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Talis Aspire

How Can the Library Become Partners in the Learning Experience?

Alison Rooney

At our online event, Talis Insight Webinars, we spoke to three librarians who have had involvement in the teaching and learning experience at their universities:

  • Hannah Groom, Content Delivery Librarian, University of Essex
  • Hope Williard, Academic Subject Librarian, University of Lincoln
  • Natalia Gordon, Information Services Librarian, Leeds Beckett University

Read a summary of the interview, or watch the full session recording below.

What has changed because of the pandemic for the library in terms of the teaching and learning experience?

Hannah saw positives in terms of engagement with staff across the university. Pre-pandemic there were mandates for Talis Aspire reading lists, so when the pandemic hit, they were quickly able to establish a way to  get high quality resources online for students. Due to their expertise, they were also able to support staff with finding innovative tools for engaging with resources. 

Hannah explains that the library was easily able to put itself into the centre of the acquisition of resources and teaching and learning tools. “We were in a good position to that, we already had relationships with suppliers and publishers.” 

Academic staff saw the benefit of doing the resource lists as it meant they could get their content online while physical resources were unavailable. This meant that the value of the library was being perceived more widely across the institution. They also became the central point for staff wanting to try out new tools and technologies, as they were able to provide budget, and also the expertise for making a case to the university. 

For Natalia and the team at Leeds Beckett University, the library closures caused by the pandemic allowed them to expand on academic staff’s idea of what the library is and what it can do. “There’s a wealth of resources, not just books, but the physical space, the online space and so on. It gave us more of a platform to share the message of the value of the library and how broad the services and resources are”.

Hope had a similar experience, “we had to shift the conversation from ‘the library is closed’ to ‘the library building is closed’ there was a real adjustment to be made within the wider community about the services that were still on offer, despite the building being closed”. The pandemic provided a platform for them to discuss the importance of digital resources and digital spaces outside of the library team. 

What has been the biggest challenge with collaboration, and what are we getting wrong?

Hope explains that the biggest challenge is around who owns this and who gets the budget within the university. She feels there’s a need to share more about the library’s own needs and expectations, and to listen to those of the academics. For example, there’s lots about the ebook market and copyright that academics may not be aware of. Similarly there are things about the teaching and learning experience that the library doesn’t know about.

At the University of Essex, Hannah and the team discovered that many departments across the university were using the same publisher to get the same course materials, but communicating with them separately, and therefore getting bad value for money, as well as wasting time. The library saw themselves as in a good position to take this on, as the library has both the expertise in working with publishers and could coordinate this effort and budget in a sustainable and efficient way. 

Has the work that the library does around core literacies shifted focus? 

Natalia told us that in general they’ve seen a shift to people being more critical of the resources they consume. At Leeds Beckett University they have drop-in sessions as well as module specific sessions offered to support this. There are also a number of themes that are driven by students like critical race theory, which has pushed them to be more critical about the resources they hold. “It’s a conversation that the library can help facilitate, not be at the forefront, but be collaborators to help provide the services and resources to enable it”.

At the University of Lincoln, Hope shared that “the library is often seen as a service provider, rather than a valuable collaborator, but I think we have lots to offer, for example with decolonising the curriculum, libraries are enablers of these initiatives, but can also be barriers to them. It’s important therefore to have conversations about this”.

To watch more content from the event, click here.

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