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The less we talk about libraries the better, Nick Bevan | Talis Insight Europe 2016

Natalie Naik

Nick Bevan, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Director of Library and Student Support at Middlesex University, used his provocatively titled talk on “The less we talk about libraries the better” to explore the role of librarians in supporting teaching and learning.

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He put forward 8 propositions around the theme of ‘the less we talk about libraries the better’:

  1. The big intractable library problems are now about research.We should have sorted out teaching support as all the tools are within our reach
  2. Universities fail students when they work in silos and fail to view course delivery and support as a system
  3. We have failed to address digital literacy as we have been too focused on information literacy
  4. Librarians’ recent engagement with employability is therefore partly misguided
  5. The Library is now just another learning space (so why aren’t librarians more interested in learning space generally?)
  6. “Content” and “assessment” will increasingly merge in a digital context
  7. Data is key… but it is complex… and it is not about libraries
  8. The less University senior managers talk about libraries the better; the less we talk about libraries the better

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Nick explained that the most important part of their reading list project was a change in culture, a recognition that the reading list is about students and not about academics. He also added that he disagrees with the idea that “running around the library trying to find a book… really counts as learning”, no more than trying to find ingredients in a supermarket counts as baking and it’s the role of the sector to ensure that this process is working.

Nick went on to reflect on the library as a ‘working space’. The library has always been seen as the ‘centre’ of the university and a recent article revealed that the numbers of students coming into the library hasn’t changed in the last 10 years. In fact, the library is now just a learning space – Nick adds that it most likely happens to be the best one, with plenty of staff to help, power sockets and ‘funky furniture’.

See Nick’s presentation in full:

  View tweets from Nick’s presentation here:

View Nick’s slides here.

Something to think about…
In his presentation, Nick explains that at Middlesex University, many of the students come to the library to use it as a study space and that staff have considered transforming areas within the library to create new spaces. Is this something you have seen within your library? How have you overcome crowding?

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