Philippa Price (Subject Librarian for School of Management & College of Engineering, Swansea University) has kindly provided a report of a recent LibTeachMeet, sponsored by the CILIP Information Literacy Group and held at Swansea University.
Sun, sand and employability – LibTeachMeet at Swansea University
The Welsh Higher Education Libraries Forum (WHELF) Learning and Teaching Group, with sponsorship from the CILIP Information Literacy Group, held a LibTeachMeet at Swansea University’s beachside Bay Campus on the 28th November 2016. It was inspired by an earlier LibTeachMeet at Aberystwyth University which considered ‘How do libraries make you more employable?’. The theme of ‘employability’ at the Swansea event was deliberately broad to offer some flexibility in the topic and focus of the talks.
In the morning sessions, Ellie and Downes and Karen Dewick offered different perspectives on the employability skills of library staff. Ellie, Library Support Assistant at Aberystwyth University, looked at recognising transferable skills in students and in librarians. She reflected on her own recent graduate traineeship at Aber, as well as on her current studies towards a Masters degree in Library and Information Studies. She offered interesting thoughts on the support of skills development in students and ourselves. She rightly noted that skills development never stops and is an ongoing process!
Karen Dewick is Customer Services Co-ordinator at Swansea University’s Bay Library, so she didn’t have far to travel to attend the teachmeet! She began by explaining the new structure of the Customer Service Team at Swansea, which offers frontline support for library, careers and IT help and information. Karen led an interactive session where we were encouraged to discuss and share the important skills needed to work in a modern library and how to demonstrate those skills. Karen, from her perspective as a line manager, ended with some valuable advice on recognising your worth, your ‘unique selling point’, in your current role and when you apply for jobs elsewhere.
After an abundant buffet lunch and the opportunity for a stroll round campus, Sarah Gwenlan, Subject Librarian at Aberystwyth University, talked about her place on the university’s Employment Action Group and how the library can contribute to that work. She highlighted some useful resources, including Aber’s information on the employability support offered by Information Services.
Sarah’s talk was followed by Susan Glen, a Subject Librarian and Research Librarian at Swansea University, who looked at the employability skills of researchers. She identified skills sets from the Vitae Researcher Development Framework – legal and ethical skills, managing information, communication skills and academic skills – and highlighted ways in which the library supports the development of these skills through its contribution to the Postgraduate Research Skills Programme at the university. The Vitae framework is used by the research office to map the skills developed through the training programme.
Towards the end of the afternoon, we were lucky enough to have two speakers from Swansea Employability Academy (SEA) – Rebecca Vaughan and Gareth Hill. Rebecca began by considering the Swansea Employability Award, a SEA initiative, as a learning tool. She introduced the idea of a career journey not as a direct route, as we often think, but as a winding pathway. Rebecca made the point that the learning which takes place along the way (learning which is supported by SEA’s ‘My Career Journey’ framework amongst other resources) is as important as the award itself. As a Swansea University member of staff, Rebecca’s talk led me to think about ways in which we at the library could support students and SEA in this, and I’m sure colleagues from elsewhere were able to relate the concepts to activities in their own institutions.
Gareth Hill ended the day with a lively workshop that considered what employability is, what makes graduates stand out, and getting students to engage (a topic close to all our hearts!). It was great to hear some non-library experiences of trying to reach out to students and encourage them to engage with the support on offer, especially as it became clear that the trials and tribulations Gareth related were much like our own. Key messages that came through from the session were:
- Don’t be afraid to try something new. If it doesn’t work, try something else!
- Involve students – what do they want? What do the need? What would help them?
- Marginal gains – instead of focusing on the big things, which may be difficult to alter, concentrate on all the small improvements which can be made as they can add up to a big change
These were good messages to leave with, and reflected the fact that the day had been an inspiring and thought-provoking one. We attracted 22 attendees from all over South- and Mid-Wales, so thoughts from the day could stimulate some far-reaching changes. And best of all, it didn’t rain!