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Reflecting on Meeting the Reading List Challenge 2016

12 Apr

I’ve been inspired to try a new style for writing up my latest library conference experience by my colleague Jess Haigh and her brilliant LILAC write up. So credit for the more structured format for this reflective piece goes to Jess!

The Event

I attended Meeting the Reading List Challenge at Loughborough University, April 5th-6th 2016.   I presented at the event, alongside Alison Sharman, about the strategies for staff engagement with reading lists at the University of Huddersfield.  Part of the presentation was specifically focused on my current project based role at the University, which is all about Business School reading lists.  As my full time job is all about reading lists, I was particularly excited about this event as an opportunity to share my own experiences and see if I could find inspiration from others to try new things.

The event programme is available on the conference website  and my presentation is on the University of Huddersfield Repository.

Day One

Key Themes

  • Reading List versus Resource List – What do we call them?
  • Intellectual Property and Open Data
  • Staff and Student Engagement

What was the best thing I learned? There were lots of brilliant ideas shared about getting staff and students engaged with reading lists. My talk on staff engagement was complemented by the following presentations which also dealt largely with issues of staff engagement:

  • If at first you don’t succeed… by Sarah Rayner and Olivia Walsby (University of Manchester)
  • Co-ordinating complexity by Sara Hafeez (University of Westminster)

Both these presentations were very reassuring. I don’t feel alone in my struggles! Manchester focused on sharing their failings which was refreshingly honest and very useful. Sara from Westminster had some great stories to tell about trying to co-ordinate reading lists in her organisation.  The presentations left me feeling inspired, with new ideas of things to try out.

What was the most though provoking idea? Open data proved to be an interesting discussion.  We were asked to think about how reading list data could be useful for the library, the academic faculty, and the institutionAlso about how useful reading list data from other institutions could be and what barriers there are for sharing this? It is this second part that led to discussions about the intellectual property surround reading lists came into this debate. If we start to share reading list content as open data then does it cause intellectual property problems and issues for universities in a competitive educational market?

What do I want to learn more about? I’m going to learn more about open data because Martin Hamilton’s talk highlighted that I don’t know very much about this at all.

Day Two

Key Themes

  • Top down policy v academic driven processes
  • Reading list best practice
  • Engagement again!

What was the best thing I learned? I surprised myself by enjoying the two vendor presentations. A lot of people left in the break before these, and I was tempted, as we have our own in-house system. I’m glad I stayed as it was very interesting to see what commercial systems are currently on offer and learn about their features.

What was the most inspirational idea? The turning your reading list into a conversation workshop from Sheffield Hallam. We did a group activity to build an engaging and interactive reading list with the help of big paper, pens, glue and lots of bits of paper with example reading list items on. Could this be used to teach academics about best practice for creating reading lists? It might work at a department away day for example. To make it effective I’d need to team up with someone with expertise in teaching to make sure pedagogical issues could be properly included.

What do I want to learn more about? Library systems. I found all the discussions surrounding the technical aspects of library systems interesting and the processes involved in the procurement of a new system.  The presentation from Kingston about being a development partner with Leganto was fascinating.  I can see myself enjoying working in this area of librarianship so I’m going to start building my knowledge of this area.



Teaching – Thoughts Provoked by #hudteachmeet

16 Mar

After attending my first TeachMeet in Huddersfield I started reflecting on my own experiences of teaching. I wasn’t initially going to attend the TeachMeet because I thought ‘well I don’t really teach’ but I was talked around at the last minute!

Teaching is not my favourite part of being a librarian. It’s not why I decided to become a librarian. So far it hasn’t been a core part of past job descriptions, working in roles where doing the research for people is still the focus. However I now work in a university, so teaching is naturally a bigger part of the job.  I enjoy one to ones but delivering group training or teaching sessions can prove more stressful.  I actually love speaking in front of an audience. My training in improvisation means I’m good at thinking on my feet so I don’t get nervous or panic about speaking to a group. Presentations I’m fine with however teaching is more than that. I am not very good at some of the things that come with running formal training sessions, for example managing a group of people with different levels or experience, coordinating activities and facilitating interaction.

A lot of librarians I speak to have a surprising amount of prior teaching experience. I have some prior teaching experience which I do not look back on with fond memories:

  • As a drama student I had to do some teaching as part of a Theatre in the Community module.  One assessment involved facilitating a drama workshop to a group adult male prisoners in a prison. Going to the prison was fun however I wouldn’t have survived the workshop without my classmates. The other assessment was to design and deliver a drama workshop to the rest of my class, which went spectacularly wrong on the day. I got my lowest marks for this module.
  • I once thought applying for the TeachFirst graduate scheme was a good idea. At the assessment centre I realised as soon as I arrived that I definitely did not want to be a teacher.  I probably had the worst, most ill thought out lesson planned they had ever seen and crumbled in front of a group of interviewers pretending to be disruptive teenagers in a classroom.

I’m starting to enjoy delivering group training more as time goes on. Experience helps build confidence and positive feedback from attendees helps.  I recently delivered a workshop which didn’t go to plan so I’ll need to reflect on that experience for next time. Being introduced to the lesson plan template used by the subject librarians here has been a great help too.

At least if I can get a group of prisoners to play ‘What’s the time Mr. Wolf’ then I know I can definitely deliver a training workshop to a room of lecturers. Although teaching those who teach for a living can be quite a daunting prospect in itself.