Oxford Cambridge College Librarians Conference 2015, 1 of 2

On 26th March 2015, I attended for the first time the Oxford Cambridge College Librarians Conference. This is a biennial conference and Oxford and Cambridge librarians take it in turns to host the conference at one of the University’s colleges.

This year the conference was at Queen’s College, Oxford, on the theme of access. There were eight talks in total of about ten minutes long. With such brief talks I struggled a little to write everything down but I hope the content below will be a little insightful and thought provoking. Also, because of the large amount of content, I have decided to break this post down into two with a summary of the first four talks in this post and summaries of the last four talks in the second post.

1) Encouraging student access to historic collections – James Fishwick (Magdalen College, Oxford) and Alice Roques (Hertford College, Oxford)

James and Alice both demonstrated what they had done at their libraries to encourage students to access historic collections.

At Magdalen College Library, they create an exhibition every term along with an evening talk on the material/subject for people to attend. They were not seeing very many students attend these talks though and their solution was to use Facebook and Twitter to increase reach. They also got involved with tutor-led classes in which students would look at the original sources of texts, provided by the library, that they were using in their studies. Another approach was, if a librarian noticed a particular topic that a student was interested in, they would extend a personal invitation to show the student what else the library had in its collection which might be able to help them in their research.

At Hertford College, students get involved with choosing material for displays as well as giving a lecture too. Alice also gave the presentation for a librarian from University College who wasn’t able to make it to the presentation. At University College, it is compulsory for first year students to complete a historic collections quiz. Second and third year students get involved with hand press printing, creating their own bookmarks and learning how to fold paper into a book.

Some considerations for these approaches to increasing access to historic collections include the fact that it is time intensive, especially if you are changing an exhibition frequently, like every term as Magdalen College Library does. Also, it is important to find a balance between general promotion and targeting small groups. The former tends to miss a lot of people who are potentially interested because the promotion is so open. Targeting small groups is great if you successfully grab their attention but that’s only a small percentage of people who could be targeted.

I particularly like the idea of getting students involved with displays which would benefit not only the students, as they are able to delve deeply into the library’s collections and add something to their CV, but the library too as they promote their collections and raise their profile.

2) Accessing study resources: engaging junior members in Information Literacy – Erika Delbeque (St Hilda’s College, Oxford) and Rachel McDonald (Balliol College, Oxford)

Erika described the challenge of engaging junior members in Information Literacy. A user education survey revealed that:

  • 20% of (college?) libraries in Oxford provide group sessions
  • 40% provide one-to-one sessions but there is little take-up
  • 10% of libraries have a social media presence

With the central Bodleian Libraries already providing user education sessions, it is difficult not to duplicate effort in a college library. Other constraints include:

  • Time
  • Resources
  • Space
  • Internal support from college
  • Student engagement (lack of = little take-up)

Next, we moved on to a case study from Balliol College Library: They provide a number of “… and biscuits” sessions, such as ‘SOLO and biscuits’, ‘OxLIP+ and biscuits’ and ‘graduate skills and biscuits’. I think this is a fab idea! The promise of biscuits would certainly tempt me if I were a student. Rachel from Balliol continued to explain that students aren’t necessarily aware that there is a gap in their Information Literacy knowledge or, if they are aware, they are not concerned. This is an important point, I think. Looking back to when I was an undergraduate, I had no idea about Information Literacy and am pretty sure my skills were poor. How many students are in the same position now? Rachel continued to explain that it is important to collaborate with tutors, to target user education events at the right people and at the right time. Take advantage and use the Junior Common Room (JCR) and the Middle Common Room (MCR) to advertise user education. Promoting these sessions in multiple places is important to increase reach and encourage people to attend Information Literacy sessions.

3) Accessing the profession: drawing up a programme for work experience students – Bel Rimmer (Queen’s College, Oxford)

This talk started off by asking how we were first introduced to the library profession: graduate trainee scheme, volunteering, school library, family member of friend (volunteering for me!). Bel went on to discuss how it can be difficult to gain work experience in libraries, a problem when a lot of trainee schemes ask for prior experience. Work experience can benefit both parties, offering useful experience to the student, benefiting the library with an extra pair of hands, and challenges any misconceptions or stereotypes the student might have about libraries.

With this in mind, Queen’s College Library responded to a request for work experience from a student who was described as a “high functioning autistic” (their own description, not the library’s). The library offered four days of work experience in the summer vacation from 09:30 – 16:30. These hours allowed the staff time to prepare at the beginning of the day and to finish up any jobs at the end of the day. They provided lunch but not transport and a member of the team acted as a buddy during the student’s work experience. Because of the student’s autism, the library sent a colour coded timetable in advance so that the student knew what to expect. Also, they could express any dislike for what was planned, e.g. the insect checking was turned down. Bel offered some advice on providing work experience:

  • bear in mind that it is an intense experience for the buddy with lots of preparation and helping the student
  • the student should be a part of the team
  • it is useful to have a standardised questionnaire to gain feedback at the end of the work experience period – quantitative elements for comparison and qualitative elements for improvement.

You should be covered by the Employers’ Liability Insurance for work experience, at least for those over 18 years old. For those under 18 years old, according to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, check risk assessment to make sure that the person doing work experience is not at risk because of lack of experience/ignorance of potential risks.

I did work experience while at school at my local public library and I understand that they frequently received requests for work experience, which is not something I have come across in academic libraries. Are academic libraries more closed to work experience? Or is it simply where I work that influences this?

4) Open Access: thoughts for college librarians – Clare Kavanagh (Nuffield College, Oxford)

With Open Access being a very current theme, Clare introduced us to the subject explaining how it originated from the Finch Report after the government accepted its recommendations to increase access to research publications. I know a little about Open Access but find the various routes (green or gold) confusing as well as the copyright/creative commons licenses so it was useful to be reminded of what it all meant.

Moving the topic of Open Access to a local level, i.e. in Oxford, Clare explained how the University of Oxford favours the green route (delayed open access via self submission) but will support the gold route (free unrestricted access to the final version of an article on the publisher’s website). Additionally, Oxford encourages research to be deposited into an institutional repository (in Oxford’s case, ORA).

Moving even more locally to Nuffield College Library itself, staff keep students and researchers up to date with Open Access by distributing information via their Facebook and Twitter profiles as well as on its blog. Clare emails monthly official papers and reports publications updates and has created a LibGuide page to inform people. Oxford is useful in that it provides courses and sessions on Open Access which are disseminated to students and researchers.

With Open Access immediately and directly affecting researchers, it is important to make sure that they are aware of what Open Access is and what they need to do. Clare offered interesting ways in which to distribute this information to the people who need it.

[Read post 2 of 2!]

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