I was really pleased to be asked by two of our academics in the Education department to present workshops for visiting academics from Kazakhstan, who are here for a bespoke continuing professional development programme.
The sessions I delivered were on Using the Library for Research and E-books at the University, with a talk from me to set the scene and a hands-on activity so they could have a go themselves. The workshops were very interesting to deliver – I particularly enjoyed planning Using the Library for Research – and it was fascinating to hear about libraries at their universities in Kazakhstan: one university library was entirely closed access, in a similar set-up to the British Library, making browsing impossible.
Planning and delivering these workshops was more challenging than my usual information skills sessions, for a number of reasons.
1. English is often their third, if not fourth, language (Kazakh, Russian, Turkish is common pattern). This meant I couldn’t cover as much as I usually would, as I had to consciously slow down my speech even more than usual. We were also advised to use hand-gestures more consciously to emphasise points e.g. distinctions, or linear processes.
Some of my content was complicated material, especially the e-books session, which I was trying to get across in their third language. Striking a balance of making it simple enough, but not patronising, was quite difficult.
2. A lot of preparation went into the e-books session. It’s a subject I only knew a little about, but I got help from Electronic Acquisitions Co-ordinator with the content. I am so glad I was able to exploit her knowledge, and the presentation was much richer as a result of her input.
Additionally, I had to plan so each person had an individual e-book and example search term to use in the hands-on, because the single/multi-user licenses on many of our e-books restrict the number of simultaneous users. I learnt this the hard way in past information skills classes, where students were let loose on e-resources but all want to find the same e-book. When a book only allows three concurrent users, 80% of the class would be disappointed.
3. In the session on the Library for research, it was really hard to emphasise that it wasn’t a Library induction; it was about the Library as a department within the University. Many of those in the sessions had attended a pre-sessional programme with the University to improve their English, so I think they expected my session to cover the same ground as their pre-sessional Library induction.
4. They took place early in Autumn term, my most busy time. Preferably, I would’ve spent longer planning and preparing, but it unfortunately was a little more rushed than I would have liked. However, the sessions themselves went well, and I at no point did I feel underprepared.
I have since been asked to deliver another session for a similar group from Kazakhstan visiting next month. This time, however, it will be with a translator – that should be an interesting experience! This will be on e-books again, and I will adapt my previous work but leaving extra time for the live translation.
To be asked to give these sessions was really gratifying. The Education department here are good at embedding information skills sessions into their courses, and I feel the Library being represented on this CPD programme is evidence to the Library as embedded within the department more widely.