Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Reflections on a year gone past - 2011.

I have been very busy this last year. I completed my Chartership portfolio and will find out in a month or so whether I have truly completed it or whether I need to go back to it. It's been an interesting experience and even though I think I reflected well enough on my work previously, it  has helped me to place my role within the bigger picture of the library profession.

I also finished my Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector (PTTLS) course. This has helped to improve my teaching and training and confirmed that I was on the right track with many of the methods I was using.

Over the year I have made an extra effort to attended information related events outside of work time and have attended quite a few including Library Camp, London Library Teachmeet, various LIKE events and, where I could get time out of work, partnership training sessions led by my workplace's partners. I also joined the CoFHE LASEC committee. Due to the nature of my role within the committee I was able to attend, speak at and help organise events as well as connect with many other librarians in the academic sector. I have met some wonderful people through my work there and it is a shame that the group will now cease to exist. I do intend to still be involved in the newly formed Academic and Research Libraries Group (ARLG) but have yet to establish what form this will take.

Completing CPD23 has introduced me to many methods of developing myself professionally,as well as many other librarians. I do think that the practice has increased a sense of community amongst many of us. Partaking in the course was what encouraged me to blog and I intend to keep it up even though the course is complete.

There have been many challenges this year at work, at home and within the sector. Next year will be much the same - doing more but with much less. It will be interesting to see the effects of the new HE in FE strategy will be on my workplace and the sector as a whole . I do wonder what the students who are due to go to uni next year will do.


  • Next year I intend to continue getting the most I can out of my CILIP Membership and will make a concerted effort to get more out of SLA, of which I am also a member, than I already do. I will assess whether ALA and BIALL have anything to offer me and whether they constitute enough value for me.
  •  I am going to find more means of online and/or self training as it is becoming increasingly difficult to take time off from work to attend events. I know that many, including ARLG members, are facing the same issues so if I do find material that will be of use I will endeavour to pass it on.

  • I am going to write a couple of articles this year. I have eased myself into it gently by writing blogs and an event review for CILIP South East and I intend to actually write some 'proper' ones this year. I'm not entirely sure where to start and I know that CILIP has a course on this very issue but I won't be going (see point above). I believe plenty of people have written about getting published so will start there first.

  • I am going to run at least 10k. I have recently taken up running 5k at Park Run and intend to take it up a few notches!

  • I will also take up my Spanish again so that if all else fails I can go and raise chickens and pigs in a finca...

Friday, 23 December 2011

HE in FE – Students at the Centre: a question of quality

On 20th December I attended training delivered by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS). I was asked to attend the session as I am responsible for the ensuring the LRC service meets the needs of Higher Education students studying at the College where I work. The objectives of this session were to:
  • identify a variety of definitions of quality
  • identify the key stages in the learner journey and the potential Quality Improvement and Quality Assurance interventions that need to be put in place
  • recognise the importance of learner voice and ientify mechanisms for listening and responding to
  • implement strategies to ensure the learner voice has an impact and informs practice
It was a small group of six people consisting of myself, four teachers and a person from one of our nearby affiliated Universities. Our first task was to consider what the term Quality meant meant to us. I found this a little bit tricky as I know that quality means different things to different people but in terms of an instution this can't be allowed to happen - there needs to be a set definition of quality so people know what to expect. As it happens the trainer, Ann Sykes, agreed and as we went round the table discussing our definitions we all had varying answers which made my point! The place I work in has a clear quality framework so we know what is expected of us each year and the college values (Versatility, Opportunity, Inclusion, Choice and Excellence) give us direction.
Our next task was to chart the learner journey and identify key stages throughout. After a few discussions regarding whether the learner journey started before reaching the institution (which it did) we then quickly came to a consensus regarding the types of things students experienced and when, e.g. assessment and feedback need to continue throughout the course, not just at the end when it can often be too late. There was also a discussion about the lack of study and referencing skills students can often have when they take on their HE courses within the college so this was a fantastic opportunity to remind them of what the Learning Resource Centre (LRC)  staff did and how we are in a prime place to be able to help. Everyone agreed that these skills are essential to develop autonomous learners (and that it was really useful having  a librarian in the room to offer a different perspective!).
We then discussed the new QAA review procedures which have recently been published and how this will affect our institution's utilisation of the learner voice. We quickly realised that as an organisation we knew fairly little of how the QAA was going to affect us, luckily I knew a reasonable enough amount of the review because of my work with CoFHE LASEC and the CILIP Policy team, however, as it is still fairly new I'm sure the information will be sent throughout the college soon enough.
Lastly, we considered how we currently collect and deal with the learner voice and compared it to some case studies. Comparitively, we do really well, especially in the LRC. We use a variety of methods to collect data; focus groups, different types of questionnaires and surveys and I attend staff/student consultative meetings. 'You said, we did' posters are displayed throughout the college and whenever there has been a big change in repsonse to student feedack, e.g. a layout change, it has been widely publicised.
Overall, I found the session interesting in terms of what quality checks need to be put in place throughout the student's time in college studying for their degree. I discovered that people have strong views on whether students should be 'spoon-fed' or not and whether they should have separate spaces or not (these discussions will have to wait for another blog post as they are massive topics to get the teeth into!). Lastly, it was a timely reminder that everything needs to be reviewed consistently and regularly in order to continue improving.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Changes keep changing...and then off to market

It's that time of year again when at work we have our staff development days.

Monday 19th December started off with a speech from our principal thanking us for all our hard work for the previous term and encouraging us not to lose heart as the government makes its chops and changes.We then listened to a keynote speech delivered by Professor Bill Lucas entitled: Making more even in challenging times. My colleague, Rachel Preece expands on this in her blog so I won't go into too much detail, albeit to say I found it interesting and I could immediately recognise some of the reactions to change that people can have. I think I manage change pretty well but to do so I have to take some semblance of control over it rather than it be something that is done to me - not always easy or realistic but worth trying. I'm also beginning to learn when to pick my fights and when to roll over! Bill emphasised that we should also take time to process too and this is something I am guilty of not doing. I have achieved some things in my life which I should be proud of as they took time, effort and an ability to overcome some quite serious obstacles but instead of celebrating these achievements I just move right on to the next thing. I really want to change this as it will only lead to stress and dissatisfaction. Lastly, I liked his presentation style. Despite being in a theatre with rather a large amount of people, he managed to include interactivity without it descending into a shambles - something I'm always interested in seeing how other people do.

The rest of the team then split up and went to various training sessions whereupon I was left to don a stall at the 'Marketplace'. For the last couple of years at my workplace, on staff development day, a Learning Exchange or Marketplace takes place. At this Learning Exchange a few dedicated teachers (Learning Coaches)  who are passionate about improving teaching and learning share their knowledge, tips and tricks with everybody who cares to walk past their stall. This year, I was asked to take part. I was a little apprehensive at first as I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, however, it turned out my old background in 'assisted sales' would prove useful.

Attending this event helped to raise awareness of the Learning Resources Centre across college as our name was on all the marketing material which was circulated. It also raised awareness amongst all the members of teaching staff who came to visit us. They were interested to know what we could offer and were occasionally surprised at the range of resources on offer.

It was a very good opportunity to raise awareness of what we do and what we can offer not only to the majority of the academic staff who passed the stall but also to the Learning Coaches who will pass on their enthusiasm to others. It also gave me the opportunity to put a few faces to names and meet people who I don't regularly come into contact with.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Bubbly, chocolate and bingo...

This week I have been mainly attending Christmas events - well two anyway, and both very relevant to library and information.

On Tuesday, I attended the University College and Research (UC&R)  London section and Colleges of Further and Higher Education London and South East (CoFHE LASEC) Christmas quiz in Holborn. As the two groups will merge from January to become the Academic and Research Libraries Group, it was a chance to meet up with fellow committee members. We will hopefully know more about the future of the committee once the minutes of the UC&R AGM have been written up. I would still like to continue to be part of this special interest group and ensure further education, as well as higher education in further education and the issues librarians face in these roles are still supported and represented by CILIP.

On Thursday, I attended the London and Information Knowledge Exchange Christmas meal. The evening was lovely and the people were exceptionally friendly and welcoming as always. The evening started off with a glass of bubbles, shortly followed by a game of Mingle Bingo. This was a game where we had to match up a list of talents or facts with the people in the room. I spoke to lots and lots of people - asking 'have you had a bumper grape harvest this year?' proved to be a great opening line!

We then sat down and ate our Christmas dinners, pulled crackers and opened our Secret Santas. We had all been requested to spend £1 on a gift  - I received a Thornton's chocolate Santa so was very pleased and I gave a pink Santa hat with the word 'Princess' emblazoned across the front - very fetching!

I then won a box of Hotel Chocolat as 1st prize in the Mingle bingo!

So not only did I come away with a lot of chocolate, but also with the residual feeling of having experienced a great atmosphere and the names and 'interesting facts' of lots of people. I intend to continue attending LIKE events, they are always interesting and informative. I have learned a lot from them in the year that I have been attending their events and they have become so popular that there is now also a Northern version. I'm hoping to use some of their magic dust on the ARLG in the New Year.