Why I started writing an open text and why I’m glad I did!

This post was written by Dr Bronte van der Hoorn, Senior Lecturer (Project Management), University of Southern Queensland

What academic has time to write an open text? Here’s why I embarked on writing my open text – it’s about using visuals in management – and why I’m glad I did.

Who is willing to print a colour book?

Central to my open text is a catalogue of visual diagrams, and these visuals had to be produced in colour. Mainstream publishers are nervous about colour-print runs, particularly if the potential readership is (relatively) small, and the market (and author!) untested. Incorporating colour diagrams was no problem for University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Open Educational Practice!

Diagram representing building with five pillars. Pillar one states 'values first project.' Pillar  two states ' company restructure.' Pillar three states 'customer first training.' Pillar four states 'ICT refresh project and pillar five states back to market project.'
Diagram with arrow in center and six arrows pointing at diagram. It is a depiction of KPIs for a fictitious organisation. It includes KPIs such as 24 hour call center, 25% frontline staff increase

My book’s usefulness relied on the reader downloading files

My reader would get maximum value from the book by downloading and adapting the visuals for their own work. Sure, mainstream publishing can set-up a website for such ‘add ons’, but with an open text the downloads could be embedded in the book, thereby providing a fully integrated experience for the reader. 

I wanted to give back to my research participants

Recruiting research participants is never easy. I always feel bad that I’m asking participants to volunteer their time for very little personal benefit. It’s not that the participants’ input doesn’t result in research outputs. But my research participants don’t share the same view as Q1 journal editors in terms of what constitutes a worthy ‘contribution’. An open text was a way to communicate my research in a way that could make a difference to practice.

Students want a take-away from their study

My current students get access to lots of eBooks and journal articles, and for many the loss of access to these resources at time of graduation is cause for disappointment. When I chose to publish an open text, I knew that at least this course resource would be accessible for students post-study – and they could share it with colleagues who weren’t students as well! 

As I started writing, I was also surprised about some unexpected advantages of open text publishing…

An unexpected level of interactivity

As I started writing my open text, I came across multimedia content that would make the book more engaging. The amazing USQ Open Educational Practice team encouraged me to make use of Pressbooks multimedia and H5P capabilities and embedded videos in the volume and created dynamic hover-overs to enable interactive annotation of each visual, that helps make the book’s content clearer. The book also incorporates a H5P slider preview that enables the reader to quickly flick through each visual – that’s not possible in a hardcopy publication! 

A screen capture of an interactive H5P object in the textbook. It depicts change over time.

Connecting me to academia

I was always committed to my open text project but my excitement when my ‘writing’ day came around each week surprised even me. Any academic knows the competing demands we face and that finding time to write an open text isn’t easy amongst the pressure to produce top quartile articles, teaching duties, and never-ending admin requests. 

However, I found this project to be refreshingly different to my other academic (and admin) work! My open text was a space for me to express my passion for the topic in a manner that accurately represented my ideas and made them accessible for my target reader. And this was a novel luxury! I acknowledge here that the USQ Open Educational Practice team were abundantly accommodating of my vision, they trusted me as the content expert to make design decisions (another delightful novelty!) and worked tirelessly to see my vision come to life. 

It was during the writing of my open text that I have felt most ‘academic’. Not ‘academic’ in a theoretical, distant, clinical way – but in the way I had hoped academia would be; I was making accessible a topic that I continue to learn (research) about and was helping others to learn and grow interest and capability in that area too – not just in my classrooms, but hopefully beyond.

A whisper growing to a roar

This post was written by Bec Muir (Manager, Libraries West) at Victoria University.

Guides, connectors, finders, interpreters: multiple roles of frontline staff

Supporting our frontline Library staff in enabling the modern curriculum

Frontline library staff are integral partners in the modern curriculum. They are the librarians, library technicians, and advisory staff who provide front-of-house services to our academic communities. Frontline staff may have a qualification in librarianship, library technician, or teaching; or have other academic qualifications such as certificates, diplomas, bachelors, or higher degrees. They are very highly skilled, qualified, or both.

The less-seen impact of frontline staff

Our frontline staff are a very present and very visible element of Library service, working as finders, guides, connectors, and interpreters of the modern curriculum. They empower their academic community to step confidently beyond the university by building their information literacy, knowledge of academic integrity, and digital dexterity. They instruct, demonstrate, troubleshoot, and guide students and academic staff through the information journey. Often their work is done quietly, conducted one-to-one at the service desk or via the online chat service instead of before a class. In short, the role of frontline staff in the modern curriculum is a whisper rather than a roar.

Why is this a concern?

By overlooking the role of frontline staff in the modern curriculum, the library misses an opportunity to improve its connection with our learning community and enrich their educational journey. If we do not see the role of frontline staff in this space, we risk not developing and upskilling our Library staff to enact these roles, which can disempower them in their interactions with our students and staff. This in turn can disempower our academic community.

Individual and institutional commitment to professional development

If academic libraries are to fully enact their role in supporting the modern curriculum, professional development of frontline staff should be seen as a key strategic and operational objective. Shared institutional and individual responsibility for ongoing professional development (at all staffing levels) is a vital way to grow industry and professional robustness. This ultimately benefits our academic community by enriching the Library’s ability to speak to their educational needs. Once there’s a commitment to professional development, where can frontline staff access professional learning?

Industry-developed learning opportunities

There are many existing tools and resources that frontline staff can draw on for professional learning. A good place to start is with a framework that maps skills, knowledge and capabilities such as the Digital Dexterity Framework. Conference attendance – such as ALIA Information Online, the Library Technicians Symposium or the new 2022 CAUL Enabling a Modern Curriculum Conference – provide a way for frontline staff to engage in active learning from their peers. Platforms such as 23 Things for Digital Knowledge and FutureLearn, and initiatives like Library Carpentry  provide self-directed and cost-effective learning. Sector magazines, such as Incite, provide a consumable way to stay industry engaged and empower staff to see broader institutional responses to change.

Library-developed training opportunities

Library-developed training can prepare frontline staff to meet the challenges of the modern curriculum and the curriculum beyond that.However, a concern with library-developed training is that it may take a ‘trickle down’ approach where the program is developed by senior staff, and trickled down to instruct frontline staff in expected performance. Rather than being partners in the modern curriculum, frontline staff may be seen as trainees, or even students. While this may not be intentional, it can result in staff feeling silenced, lost, or disengaged from the training as a result. It is not ‘their training’, but ‘the library’s’.

A learner-led learning (triple-L model) opportunity

In contrast to library-developed training, learner-led learning shifts the balance in the learning relationship to one of mutual benefit. I envision learner-led learning (‘triple-L model’) as a training delivery framework shaped around scaffolded learning, shared authority, professional reflection, and learner engagement. The triple-L model creates an environment where the learner feels able to reshaping existing knowledge to build skills for future needs. Triple-L approaches training from a position of partnership.

The triple-L model approaches professional development across five phases, commencing with a position of partnership and concluding with a commitment to evaluation for success. While it is beyond the scope of this blogpost to fully unpack this model, it has already been tested at Victoria University. The triple-L model formed the foundation of our frontline training suite, DigiChat. More importantly, the triple-L model has cemented to every frontline staff member that the role that they play in the modern curriculum is an important one.

The implementation of this model occurred simply and organically from a position of partnering for success. Our frontline team were asked a single straight forward question: ‘what do you find hard when helping our patrons on LibChat?’. ‘Hard’ here was left broad; for some frontline staff multi-tasking became the challenge point, for others identifying the core of the question and conveying an answer, for still others discovering the resource required. We then reflected on position descriptions and changes in the industry to identify any areas missed. We observed that three theme areas were emerging in our frontline team’s identified needs: customer service, digital skills, and professional identity. These themes became the burgeoning phases of the DigiChat cycle: each enriching and speaking back to the other.

From these proposed sessions and phases, we sought reflection and input from our frontline team and engaged staff in a process of co-creation and sharing of skills. A learning theory foundation was employed that limited the length of sessions and introduced a scaffolded theory of staggered skills, in addition to building in opportunities for reflection through doing (theoretical activities); thinking (Teams chats and sharing); ownership (on-the-job skill usage); and growth (tying to current and future skills). Lastly, an important part of this process was embedded in the evaluation mechanism: a survey at the end of each session which asked our frontline team to reflect on their learnings and how they would apply it, and why, in addition to reflecting on the presentation and the presenter. This process yielded great results that have built our frontline team to meet (and embrace) the changes of the curriculum both in its current iteration, and into the future.

A stronger voice

We are all partners in enabling the modern curriculum. Through identifying the needs and skills of our frontline teams, enriching learnings and abilities, and visualising their value in the modern curriculum, the role that our staff play in this capacity changes. Recognising the role of our frontline staff means that we are all better enabled – as a Library and as a sector – to respond to the challenges of the modern curriculum.

A whisper growing to a roar.

Zoom – The great leveller, a necessary evil and a network creator

This post was written by Sae Ra Germaine (Manager, Member & Academic Services) and Sara Davidsson (Member Services Coordinator) from CAVAL. CAVAL is a member-based for-benefit company that offers specialised products and services to the education and library sector in Australia and New Zealand.

CAVAL’s members and owners are some of the most prestigious Australian Universities and CAVAL enables them to access cost effective and collaborative library support services through economies of scale, scope, and expertise.

We may be fatigued from hearing how the COVID-19 pandemic was “unprecedented” and how many organisations, institutions, communities, and individuals had to “pivot”, but, at CAVAL, we think there’s value in taking a moment to: Pause. Reflect. Imagine.

And we think you might find some value in our reflections in terms of your own practice.

Pause

Image depicting the word ‘pause’ accompanied by a pause button

CAVAL and its Interest Groups are recognised for delivering high quality and relevant professional development through knowledge sharing seminars, forums, and community of practice events. These events have provided opportunities for CAVAL members from across Victoria to come together (usually in the Melbourne CBD) to learn and network with peers. Our mentoring program was very much state based and each of the groups gathered in a face-to-face capacity, in Victoria and New South Wales respectively.  

When the pandemic kicked off, we were both relatively new in our roles and still finding our feet. We had worked with the Interest Groups and the Mentoring Program cohort to line up our year’s worth of face-to-face events. We were ready to go! When COVID-19 arrived on our shores, this is where we paused. Sae Ra and Sara were both on some of the last flights home to Melbourne from Sydney on the 10th of March 2020. We knew there was a virus going around the world, but little did we know that just 3 days later Australia would go into its first shutdown. We immediately looked for options to keep our member community together and our professional development offerings running.  

Reflect

Image of a large mural on a wall. The mural has ‘reflect’ written in large letters. The mural also includes a person looking into a body of water and is surrounded by birds flying.

It was evident for everyone that if the participants were unable to come to an event, the event would have to come to them. What better way to achieve this than moving planned events online? Although some of us were already slightly familiar with video conferencing products such as Zoom, it was a steep learning curve to host 200+ people at a collaborative, interactive event compared to a small team in a meeting. 

What did we learn from shifting our events online? 

  • Breakout rooms make people nervous. People are uncomfortable being placed in breakout rooms with strangers, with the added fear that leaving a breakout room is more conspicuous than excusing oneself from a group face-to-face. To alleviate this, we trialled using facilitators to guide the conversations in the breakout rooms. This calmed most attendees who appreciated the structured approach to discussion and networking. While this approach is more labour intensive, it provided an excellent learning opportunity for library staff to hone their facilitation skills in a safe environment and many of them enjoyed it and found the experience valuable.  
  • Attendees from far and wide. CAVAL’s member libraries span campuses in regional Victoria as well as in metro areas of the state. The online events enabled staff in regional locations the opportunity to attend events without having to be away from their workplace for a half day minimum. This was also attractive to those creating rosters and managing staff availability. Additionally, the virtual nature of the events allowed for easy attendance to the events by participants from all States and Territories of Australia, as well as New Zealand. In a conscious effort to provide equity, CAVAL, with its members, decided to open their events to non-member libraries as well which saw an influx of attendees from public and special libraries whose experiences enriched the knowledge exchange.  
  • International and interstate speakers. The lack of interstate and international travel available during 2020 and 2021 made speakers from more diverse locations viable for events. While previously it would have been prohibitive flying an academic or a University Librarian in for a 60 or 90-minute event, the online landscape enabled us to host speakers from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. This widened the perspectives we were able to offer our audience and learning of work practices overseas did not remain an onerous task.  
  • Staff of all levels could attend the events. With a half-day forum or full-day seminar in the past it was challenging for members to enable staff of all levels to attend events. In some cases, senior staff might have been encouraged to attend if they could combine the event with meetings near the event location, or staff from particular areas of the library were able to attend more events due to the nature of their work. When attending from their desks, the events were increasingly available to staff of all HEW levels, working in all areas of the library, from frontline staff supervising a service desk to the University Librarian.  
  • Online events are equitable. A common denominator for the dot points above are that all refer to the increased equity of virtual professional development, where finances, location, number of staff, and other factors do not impact the access to quality capability building. 
  • Longing for connection. This pandemic has locked us away from our families, our workplaces, and our colleagues. A common theme which popped up in the events was the excitement of being able to spend time with people other than our immediate teams, learn from others, and sometimes speak to someone whose life was less (or more!) restricted than ours depending on their location. The sharing of experiences and of how each library managed the pandemic differently was a wealth of knowledge. These sorts of conversations could not happen in corridors and, whilst somewhat forced, it was definitely welcomed.

Imagine

Image 3 alt text: Image of a sign on a brick wall. The sign says ‘Imagine’

This pandemic has left us with uncertainty but also with hope. We have built new skills, learned new tools, met new colleagues, and built our resilience. With the push to go “back to normal”, we don’t necessarily think that everything should go back to the way it used to be. We don’t want to waste what we have learnt from this pandemic. We still need to connect, and technology can make our connections reach further. We are keeping an eye on how hybrid events will actually work in the future, but we don’t necessarily think that with current technology this provides an equitable platform for learning and connecting. But. We are optimistic. We will continue to learn, we will continue to grow and most of all we are continuing our willingness to experiment with new platforms, new ways of delivering material, and facilitating new ways for library staff to connect.

Image Attributions:

Paying it forward: Sharing OERS in the academic librarian community

This post was written by Annette Goodwin, Senior Client Services Librarian at Charles Sturt University. Annette is also a CAUL Digital Dexterity Champion.

Let’s start with an Open Educational Resources framing.  OERs are teaching, learning and research materials that “reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions” (UNESCO, n.d.). OERs can therefore include textbooks, curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video, software, coded elements and more.

Libraries and librarians around the world support and encourage educators, teachers and academics to create, locate, adapt and use OERs for the benefit of others.

But have you ever thought of the resources and objects you create as a librarian? Could they be considered OERs too? Absolutely!

Everyday, librarians create and use a wide range of resources that support learning, teaching and research at their institutions. Amazing session plans that unpack research methods  or interactive infographics about fake news. Workshops on how to make videos or seminar presentations demystifying referencing. Librarians are prolific creators! We need to harness the power of this work and share those resources with others. You may already use platforms like OER Commons or Merlot to locate OERs for your own use or recommend them to your academics, but have you considered sharing to the platforms yourself?

Let’s talk about a Digital Dexterity Commons

The Resource Sharing Group (RSG), a sub-group of the CAUL Digital Dexterity Community of Practice (CoP), has created a Group on OER Commons – Digital Dexterity Educators to help you understand and share OERs you’re creating. The CoP supports their organisations and the wider tertiary library community to build digital dexterity capabilities and drive positive change in relation to technology, so creating a OER sharing group seemed a natural fit.

The RSG is encouraging academic librarians around Australia and New Zealand to join our OER Commons group and share resources. If you’re not sure how to go about creating or sharing OERs, the RSG has created a couple of documents to help you to get started…

What can you do?

There are three steps that you can action:

  1. Check out and join the Digital Dexterity Educators Group on OER Commons,
  2. Consider whether the objects you create can be shared with a Creative Commons licence, and      
  3. Take the next step and, with your institution’s permission, share them with the group!

Reference: UNESCO (n.d.). Open Educational Resources (OER). https://en.unesco.org/themes/building-knowledge-societies/oer

University of Newcastle Library launches Student as Partners Framework

This post was written by Coral Black, University Librarian at the University of Newcastle.

The University of Newcastle Library launched its new Students as Partners Framework on 27 July, building on our strong reputation in delivering excellent student support this takes us one step further where students co-create and co-deliver our services as an integral member of our library team. 

The new framework outlines how we engage and collaborate meaningfully with students through partnership and employment. Our aim is to increase the number of students we employ, engage through internships or on WIL placements to enhance the student experience and help facilitate life-ready graduates.

The Students as Partners Framework is designed to:

  • provide a common language and conceptual lens for staff and students to understand collaborative engagement and Students as Partners approaches.
  • assist in identifying and developing opportunities for student employment and partnerships within the Library.
  • guide thinking and decision making as staff and students generate ideas and begin to develop opportunities, projects, and activities. 

This Framework describes many initiatives the Library has been undertaking for some time, including paid internships, Work Integrated Learning (WIL) projects, paid project related roles, and volunteer roles for students. It distils and formalises the Library’s approach by describing three distinct pillars to which these activities align. These broad anchoring categories help to define the different ways that the Library engages collaboratively with students.​ The pillars are:

  • Employed and Upskilled
  • Included and Empowered
  • Informed and Heard. 
Venn diagram with three overlapping circles: Employed and Upskilled; Included and Empowered; Informed and Heard. An icon representing a student sits at the point where the three circles overlap.
Three pillars: Employed and Upskilled; Included and Empowered; Informed and Heard

The Students as Partners Framework is also a launching pad to expand the scope of student collaborations to identify and develop new ideas and opportunities. To this end, the Framework outlines ten Key Considerations for Library staff and students to inform thinking as we develop new opportunities and evolve existing ones. The considerations relate to:

  1. Inclusiveness
  2. Expertise
  3. Learning
  4. Agency
  5. Recognition
  6. Relevance
  7. Expectations
  8. Reach
  9. Perspectives
  10. Accountability
Inclusiveness: Proactively seek diverse representation 
Expertise: Acknowledge and value students' lived experience as expertise
Learning: Centre learning opportunities and acknowledge teaching and learning as reciprocal
Agency: Credit, reward and remunerate student contributions
Relevance: Create meaningful and relevant opportunities with reciprocal benefit and value
Expectations: Agree realistic expectations and provide appropriate support
Reach: Consider ways to increase the number of students who benefit
Perspectives: Incorporate a range of student voices and perspectives
Accountability: Ensure access to opportunities is equitable, transparent, and accountable.
Ten Key Considerations

The Library will use this Framework to create diverse, inclusive, relevant, transparent, and impactful opportunities for students. Students will be listened to as equal partners, whose expertise is acknowledged and whose contributions are valued and recognised. They will be able to affect change, directly enhancing the student experience and creating life-ready graduates.

Read the Students as Partners Framework. Questions? Contact Imogen Harris-McNeill, Coordinator, Student Employment and Partnerships.