skills then asked staff about student ability in these areas. The results show that student confidence grossly outstripped the staff evaluation of their ability. This is a challenge to overcome for all FE and HE institutions - how do you make someone learn something that they believe they already know?
We've had quite a few procedural changes that began in September; we installed the MyPC computer booking system, started overdue charges and stopped teachers bringing classes in without booking. This has led to a few quarrels with those who haven't understood the new system (despite thorough communication and advertising) but it appears as if people are getting the hang of it now.
Previously we sent overdue reminder letters but there was no real sanction for not returning books on time, which meant that items were taken out at the start of the year and never seen again. This was very frustrating for other people who wanted to use the items. Now we charge 5- per day per item, and the MyPC system blocks students with overdue books from logging on to computers, unless they are in a booked class. This has led to much greater circulation of resources and less complaints about unfulfilled reservations.
Noise levels are a lot better which means less staff time managing behaviour. This means happier staff and more achieved in terms of stock promotion and tightening up things on the admin side of things. Things feel a lot more managed and contained which I thank MyPC for.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Day 5 of #libday6

I arrived at 8.45, having caught up on a few bits on the train.

At 9.30am Maryse and Malcolm from JISC RSC Eastern met with myself and the IT manager. They demonstrated a variety of their resources and discussed how to promote them to staff. They stayed for just over 2 and a half hours.

I then had 30 minutes to answer emails, deal with anything immediate and grab some lunch before heading over to my second meeting of the day. I had my first Freedom of Information related query so dealt with it immediately. I grabbed a sandwich to eat in the taxi.

I spent the afternoon at a local college with my counter-part. He had previously visited our LRC so it was my turn for a return visit. They are planning on starting to run Independent Learning Sessions as we do and are soon starting a trial. I spent quite a bit of my visit discussing how we run them, I am keen to be as supportive and helpful as I can so they can learn from what we have done. I really enjoy visiting other libraries and talking with other librarians.

Day 4 of #libday6

Got into work at the usual 8.45 to deal with any problems or queries before heading over to Curriculum Team Meeting at 9am. This is my big weekly meeting with the Vice Principal Curriculum, the Faculty Directors, the Director of Student Services, the Marketing Executive and the Quality Manager.

The meeting ended at 11am, at which point it was straight onto the Issue Desk for two hours where I organised the upcoming week's bay and equipment bookings and staff rota inbetween serving customers and patrolling the LRC. As it is Holocaust Memorial Day we've been playing the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust film on our Information Screen today which has been getting some good responses.

At 1pm I went out for lunch with the Estates Manager which is a real treat as we only manage to do this about every 3 weeks. She has been a great friend to me since I started in post 6 months ago.

When I returned to the LRC I covered the counter for an hour then had a one to one with one of the LRC Support Tutors. I like to do this with each of them each week. Sometimes there isn't anything to say from either side, but I think it's important to make that time for dialogue as we spend a lot of the day rushing around.
I also spent some time chasing the Reading Agency for the second time to try to order more Six Book Challenge diaries as we've run out. I left promptly at 4.30, exhausted after doing two late nights already this week as I normally only do one.

Day 3 of #libday6

Came in hoping for a more tranquil day than yesterday. Spent most of the morning chasing up some laptop trolley and equipment queries, and dealing with emails and other queries. Visited HR with a few suggestions for the upcoming staff development day. The HR Manager is always really nice and helpful. Covered the issue desk and patrolled over the lunch period as we have classes in. Wednesdays are always very busy days so I spend a lot of my day out on the floor.

Our new principal joined our team meeting at 3pm which was a great chance for us to get to know her better and vice versa. We decided to hold the meeting in the way we always do - with the LRC open and one member of the team on look out for customers at the counter. There is only an hour a week that all three LRC Support Tutors are in so we have to have our meeting in that hour even though it is a busy time. Afterwards I went straight to my fortnightly one to one with my line manager, the Vice Principal Curriculum.

The college Open Evening for prospective students started at 4pm, so we spent plenty of the day tidying up and making sure we looked presentable. I stayed until 7pm for the Open Evening. As it was fairly quiet it was a good chance to catch up on ordering resources and doing a bit of cataloguing.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Day 2 #libday6

What an absolutely appalling day. I had a headache by 10am.
The ALS department moved into the rooms in the back of the LRC. There are problems with keys that I am getting sorted out - the Estates Manager here is fantastic. As predicted, having an area containing 8 PCs shut off on our busiest day of the week meant that it was more or less bedlam in here so I spent most of the day on behaviour management, finding people computers and generally trying to make sure that the place is still running approximately how it should while dealing with a whole series of complaints and people getting upset about lack of resources. Also, I'm trying to reassure the LRC staff that the ALS department moving in won't be a problem, but I can understand their concerns. We have spent 6 months establishing the LRC and just as things start to settle down we've had another big change. Of course, with all of this going on everything of a mangement persuasion that I should be doing was sidelined.
On Tuesday afternoons I supervise two Independent Learning Session - one from Fashion and one from Art. Both groups worked well as usual.
Here's hoping that tomorrow will be a better day!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Day 1 of #libday6

Woke at 5.30am anxious about the week ahead. As always, left the house at 7.10 to get the train. Spent the first half of my train journey catching up on emails, Twitter and Facebook. The Curriculum Manager for Fashion joins the train half way to work and we always have a good chat. The college has a minibus that collects staff and students from the station which is fantastic.

Arrived at work at 8.40, to find the LRC Support Tutors locked out of their workroom which also contains the keys to classrooms that we issue to staff. I left the caretaker breaking into the workroom, and went to have a conversation that I had been dreading which went better than expected! Tweeted and got a nice reply from @SmilyLibrarian. As my workplace's only qualified librarian and the head of the service I often feel out on a limb and isolated, so such kindnesses from the LIS community Twitterati is much appreciated!

Came back to find that staff had access to the workroom, but that the lock would need repairing. At least we can get to the kettle now. Made some tea.

Spent the morning making amendments to the week's rota, replying to emails, chasing up a few odds and ends from last week (registers, Finance, HR, filling in staff development forms for upcoming events etc), checked through last month's finance report and caught up with one of my staff who works part time that I haven't seen since Wednesday. I was on desk and patrol duty from 10-11. We have to combine these two things as we are tight on staffing. It was a busy morning lots of students; in Independent Learning Sessions, in classes that have come in with teachers and drop in students. We've had lots more students sign up for the Six Book Challenge and staff are asking me to buy another set of diaries. It's the first time that the college has run it so I'm pleased that we've had such great buy in from ESOL and Functional Skills staff. Almost all the students that have signed up are usually not LRC users which is also great as reaching out to non-users was one of my challenges for the year.

I had lunch at noon. My new year resolution was to eat at lunchtime and I've been really good at sticking to it. I went up to the canteen (which I love!) and got ratatouille quiche, chips and beans.

At 1pm I went back on the counter, dealing with the unchtime rush: helping students find books, moving along students who aren't working, resetting passwords, triage on the laptops (we can reestablish the wifi connection to save taking them up to IT). One of the Faculty Directors called in and we had a chat about problems with the timetable which puts pressure on resources and rooms. The Networks Manager called over to fix something on my computer. Apologised for smell of chips and vinegar in my office but he said he likes it. At 2pm we had the combination of a large class of Public Services students and a large class of Motor Vehicle students - two of our livelier cohorts! - so spent some time on behaviour management. Our students aren't cheeky or malicious, they are just high spirited and can get noisy. Returned to my office at about half two and phoned the British Library about some Inter Library loans. Gave a new teacher an e-books tutorial over the telephone. Ordered the new Quick Reads that are coming out for World Book Day in March. Dealt with some emails: mainly laptop and room bookings.

At 5pm the LRC Support Tutors went home and I stayed on for evening duty. I put out the reservation notices in the bays for tomorrow, and prepared for the Additional Learning Support (ALS) department moving in to three rooms that have historically been part of the library. The front of the college is being remodelled so ALS are being relocated, possibly temporarily, possibly permanently. In order to make space for this we have closed down our AV and off air recording service and lost the breakout room that was created for us in the summer 2010 refurb. To make tomorrow's move (hopefully) smooth and safe I have shut off the back of the LRC so that they can bring things in through the fire doors. To do this we will lose 8 PCs for the day, and as Tuesdays are our busiest day I suspect that we'll spend half the day stopping the student going in the 'out of bounds' area. I'm anticipating a visit from an ESOL class at 7pm who are signing up for the 6 Book Challenge, and will be out of here at 7.30pm which will get me home just after 9. Mondays are long days!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Partnerships for HE in FE: the library perspective

UWE Bristol

26 November 2010

It has taken me so long to post this that I'm also going to comment on how I've acted upon the tips I got from the day.

The first Keynote Speaker Mark Stone (Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning, University of Plymouth Colleges) gave an external perspective. He asked, ‘are you a service or a cost centre?’ Libraries can be seen as a significant cost so we must be very clear about what we are offering. He advised looking at advocacy in terms of documentation and the ‘pub conversation’ set of snappy answers as to what we offer. Libraries can be seen as part of wider collection of services with IT etc - but that IT are often noisier and have better user stats. In order to fight those that we are competing with for budgets we must look at producing quality metrics, KPIs and stats to show our value.
I've produced an LRC newsletter for staff showing how the LRC's mission and purpose is unique to other departments (coloured boxes through the newsletter saying 'The LRC is...' and stating a purpose of the LRC) and solid stats (such as number of Independent Learning Sessions conducted) that show the value of the LRC.

He went on to advise that we think about how staff are teaching different levels in different ways and changing their hats, and that we look at how we manage what we offer and manage expectations. Mark also suggested that those who are working on the CPD curriculum aren’t speaking to libraries. He asked the very pertinent question: what will our library provision to HE students would look like post-£9k fees? Students will be expecting to have no extra costs on top of that in terms of books, printing, field trips.
I've been in two meetings with HE staff and am working with them to build up collections and services to support their needs.

Mark also notes that staff digital literacy is often poor, and that we need to work on this at an institutional level – not just as something for students.

Mark said that we must stick our foot in the door and not be passive – we must:
• Interfere
• Deliver value
• Seek initiatives
• Ask
• Offer
• Request information and ask awkward questions
• Lead
• Not seek permission – but assume that we are in the lead.
I’m pleased to say that I've been doing a lot of this already. We must get in there early on programme design meetings – he has seen good work on helping to design assessments also. A librarian from the University of Greenwich spoke about having a service level agreement with their partner colleges which includes that they must be on such committees – one of their partner colleges spoke up at this point as to how empowered they felt by this.

Roz Howard from Salford Uni spoke about their project on preparing students for the transition from FE to HE. She spoke about a compact agreement bridging the gap from FE to HE to help students become Independent Learners and how they have created a module for students which has been set up through ASLAN – an independent accreditation agency which counts towards UCAS points.
The module included:
• Information Literacy/Digital Skills
• Study Skills – reading and writing strategies
• Time management
• Financial management, cooking on a budget etc

This module is going to be delivered by library staff. It is being offered to Salford’s partner colleges, the students must come to Salford Uni afterwards.

The next talk was from Eleanor Johnson and Andy Henrys: West Cheshire and the University of Stafforshire: sharing good practice. They shared some interesting ideas including hosting a coffee morning to introduce teaching staff to ebrary. They run a Springboard programme which was initially post Level 3 but is now for many other students as part of developing employability. It covers: 1. Research Skills 2. Reflexive learning 3. Academic writing 4. Referencing.

In one of the breaks I had an interesting conversation with a librarian with a similar cohort to mine, we were both beginning to question whether we are doing the right thing for our Access and HE cohort. At my institute we have a fairly small cohort of Access and HE students and we work very closely with them which is great in that we get to know them, make them feel welcome (which is particularly important for those who have been out of education for some time) and it is interesting for us. I'm now wondering if we are offering too much support compared to what they will get when they go on to ARU? Are we almost doing them a disservice by being too kind and helpful?

City of Bristol’s Lee Bryant and Sue Caporn gave a fantastic talk on the research that they had done on ebook use. They used voting paddles as a way of engaging users in the talk which was so much better than just standing and reading the info out.

The last talk of the day was Collaborative Approaches between Subject Librarians and HE Tutors by Adrian Macey and Lisa Souch from Exeter College. It was very nice to see the value that academic staff take in the library – Lisa is a lecturer but came to a library conference to speak. Interesting ideas included taking new books to the staff room for a week before they are put in the LRC, attendance at HE validation meetings and attending graduation ceremony. They showed the research zone area of the library portal which was really innovative, they also had separate referencing guides for FE and HE. They also spoke of using Courselab free open source software for online tutorials which is something that I want to look into for our website redesign.