This post was written by Kat Cain (Deakin University Library), Lindsey Fratus (University of Newcastle Library), Liz Walkley Hall (Flinders University Library). All three writers are part of the CAUL EMC Conference project.
What does 2022 look like for you and your work in the academic Library sector? Many of us have strat plans with OER goals or students as partners as top level foci. The moving feast of “Read and Publish” is shaking up Open Access outcomes across the board. And while our core business has always been aligning with tertiary learning and teaching goals, new ways to flexibly engage and enable curriculum have become a heightened priority. On top of this, we’re all dealing with evolving digital practices impacting learning, research and everyday ways of working.
It offers new learnings and practice-based knowledge for expert staff across the Australia and New Zealand industry to embed in their work.
What practical action should you take?
Lock in the CAUL EMC Conference into your 2022 calendar
Start thinking about sharing and showcasing your Library’s work or learnings
What are the dates?
Remember it’s a hybrid event so the conference dates for both in-person and online experiences:
Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 September for the online program
Tuesday 13 September for the face-to-face events in five capital cities.
What is the Conference all about?
This conference offers you and your institution the chance to exchange ideas and experience in a novel way. Using a hybrid conference model means flexible attendance options – pick and choose between in-person located learning and digital experiences.
CAUL’s intention in offering a hybrid conference model is to ensure flexibility and access for its member libraries. But it also provides the different but complementary dimensions of national lens and a local, state-based gatherings.
Your voice in this space
One of the great things about the Conferences is sharing thoughts, learnings and new projects outside of our own work bubbles. We will soon be taking submissions for presentation ideas – so start thinking about what you could share with your academic library community!
by Kylie Tran (Manager, Library Services and Spaces), University of Melbourne and Nikki Andersen (Open Education Content Librarian), University of Southern Queensland.
This year CAUL’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Professional Development (PD) Program will develop an OER program. In 2021, the project team undertook an environmental scan, literature review and stakeholder survey to inform the design and delivery of this program. Here is what we’ve learned about OER PD so far:
What we learned from the environmental scan
The purpose of our environmental scan was to gain an understanding of the OER PD programs already on offer around the world. From the environmental scan we learned that:
The majority of OER professional development programs were predominantly American. Surprisingly very few were located from Europe or the United Kingdom
The OER programs identified used a mixture of platforms and tools. The majority were self-paced courses that offered modular learning
Most programs and resources were created for, and aimed at, educators (academics/teaching staff/instructors). Some courses were aimed at both educators and students, such as USQ’s MOOC Repurposing Open Educational Resources: An Introduction. The minority were aimed at library staff
The vast majority of programs and resources did not require payment to access or complete. In some instances, programs were freely accessible, but users had the option of paying for a certificate or similar credential
The majority of programs do not provide credentials or it was unknown if they did provide them following completion
Unsurprisingly, many of the programs included a Creative Commons license, enabling opportunities to reuse and acknowledge the content of the programs and resources.
What we learned from the literature review
From the literature review we learned that:
The research favoured a whole course approach to capacity building, as opposed to ad-hoc workshops
Successful PD programs placed learners in authentic real-world learning contexts, highlighting the importance of situating OER knowledge in participants’ work environments
There was a wide variation in the inclusion of assessment and granting of credentials on completion
The creation of a community of practice or mentorship was supported by the literature, with these networks helping participants grow and develop their OER proficiency
The primary barrier to the completion of OER PD was the ability for participants to allocate time to complete PD, highlighting the importance of organisational support for staff to undertake PD
What we learned from the stakeholder survey
From the stakeholder survey, we learned that:
Most institutions and individuals would find an OER PD program valuable
The PD needs across Library staff are highly variable, from introductory to specialised
The majority of respondents favoured (i) self-directed, primarily asynchronous online courses or programs offered over an extended study period followed by (ii) online seminar or lecture series (curated program of linked seminars).
We look forward to providing an OER PD Program to you all. Stay tuned!
This post was written by Dr Mollie Dollinger, Equity-First, Students as Partners Lecturer at Deakin University.
Deakin University is one of the 11 institutions participating in the Students as Partners project within CAUL’s Enabling the Modern Curriculum Program. The Deakin University project is called ‘Co-Designing Your Future Library’ and aims to take a collaborative approach towards creating the library strategic plan. The project is led by University Librarian Hero Macdonald, Dr Mollie Dollinger and Paul McKenna.
In the project, university library staff are matched with student mentors in a 1:1 dialogue. The sessions are held entirely online (via Zoom) and are approximately 1 hour in duration. To support the dialogue, the project team supplies each pair a scaffolded set of design thinking activities, including mind maps and storyboards, that help guide the conversation and generate novel ideas and solutions.
Participation was entirely voluntary, with 50 university library staff opting in, and 100 students (each staff member had approximately two meetings, each with one student). Students were recruited centrally and spanned various courses, degrees, and cohorts. All students who participated were awarded a $50 gift card to acknowledge their contribution. University library staff also represented the variety of departments and teams within the library, ensuring a wide breadth of views and perspectives.
Sabina Robertson (Manager, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment Library Services) reflected on their participation in the project:
“The co-design project was unexpected opportunity to connect and learn from a student’s experience. Students come from such diverse backgrounds; their lives are complex and for some demanding. Somehow university study fits in amongst work, family and health issues.”
Similarly, Clare Carlsson (Director, Client Services and Deputy University Librarian), also shared their thoughts:
“I was amazed at how open and engaged the students were with their feedback and think they pretty chuffed to be asked- this process was great for building stronger student relationships”
Students who participated in the project have also been positive about their experience, citing how the process underscored how much the university cared about their opinions and experiences.
Analysis on the data collected from the project is still underway, with a report (and peer reviewed journal article) expected this year. Watch this space!
This post is written by Samara Rowling, PhD Candidate, Editing & Publishing, University of Southern Queensland. Email: email@example.com
Why research open textbook publishing programs at Australian universities?
While as many of you will be aware, there’s already a growing body of research on open educational practice (OEP) and open educational resource (OER) use in Australian higher education, little research has been conducted on open textbook publishing activities and experiences at Australian universities. Most existing research on open textbook publishing focuses on the international context (e.g. North America), where differences in funding and legislative support affect not only how, but the extent to which this work is undertaken. While we know from anecdotal evidence that many Australian universities are engaged in this work, currently, there is no comprehensive and cohesive data available about the state of open textbook publishing in Australia and how this compares to more established models overseas.
How am I addressing this gap in knowledge?
My Doctor of Philosophy project (HREC approval number H21REA125) will be the first national study of open textbook publishing programs at Australian universities. It aims to investigate current and emerging trends in open textbook publishing within the broader context of university and library-led publishing.
I’m collecting data for this research by surveying staff involved in open textbook publishing at Australian universities about their publishing activities and experiences. Once I’ve analysed these results, I’ll be conducting a series of follow-up interviews with a small group of participants to discuss their responses.
I’ll be sharing the data from this research in open access journals and in my PhD thesis, which I plan to make available under a Creative Commons license through my institutional repository with no embargo period, as well as as an open access book.
In my thesis, I’ll be using this data to make evidence-based recommendations about how we can build more sustainable open textbook publishing programs at Australian universities.
This 60-second animation, created for the 2021 University of Southern Queensland Visualise Your Thesis competition, gives a quick summary of the project:
What can you do to help?
If you’re involved in publishing open textbooks at an Australian university, I’m requesting your assistance with this research. Understanding how we can build more sustainable publishing programs, and consequently, increase production of high-quality Australian open textbooks will improve the student experience by helping to:
• reduce the financial burden of study
• remove geographic and copyright barriers preventing students from accessing essential course materials
• provide more accessible, diverse, and inclusive content than is typically offered by traditional publishers.
During this survey, you’ll be asked to share details about your university’s open textbook publishing activities – on topics like funding, staffing, professional development infrastructure, and outputs – as well as your own thoughts about the benefits, challenges, and opportunities of engaging in this work.
If you’re just getting started, were previously publishing but have now stopped, or have decided publishing open textbooks isn’t for you, the survey contains alternate pathways designed to capture these experiences as well. After completing the survey, you can also nominate yourself for a follow-up interview if you would like to discuss your experiences in more detail.
For more information about this research, you can contact me at Samara.Rowling2@usq.edu.au. In the spirit of open access, I’ll be tweeting about this project as I go along, including sharing data and links to any publications, so please follow me at @SamaraRowling for updates.
University libraries play a number of key roles in enabling contemporary teaching and learning, including:
curating, collecting and creating information resources related to the curriculum
consulting and advising through curriculum design processes
partnering with educational designers and academic developers to provide holistic support for course development
embedding information literacy instruction in the curriculum
championing digital literacy
supporting academics to find, use, adapt or create open educational resources.
In many institutions, academic skills development is also part of the library’s remit. Even the work libraries undertake that isn’t directly related to teaching and learning impacts it indirectly. For example, supporting open scholarship results in more open access research outputs, which are in turn used in teaching and learning.
Libraries contribute to contemporary teaching and learning in a myriad ways and so our focus on this blog will also be broad. We are keen to explore the various ways that libraries enable a modern curriculum, and to amplify the work CAUL Member institutions do in the teaching and learning space.
So, we have two questions for you!
What topics related to libraries’ role in teaching and learning would you like to see featured here on the blog? Share your thoughts about the topics you’d like to see us explore in the comments! If you’re reading this post as an email, click the post title to head to the blog and add your comment.
Do you have an idea for a blog post you’d like to write? Perhaps there is something great happening at your institution that you’d like to share, an event that you’d like to write an analysis of, an important message you need to get out, or a resource you’d like to highlight. Perhaps you’d like to share about what enabling a modern curriculum means to you. If you would like to write something from the blog, then we would like to hear from you! You can contact me – Kate Davis (CAUL Director, Strategy & Analytics) – with your ideas for posts.
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 Fiona Salisbury, Executive Director Library and University Librarian at La Trobe University. Fiona is a member of the CAUL Board and the Program Director for the Enabling a Modern Curriculum Program.
It’s been just over 12 months since we launched the CAUL Enabling a Modern Curriculum Program. I am amazed at what has been achieved in this period—but, not surprised! The Program is an example of what 40 library practitioners from 28 institutions can do when they get together to have some fun with five projects. At the end of a very busy year full of competing priorities, I am delighted to say that all projects are on track and some major milestones have been met in 2021.
The Open Educational Resources Collective Pilot Project team developed the Open Educational Resources (OER) Collective model, which was endorsed by the CAUL Board at its November meeting. In developing the model the Project team reviewed the literature, scanned the environment, and surveyed CAUL members. The result is a robust model that will provide an opportunity for participating institutions to publish open textbooks on a shared platform and build institutional capability. It will also provide opportunities for collaborative, cross-institutional development of open textbooks. The OER Collective model will commence from January 2022 and the call for participation is now open. The OER Collective is underpinned by communities of practice for library staff and academics, and the Project team is now working on resources and events that will be part of the launch of the communities of practice in the New Year.
The Open Educational Resources Professional Development Program Project team developed a proposal for an OER professional development (PD) program, which was endorsed by the CAUL Board at its November meeting. There are few OER PD programs available for library staff so this program will fill a gap for library practitioners and allied colleagues in Australia and New Zealand. Informed by a literature review, an environmental scan, and feedback from CAUL members, the OER PD program will be for both experienced and novice practitioners. The aim is to build capacity in leadership of OER practice relating to open textbooks, open educational practices and pedagogy, advocacy, and communications. Next steps for the project team include developing a detailed course overview, structure, and delivery timeline.
The Open Educational Resources Advocacy Project team progressed thinking about how academic libraries can best tackle the issue of raising the visibility of the OER agenda in the higher education sector and nationally. The critical nature of this task cannot be underestimated, and to inform their thinking the team collected data on institutional and individual perspectives on OERs, consulted with key contacts, completed a review of existing OER advocacy resources, and curated a collection of fifty exemplary assets. The team has laid the groundwork for the next step, which is to develop an OER advocacy toolkit proposal that will go to the CAUL Board for endorsement in 2022.
The Enabling a Modern Curriculum with Students as Partners (SaP) Project team launched the National Review of ‘Students as Partners’ in Australian Academic Libraries and completed a national survey of academic libraries across Australia to understand their current perceptions, practices and goals around SaP. Respondents included 15 university librarians and 182 library staff. The project team reported on their preliminary research findings and highlighted project initiatives at the recent Students as Partners roundtable. Individual team members also developed 11 SaP case study projects to be undertaken in their respective libraries. When completed, these case studies and other examples collected via the survey, will create an evidence base to inform a practice toolkit to support CAUL member institutions to engage with student partners as routine academic library practice. What’s more, in 2022 the team will model a SaP approach by collaborating with students on the development of the toolkit.
The CAUL Enabling a Modern Curriculum Conference Project team developed a conference proposal, which was endorsed by the CAUL Board at its September meeting. The conference dates are set – Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 September 2022 for the online program, and Tuesday 13 September for the face to face events in five capital cities – so make sure CAUL’s inaugural conference is in your calendar. The Project team has planned a hybrid event that will include a mix of workshops, online keynotes and in-person events. There are four conference themes:
Open Resources to enable the curriculum
Evolving our digital practices
Bending and blending in learning and teaching
Partnership to enable a modern curriculum.
Stay tuned for more information and a call for participation in March 2022.
It’s been inspiring working with the project team leaders and their teams this year. Each project team has a distinctive focus and is getting on with the task at hand. A strong emphasis on evidence and engagement through CAUL member surveys and briefing sessions, wide promotion of the projects, creative video production, and blog posts are characteristic of the way the teams work. Since mid-September there have been 20 posts here on the Enabling a Modern Curriculum blog. The blog has an international following, and its scope extends beyond the projects to all the ways libraries enable the curriculum. I encourage you to contribute to the clog in 2022. If you are interested contact a member of the blog editorial team who will be happy to hear from you.
Thank you to everyone who has been involved and contributed to the CAUL Enabling a Modern Curriculum Program this year. This overview doesn’t do justice to the enormous effort and huge contribution of individuals and project teams. I’d like to thank our Project Team Leaders (Marion Slawson – FedUni; Tahnee Pearse – USQ; Adrian Stagg – USQ; Dr Nicole Johnson – ECU; Dr Mollie Dollinger – Deakin), project team members, Dr Kate Davis and staff in the CAUL National Office. It’s a collective effort sustaining such a vibrant and dynamic program. But intentionally positioning academic libraries to build national partnerships to enable the transformation of learning and teaching at their institutions is well worth every effort.
The blog editorial team will be taking a break over the next few weeks. You can expect to hear from us again in the second week in January. We hope everyone in our community has a chance to wind down and take time out over the festive period.
In recent years, the textbook publishing market has been changing in response to demand for e-textbooks and declining sales to students. The advent of COVID-related lockdowns intensified the emergence of new textbook publishing models for tertiary libraries (Gray & O’Shea, 2021; Van Malderen, 2021), usually aimed at one of two outcomes:
Limit academic library provision of textbook access (through expensive limited user licenses and download limits) – presumably to leverage individual textbook sales.
Provide cohort access to prescribed textbooks through expensive institutional subscription models based on enrolments.
As academic library professionals in Aotearoa New Zealand, we came together to share our experiences and talk about open educational resources (OERs) as alternatives to commercial textbooks. We quickly realised that while there was recent research on New Zealand students’ perspectives of textbooks (Brown et al., 2020; Stein et al., 2017) and we understood librarian perspectives of textbooks, we didn’t have concrete evidence of academic perspectives.
This was a significant gap, since academics are the market for academic publishers (and, often the authors – but that’s another blog post).
Academics hold considerable market power in the textbook market as what they select drives student and tertiary library purchasing.
Our research group launched a national survey, asking academics about how they used textbooks in teaching, their selection criteria, their experience during COVID-19 lockdowns and their perspectives on OERs. Members of our research group are Sara Roberts (University of Canterbury), Lisa Davies (University of Canterbury), Associate Professor Cheryl Brown (University of Canterbury) and Richard White (University of Otago), with support from Zhanni Luo. A more detailed analysis of our data from a recent presentation is available here and we anticipate more data/analysis will be forthcoming.
How do academics use textbooks?
We found that academics were well aware that the cost of, and access to, textbooks was an issue for students. They also reported that many students did not use the textbook, particularly from academics working in hard-pure disciplines (e.g. Chemistry, Physics).*
*In order to meaningfully analyse respondents by disciplinary group, we divided disciplines into hard-pure (e.g. Chemistry, Physics), soft pure (e.g. History, Philosophy), hard-applied (e.g. Engineering, Computer Science), and soft applied (e.g. Economics, Education), according to criteria first articulated by Biglan (1973).
Nonetheless, academics reported textbook practices based on the traditional print textbook model, assuming that the majority of students would purchase the book. Approximately 50% of respondents reported often or always teaching into courses with prescribed textbooks, mostly frequently setting one or two chapters of the textbook as readings. Other frequent usage was to structure a course around the textbook or set over half of the textbook as readings. Setting prescribed texts when using just one or two chapters suggests academics’ textbook practices are not aligned with their awareness of students’ perspectives.
This disconnect was made even clearer when we asked respondents what percentage of students they thought were purchasing prescribed textbooks.
It was not possible to draw a meaningful statistic from our data because the answers ranged from 0-100%. (Although, academics working in hard-pure disciplines did express a more realistic view of how many students were purchasing the textbook).
Academic perceptions of library textbook services & lockdowns
We were also interested in academic perceptions of tertiary libraries’ textbook services. Academics reported offering prescribed textbook alternatives such as requesting academic libraries put textbooks in high use collections, requesting academic libraries purchase textbooks, or recommending earlier editions. Interestingly, a number of respondents distinguished between getting an e-version and asking the library to purchase a textbook, suggesting academics don’t equate the library purchasing copies of textbooks with the library purchasing e-textbooks.
Furthermore, survey respondents almost always took price for students into account in textbook selection, but almost 60% of respondents reported rarely or never taking into account the price for the library. Given the financial pressures academic libraries face with textbook provision, we believe this finding indicates a need for academic libraries to be open and honest with academics about how the commercial textbook market is changing.
Libraries also need to communicate the pedagogical implications for academics of these changing models – both in terms of their own workload and the implications for student success. Academics reported on their experiences in lockdown in our survey, with around 20% sharing that textbook access became a significant issue when teaching moved online. Accordingly, they reported that an electronic format was an increasingly important factor in textbook selection. If academic libraries do not take the lead in talking about textbook practices and promoting viable e-textbooks models, such as adopting, adapting or creating open textbooks, the move to e-textbooks will only increase the financial pressure on libraries.
The way forward
Our survey confirmed that, by and large, tertiary educators in Aotearoa New Zealand are prescribing and using textbooks under the assumptions of the traditional print textbook model. The evidence suggests while they are aware of student perspectives, they do not materially grasp how these traditional textbook practices no longer align with the textbook publishing market, affecting students, academic libraries and, increasingly, their own pedagogical practices.
Academic libraries must lead in this space to ensure equity for students and maintain their role as information experts on campus.
Biglan, A. (1973). Relationship between subject matter characteristics and the structure and output of university departments. Journal of Applied Psychology, 57(3), 204-213.
Stein, S., Hart, S., Keaney, P., & White, R. (2017). Student views on the cost of and access to textbooks: An investigation at University of Otago (New Zealand). Open Praxis, 9(4), 403. https://doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.9.4.704.
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.
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.
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.