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
All images licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
A second event was held at Bangor University, thank you to Mairwen Owen (Academic Support Librarian, Bangor University) and Beth Hall (Research Support Librarian, Bangor University) for this report from their event:
The aim of this event was to;
- Explore employability strategy across WHELF institutions
- Discuss the issues of embedding employability within teaching sessions
- Highlight the role of the Library within the employability remit
- Investigate digital literacy
- Provide a forum for current Library and Information students to experience discussion on current practice within HE institutions.
Invited to this workshop were members of the Employability team at Bangor University, the Bangor University Study Skills team, Students currently studying BSc (Hons) Library & Information Management Top Up and FdSc Library & Information Practice will be invited to attend as well as Library staff from both Bangor and Glyndwr. An invitation was extended to members of the North Wales Partnership Group.
The day was set in two halves. The morning session concentrated on the student aspect of employability and information literacy with the afternoon session looking at employability and library staff.
The morning session began with an introduction to the Bangor Employability Award (BEA) by Marie Roberts from the Bangor Employability team. The Bangor Employability Award scheme aims to combine the structure of a personal professional development plan with career advice and employability skills training. This is achieved by students participating in employability-enhancing activities such as attending guest lectures, conferences, being a member of clubs or societies, all forms of work experience, volunteering and staff / student committee representation. Students accumulate employability points, 200 points are required to qualify for the Bangor Employability Award with a record of achievement certificate given when graduating. Recognised employability skills training run by the Library have included library database workshops, student library ambassador project and volunteering with the Archives Service.
This session was followed by a presentation by Mairwen Owen, Bangor University, on ‘Legal Skills, Information Literacy and Employability’. Mairwen provided an overview of her involvement in the development of a first year Legal Skills module which is now a blend of information, legal and employability skills. Information skills is firmly embedded in this module and students have to complete two assessed information skills component to the module.
The morning finished with a Siona Murray, Grwp Llandrillo Menai, getting everyone to participate as part of her ‘Librarians supporting employability skills – chocolate as a learning object’ presentation. This presentation looked at digital literacy and the HEA Digital Footprint for Employability. Siona provided a couple of examples of how she uses sweets and chocolate to get students participating in digital skills exercises.
The first session of the afternoon was provided by Nicola Watkinson, Glyndwr University where she discussed library staff employability. Nicola’s discussion included an overview of CILIP’s PKSB and Chartership. She also gave an overview of her career path. This presentation linked really well to the next presentation by Zoe Collyer-Strutt, ‘A portfolio career: how I got to where I am today!’ Zoe’s route to studying for qualification was very interesting. She expanded on the various career paths she has taken eventually returning back to Librarianship. Zoe stressed that although she has followed a number of paths she has been able to utilise the skills she has learnt on her journey in her current role at Glyndwr.
The ‘What have we learnt? session at the end of the day produced a varied discussion. Topics discussed included;
- The difficulty of tying information literacy to employability
- Rename the term “information literacy” as an employable skill
- Bangor Employability Award – a record of achievement at the end student studies a positive. Zoe’s journey – variation of roles and experiences
- Is there a clear career pathway for specialist or for management roles?
- How do CILIP support us? Do they recognise the changes in our sector?
- Why did the students sign up to do a librarianship course?
- FE College – no library or library not well represented in the College so difficult to find my role in that mess
- Have to be prepared to be flexible and work in different roles as a librarian, e.g. in IT, in procurement.
- When you are based somewhere where you can’t move between jobs very easily, look for opportunities to work on projects with other departments.
Positive feedback was received from those that attended. It was apparent that there had been something that was of interest to all. Those working outside HE libraries found the aspect of employability and how it blended in with information skills of great interest.