Many thanks to Helen Bader (Assistant Librarian (Drama), Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama) for writing this report on her experience of attending the recent Employability LibTeachMeet at Swansea University:
In November 2016 the WHELF Learning and Teaching Group held an Employability LibTeachMeet at Swansea University’s Bay Campus. The event followed on from two previous LibTeachMeets earlier in the year, at Aberystwyth University and Bangor University. The programme promised an interesting and varied line-up of speakers and attracted more than 20 delegates from libraries across Mid- and South Wales.
The day began with an eagerly-anticipated tour of the new Bay Library, which currently supports more than 5,000 engineering and management students and staff based at the Bay Campus. There were plenty of students using the study areas, but the spacious and open design (complete with natural light and some wonderful sea views) ensured that the library didn’t feel overcrowded. I particularly liked the variety of study spaces available – especially the stand-alone soundproof ‘pod’ for group work – which I felt would help to make the library a comfortable and inviting place to work.
After the tour it was time for the LibTeachMeet proper to begin. The first presentation was given by Ellie Downes, a Library Support Assistant at Aberystwyth University. She offered her perspective on recognising transferable skills in students and library staff, based on her experiences as an undergraduate, graduate library trainee and current Masters student. Ellie highlighted some of the key employability skills that library staff can help students to develop, such as the ability to navigate and critically evaluate information sources.
Next up was Karen Dewick, the Customer Services Team Co-ordinator (Information Services and Systems) at Swansea University, who provided an opportunity for delegates to reflect on their own employability skills in her workshop-style session – a useful exercise for those of us who haven’t completed a job application in a while!
A delicious buffet lunch followed, thanks to sponsorship from the CILIP Information Literacy Group, with time afterwards to wander the few steps down to the beach with coffee in hand. It was hard to tear myself away from the picture-postcard view, but fortunately the afternoon’s presentations were able to tempt me back inside.
Both Sarah Gwenlan, from Aberystwyth University, and Susan Glen, from Swansea University, examined how their respective library services were supporting the employability agenda as part of larger, university-wide initiatives. Sarah described the work of Aber’s Employability Action Group and the contribution of the Information Services department to the development and delivery of joint workshops, the signposting of employability resources and an employability guide. Susan talked about supporting the employability skills of researchers at Swansea through the library’s participation in the postgraduate training programme, which offers a Skills Development Award mapped to the Vitae Researcher Development Framework.
The final two presentations of the day were both delivered by staff members of the Swansea Employability Academy. Rebecca Vaughan outlined the Swansea Employability Academy Award, a modular course that allows students to undertake their own personal career journey and gives them the skills to learn, reflect and develop professionally along the way. Rebecca’s colleague Gareth Hill concluded the LibTeachMeet with another workshop session which encouraged us to think about how we could get students and staff to engage in and see the value of employability initiatives. He emphasised the importance of ‘trial and error’ – having the confidence to try different approaches and evaluate whether they work, without being paralysed by the fear of failure. His philosophy of making ‘marginal gains’ was also very thought-provoking – rather than coming up with one big idea for developing employability skills, try making lots of small changes/improvements that together will add up to a significant step forward.
Many thanks to the WHELF Learning and Teaching Group, in particular Philippa Price, for organising such an enjoyable and stimulating event, and to the CILIP Information Literacy Group for their sponsorship. (Read Philippa Price’s blog post of the day here)
View presentations from the day here
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