Seeing ourselves through others’ eyes

Senate House
Senate House

A few weeks ago I attended the cpd25 event Liaison Librarians working with other professionals: Seeing ourselves through others’ eyes. I highly recommend cpd25 events, and this day was no different. It gave me some new ideas and a fresh perspective on collaboration.

Speakers from four universities covered interesting and exciting projects working with learning advisers, student champions, IT and academics. There were also plenty of opportunities to network with fellow attendees over tea and biscuits (or ice cold water, as it was the start of the heat wave).

To start off, an ‘icebreaker discussion’ on working with other professionals, thoughts on what other professionals value about working with librarians, and what they might find surprising or might not like. 

The first speaker, Jean Portman from the University of Surrey, spoke about working with learning advisers within the library to create a space for collaborative work and the learning advisory service. Liaison librarians have timetabled slots in the learning advisers area, replacing duties on the Ground Floor Information Desk, which had involved answering simple enquiries. I found this very interesting, as the structure they changed was similar to the current structure at my workplace.

Caroline Gale from the University of Exeter (my ‘almer mater’) explained their student champions project. These are student library representatives, similar to course reps. They promote the library within their departments and have a budget of £1000-1500 for library resources.

Working with IT and academics is a common form of collaborating within HE libraries. Eleri Kyffin from the University of Westminster spoke about creating communities of practice, including their Project DigitISE. As part of this they created the Digital Edge event, to encourage digital literacy with links to employability.

One of the games
One of the games

The final session was the most interactive. Adam Edwards and Vanessa Hill from Middlesex University played ABBA as we returned from a coffee break, which set the tone for their ABBA-themed presentation on Information skills and student achievement. They use activities and games to enhance the quality and impact of library workshops.

Adam and Vanessa wait for feedback from students until after the marks are back. Collating the attendees vs non-attendees, they can prove attending gets you better marks. That’s something it’s all very well saying to students, but being able to prove it in this way makes your message so much more powerful.

I’ve since experimented with a couple of the activities we tried out on the day, in a recent information skills session. They worked reasonably well, but as @Pennyb pointed out, many games are limited for those with a very literal mind. Games and activities are a useful way to cater for different learning styles, but are of most use when tied to the students’ work, such as an assignment.

Cpd25 have again hosted a thought-provoking day, from which I took a lot. It was interesting to hear from the speakers about their projects, as so often collaboration goes on all the time without us stopping to think objectively about it. We all know the benefits – sharing knowledge, developing relationships, spreading the load – but sometimes we may forget to express them out loud.

20130717_135002It was also exciting in another way, as our lunch break was interrupted by a protest outside the Senate House entrance!

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