Students as Partners Roundtable 2021

Academic libraries were represented in the recent National SAP Roundtable with presentations from the CAUL EMC Students as Partners Project group along with case study presentations from the University of Newcastle Library.

The 2021 National Students as Partners Roundtable was hosted recently by the 21C Student Curriculum Partners at Western Sydney University. Over three days from 23th – 25th November, students and staff from around Australia and the world convened online through Teams and Zoom to share ideas, discuss issues and network with each other. This year, the theme of “the Partnership Paradox” provided a great opportunity to not only celebrate the partnerships but also look at partnership practice through a more critical lens through case studies, problem solving ‘hackathons’ and discussions around research.

I was fortunate to attend Day One, which showcased thirty-seven case studies from around Australia and globally, with nine countries represented. The case studies were presented in six zoom rooms running simultaneously over the course of the day. Meeting the challenge of starting at 7 am to attend the first session (due to being on AWST) was totally worth it, as I found the mix of case studies I attended to be informative and thought provoking. It was great to see the academic library sector reasonably well represented, with a presentation from the CAUL EMC Students as Partners (SaP) Project group, and a further three case studies from the University of Newcastle Library, presented by Imogen Harris-McNeil.

Presentation on CAUL’s EMC SAP Project

Fiona Salisbury, University Librarian, La Trobe University started the presentation by describing the project team as a group of library staff from across ten Australian universities, brought together through an open call-out from the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) to support a nationally led project. She explained the aim of the project as being to explore what students as partners means for academic libraries and how library staff can conceptualise the approach. Fiona then highlighted the potential of the Library, traditionally considered the ‘heart of the university’, to support students towards their success through SAP programs, and suggested that although students as partners is increasingly recognised as a key approach to drive meaningful relationships and engagement with students, the library has been largely overlooked.

Dr Mollie Dollinger, Equity-First, Students as Partners Lecturer at Deakin University, then highlighted some of the preliminary results from the national survey which was completed by 200 library staff and 22 University Librarians during October 2021 as part of the project. Mollie reported that most of the SAP programs mentioned by participants in the survey are in the learning and teaching, and peer mentoring areas, while the lowest was in governance, resource design and collection renewal. The survey also revealed that Library staff in general have a superficial understanding of SAP in libraries, suggesting that library staff, as much as faculty staff, need support in this area. While the survey results are yet to be analysed in more depth, the initial findings indicate that there is a challenge ahead in addressing how relationships between librarians and students can better adopt key principles of student partnership.

The presentation then looked at two examples of SAP projects piloted by participating insitutions. Susan Vickery, Associate University Librarian, Access & Advisory Services at Macquarie University, spoke about their program of employing students to assist with evaluating LibGuides. They employed students specifically for the project, who then joined weekly team meetings, did a small bench marking activity, and were significantly involved in designing the UX experience. Wendy Ratciffe, Coordinator Client Experience, Co-Curricular Services at La Trobe University, then spoke about the Bendigo’s campus SAP project to make the campus library a culturally safe space for indigenous students. Four indigenous students were enlisted to engage in a series of exercises which culminated in a design thinking workshop facilitated by Kristy Newton (UOW). Student ideas and input about visibility, inclusivity and reciprocity, as well as the design and arrangement of furniture, colours and use of indigenous language, will directly shape the development of the campus library spaces.

Case study presentations from the University of Newcastle Library

Imogen Harris McNeill, Coordinator, Student Employment and Partnerships, at the University of Newcastle Library (and also a member of the CAUL EMC SaP group) presented three case studies at the Roundtable event. One focussed on the SAP framework that Uni Newcastle Library has developed, while the other two shared experiences from their SAP programs around governance and library spaces.

Despite Imogen’s description of the governance SAP project as “the boring administrative side of things”, the Uni of Newcastle Library’s program of engaging students in decision-making and governance in the University Library was actually very interesting. The program addressed the ‘included and empowered’ pillar, one of three underpinning the Library of Newcastle Library’s SAP framework, that involves valuing student representation in decision-making and Library governance processes and seeking to work directly with students as co-creators and co-designers of Library services, spaces and activities. Imogen described how, rather than endorsing a single stand-alone student advisory group, the Library actively brought students into Library committees, projects, working groups and communities of practice to work alongside Library staff. These students are integral members of each group with their voices influencing outcomes for the Library and student cohorts as they collaborate with library staff to identify opportunities for improvement, develop options, solve problems, or implement solutions.

One of the challenges highlighted was the fact that, despite engaging in governing and decision making being regarded as one of the most empowering forms of partnership and engagement, it can be difficult to interest students in these roles. Leveraging the library’s current pool of casual assistants and using existing employment mechanisms, as well as promoting the benefits of further professional experience for the casual staff, were some of the methods used. It was interesting to hear the challenges from the student perspective as well, such as the difficulty of wearing two hats (student and staff) and thus in defining their role and purpose in each particlar group or discussion.

Brief reflections

The Roundtable presentations provoked a lot of interesting conversation and critical questioning among the participants and provided a wonderful opportunity to share and learn from one another. I found the case studies really useful in showing what is currently being done, highlighting important resources, and sharing challenges and experiences. While there are some great SAP projects happening in academic libraries, there is clearly potential for more to be done, and scope to build support for Library staff to encourage the development of meaningful SAP programs. Finally, it was great to see a lot of student engagement in the event, not only in the presentations themeslves, but also in the Teams chat, and on the organisational side of things as well.

Creating an open digital dexterity program: 23 Things

One of the most important contributions that libraries can make to their community is to create meaningful learning experiences, and openness is an important factor that can help achieve this. Curtin University Library has been working to create an open, participatory and connected learning space through its online digital dexterity program, 23 Things.

23 Things is a self-directed learning program designed to help students develop the digital capabilities required for successful study, work and life. It consists of online modules, workshops and creative challenges on topics as diverse as video editing, digital security and virtual reality.

Throughout the process of designing, creating and implementing the program, the Library has striven for openness in different ways.

We have been open to trying new approaches in learning design as part of our Students as Partners program, employing students from diverse disciplines and backgrounds to design the site, create the content and assist in running the program. Enabling student voices to be heard and fostering peer-supported learning has bought unique perspectives to the program and helped make the content relatable and accessible. As our student partners share their knowledge and experience with their peers, we have seen engagement, enthusiasm and friendships flourish.

An open learning community also requires removing barriers by offering different modes of engagement to cater to different learning styles and preferences. Activity-based learning has formed the bedrock of the program, moving away from passive information delivery. Taking a sequential approach with a focus on a new topic each week, we provide synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities through self-paced online modules, face-to-face and online workshops, creative challenges, and invitations to connect with others.

Another major objective is to make the content accessible and inclusive by ensuring diverse voices and perspectives are represented in the content. The storytelling element of the program, which we use to illustrate how digital skills can be applied in a workplace context, have also provided a rich opportunity for normalising diversity and inclusion. For example, through the fictional character of Charlie who is a ‘deadly yorga’ (or impressive woman), we are able to incorporate our local Nyungar indigenous language and culture into the learning experience.

23 Things is open to anyone to participate, and we have intentionally kept the content generic and applicable to the different contexts of study, work and life. Although the program is now part of Curtin Extra, the University’s extra-curricular credentials program, it also remains open to the wider community. As a result, we are customising our communications to the different groups who engage with the program.

23 Things is an Open Education Resource that is licensed under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA). Each self-paced module has been created as a single H5P file, and is very easy for others to download, re-use and modify.

Our efforts to create an open, inclusive learning space through 23 Things has been extremely rewarding. Being open to new approaches, welcoming anyone to participate, striving for inclusive and diverse representation, and open-licensing the content have all contributed to enabling our community to participate in and contribute to a meaningful, connected learning experience.

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.

Introducing the Students as Partners project

It’s great to be introducing this project and the wonderful team working together on it.  

University communities are increasingly regarding their students as ‘partners’, able to contribute valuable skills and expertise that can shape and improve the student experience across a range of areas.  Lying at the heart of the University experience, academic libraries in particular are well suited to a ‘Students as Partners’ approach, with their long history of collaboration and engagement (Salisbury and Dollinger, 2020).    

The project will generate knowledge and develop practical resources to support good practice in developing Students as Partners projects in academic libraries.  

Project objectives

The three main objectives of the group are to:

1. Develop an understanding of, and report on, current practice related to students as partners in academic libraries in Australia and New Zealand, and internationally.

2. Develop an evidence based toolkit to support CAUL member institutions to engage with students as partners.

3. Model a Students as Partners approach by collaborating with students on the development of the toolkit.

The project has clear and tangible benefits for academic libraries.  It will create opportunities to share ideas and experiences about Students as Partners and provide access to a valuable toolkit designed to support good practice in their institutions.    

Access the project brief (pdf) here.

Please do our Students as Partners survey – everyone working in an academic library is invited to participate!

Our team

The project team, led by Dr. Mollie Dollinger (Deakin University), includes  Danielle Ambriano (University of Technology, Sydney), Kerry Bedford (Australian Catholic University), Kate Conway (Curtin University), Vanessa Crosby (University of New South Wales),  Daniel Hamilton (University of Technology, Sydney), Imogen Harris-McNeill (University of Newcastle), Trent Hennessey (University of Melbourne), Paul McKenna (Deakin University), Karen Miller (Curtin University),  Wendy Ratcliffe (La Trobe University), and Susan Vickery (Macquarie University).

We’re all excited to be part of this project, and hope you will take a few minutes to watch the video below, in which we share some thoughts about the project and what we hope to achieve.


Fiona Salisbury, Mollie Dollinger & Jessica Vanderlelie (2020) Students as Partners in the Academic Library: Co-Designing for Transformation, New Review of Academic Librarianship, 26:2-4, 304-321, DOI: 10.1080/13614533.2020.1780275

Four reasons to participate in our Students as Partners National Survey!

[Update 5 October 2021: Deadline extended to 18 October]

Are you involved or interested in Students as Partners programs in academic libraries? If so, then please participate in our survey!

The aim of the study is to understand what practices around student partnership have been embedded with Australian university libraries, and how student partnership can continue to be supported to encourage co-design in university libraries.

The research is part of the Enabling a Modern Curriculum with Students as Partners project.

Data collected from the survey will help the project team review and understand Student as Partner practices within university libraries. 

In turn, the review will inform the development of an online toolkit designed to support CAUL member institutions to engage students as partners.

Why you should complete the survey (and pass it on to others to complete):

  1. You’ll be contributing to building knowledge around how we can best support student partnership in academic libraries.
  2. You may alert us to some great examples of Students as Partners projects that can contribute to the Toolkit.
  3. You’ll be supporting your colleagues in the CAUL Enabling a Modern Curriculum project. It may seem like a small thing, but it can make a big difference! 
  4. It only takes 15 minutes to complete.

FAQs about the survey

You may have some questions about the survey, which I hope are answered below.

 Who can participate in the survey?

The survey is open to anyone with interest, knowledge or experience of Students as Partners programs in academic libraries. 

What if my colleagues also participate and discuss the same Students as Partners program?

It’s fine if more than one person refers to the same program in their responses – the more information we get, the happier we are!

Will my personal information be identified in the results?

No. Individual staff will not be identified in the survey results or any resulting publication and nor will the organisations where they work.

Is the survey part of a larger research project?

Yes. The title of the project is National Review of ‘Students as Partners’ in Australian Academic Libraries (La Trobe University ethics reference number HEC21220).  The researchers are Fiona Salisbury, Mollie Dollinger and Kate Davis.  

How do we access the survey?

The survey can be accessed at this link  

When does it need to be done by?

The survey closes on 18 October 2021.  Although there’s plenty of time, why wait?  You could do it today!

Can I share the survey link and information with others?

Yes, please do. We hope you will share the survey with staff in your library and encourage any colleagues who may be interested to participate.

How we’re Enabling a Modern Curriculum

1 CAUL program, 5 projects, 28 institutions, 40 team members and 1 new blog!

As the Program Director for CAUL’s Enabling a Modern Curriculum program, I am excited and delighted to launch the program blog. The purpose of this blog is to keep the library and higher education communities up to date on the program’s progress. With the five projects in the program well underway there is lots to share, and you can expect a regular parade of posts in this space. Project team members are looking forward to providing highlights, sharing work-in-progress, giving news updates, and putting out calls to action.

The CAUL Enabling a Modern Curriculum program is designed to bring together the expertise of library staff and academics in two critical and emerging aspects of the modern curriculum – open educational resources (OER) and students as partners. While our definition of a modern curriculum is broad, focussing on these two areas has the most potential to enable and transform future library practice. Enabling a modern curriculum is a shared endeavour, and the program’s aim is to influence a national agenda in these key areas. In leading a reimagining of how libraries enable the curriculum, CAUL is also supporting library staff to make a difference to the student learning experience and student success at a local level.

Where we started

The program kicked off with a Zoom workshop in September 2020, and we started how we intend to continue – with librarians and academics in dialogue in a collaborative and thought-provoking environment. When reflecting on how academic libraries might enable a modern curriculum the things that jumped out at me as needing more attention were OER, student wellbeing, and students as partners. I invited three academics to the workshop to speak to these issues and the associated current challenges facing the HE sector: Professor Helen Partridge on open education, Professor Sally Kift on student wellbeing, and Dr Mollie Dollinger on students as partners. Their presentations were provocative and the conversation that flowed into the breakout rooms was energised and creative. Collectively the 93 workshop participants wrestled with and debated the issues and affirmed key priorities for the program. On closer analysis of the workshop deliberations, it was clear that in OER space we would need to tackle national OER advocacy, OER professional development, and collaborative open textbook creation for the Australian and New Zealand environment. Additionally, I also thought we needed a forum to showcase insights from the projects and make visible a range of good practice initiatives related to all the ways libraries enable the curriculum.

Five projects emerged

So, all things considered, the program started 2021 with five projects:

How we’re working together

Our ways of working within and across projects encourages experimentation, collective thinking, and sector-wide collaboration. The program is ambitious, but all the projects are in good hands and have an enthusiastic and talented team. Each week I meet with Dr Kate Davis from the CAUL National Office and the Project Team leads – Tahnee Pearse (OER Collective Pilot), Marion Slawson (OER PD Program), Adrian Stagg (OER Advocacy), Dr Mollie Dollinger (Students as partners), Dr Nicole Johnson (CAUL Conference). It’s a great team, and together, our careful stewardship of the projects is ensuring that this impressive program has every chance of realising its objective to transform national and local practice, and will position libraries as key partners in enabling a modern curriculum through OER, and with students as partners.

I’d like to thank the 40 library practitioners from 28 institutions who are collaborating on these five projects. This is important work that has not yet been attempted in this way on a national scale. And, more importantly, I hope everyone involved is having fun and forging new professional friendships (the unwritten objectives of involvement in the program!).

Watch this space

To library and academic colleagues who are interested, or curious, or feel inspired by the program, there will be plenty of opportunities to be involved over the coming two years. Watch this space, and when opportunities arise your contribution will be warmly welcomed.