Dr Sal Kleine, Liaison Librarian, Faculty of Business and Law, QUT
In the role of Library Adviser at the Queensland University of Technology, I provided support for the IFN001: Advanced Information Research Skills (AIRS) unit. In late 2022, the AIRS Team commenced planning for a major unit review, to ensure the continued delivery of a pedagogically informed, engaging, and relevant training program. Whilst the Review is multifaceted and will result in constructive updates to the unit, one thing that won’t change is the ongoing advocacy for open educational practices reflected in the provision of AIRS learning content under Creative Commons licensing. The AIRS content is currently made available via the AIRS website under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Licence. However, given the complexities in maintaining the website, as part of the Review, the AIRS Team is exploring more sustainable approaches to openly providing this material to our QUT Higher Degree Research students and sharing it with external audiences. With this goal in mind, I began my own Open Educational Resource (OER) learning journey, a key part of which was participating in the CAUL OER Professional Development Program: Foundations.
As someone new to this space, the Program offered an introduction to OER in a tertiary education context. The module-based content stepped through introducing and defining OER, licensing and copyright considerations, finding and evaluating OERs and, finally, delved into the intricacies of adopting, adapting and creating OERs. But it wasn’t all reading, and a highlight for me was the weekly guest presentations by experts on various aspects of open education and OER. The sharing of their insights and experiences provoked ideas, questions and new understandings of both the principles and practice of OER. There were also plenty of options for engaging, or working collaboratively, with other participants if desired. The lively discussions in the weekly forums demonstrated the breadth of knowledge and passion in this area and how, as a profession, librarians have the potential to influence the movement towards more open educational teaching and learning activities. Underpinning the learning was a practical task. This involved preparing a Project Plan based on a scenario that could be tailored to suit the participant’s workplace or interests. The Plan provided me with an opportunity to focus my thinking on how to further leverage OERs in the delivery of AIRS, using the production workflows and creation tools introduced as part of the Program.
By participating in this professional development program, I am building the confidence to meaningfully contribute to the ongoing OER conversation and am better equipped to offer informed advice on the positive impacts of OER. Now, both enlightened and inspired, my next goal is to apply learnings from the Program to, in collaboration with the AIRS Team, develop contemporary OERs that are accessible, inclusive, and representative of our diverse student cohort, and encourage the sharing and reuse of content. So, while I will keep learning and continue to further my understanding of OER, it’s time to start creating!
This post was written by Bec Muir (Manager, Libraries West) at Victoria University.
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.
This post was written by Chloe Czerwiec, Senior Librarian (Copyright) at the University of Western Australia. Chloe is a member of the CAUL OER Collective Pilot project team.
We’re calling it early – 2022 will be the year of the OER! With the various CAUL project teams busy beavering away behind the scenes, 2022 will bring some amazing opportunities to learn about, advocate for, and be involved in creating OERs.
One such opportunity is the CAUL OER Collective.
The OER Collective will provide an opportunity for participating CAUL Member institutions to publish open textbooks without investing in a platform, and to build institutional capability. It will also provide opportunities for collaborative, cross-institutional development of open textbooks.
Watch this short video for a concise overview of the Collective model:
Detailed information about the Collective model is also available on the CAUL website.
Break it down for me – what are the benefits?
We’re glad you asked. By joining the initial “Connect” tier of the Collective (at a cost of $2,500 per year), participating institutions will have:
space to publish up to two open textbooks on the shared Pressbooks platform per year
access to training, guides and templates
access to two communities of practice – one for library staff, and one for academic authors
the opportunity for academic authors at their institution to apply for DIY Textbook Author Grants.
Call for participation is now open
The Collective was originally due to launch in January, but – COVID (need we say more). The Collective will now be launching in March, which means there is still time to for CAUL Member institutions to sign up. To express interest, please email Dr Kate Davis, Director, Strategy & Analytics, by Friday 28 January.
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.
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.
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.
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.