‘Information Literacy meets …Employability and Graduate Skills’ Library Teach Meet held at the University of Hertfordshire.

By Lisa Flint, Information Manager, University of Hertfordshire

On Wednesday 25th June over 45 delegates including many Career and Information Professionals from academic institutions across the country were welcomed to the University of Hertfordshire (UH), De Havilland campus for an afternoon Library Teach Meet entitled ‘Information Literacy meets …Employability and Graduate Skills’. The event was sponsored by the Information Literacy Group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. Before the Teach Meet began many of the delegates had a tour around the campus including the Learning Resources Centre (LRC) as well as a sneaky look in the University’s full-scale Courtroom with a public gallery.

The event was introduced by Helen Barefoot and Sarah Flynn from UH who spoke about the successful implementation of the University’s Graduate Attributes. Sarah highlighted the background perspective and emphasised on the longevity of graduate attributes liking it to the children TV character Morph and a stick of rock! Helen went on speak from the student perspective, detailing how students had got involved creating artefacts and installations to represent the attributes in a University wide competition.

Averil Robertson brought a practical example of how she had worked with the careers service at the University of Bedfordshire to embed careers and information skills in to the curriculum for psychology students. Using blended learning approaches the outcomes were favourable, improving grades and raising awareness of the importance of these skills for lifelong learning and employment.

Nathan Rush from De Montfort University also undertook information Literacy sessions with students in the context of employability. His messages included the importance of collaboration amongst the relevant departments, he spoke about respecting professional boundaries, articulating the message – be aware of the language you use, make it relevant for students. He also spoke about the timing of such sessions suggesting that the third year was not ideal. He highlighted the issue of sustainability of such projects, bearing in mind potential numbers of students. Definitely food for thought!

After a few questions Stephane Goldstein from the Research Info Network (RIN) spoke of initial findings from a consultation with about 20 employers to review the place of information or digital literacy in their policies and practices. One of the key messages was that the term ‘Information Literacy’ was not easily recognised by these employers, but once explained the importance of how students handled information was recognised. The onus on the students was also placed so that they learn how to apply such skills into a work setting and use these sorts of skills to their own advantage. It is hoped that the RIN report will be published in the next few weeks.

Emma Coonan (University of East Anglia, UEA) finished the first half of the afternoon with a thought provoking piece on employability and identity. She took a slightly more philosophical approach on the topic noting the complexities of employability and graduate attributes across the university involving the library, careers and admin departments. We had a whistle-stop tour of the some of the current thinking and concluded that we need to focus on the student as an individual.

Some much needed cake, refreshments and time to network were needed before the last two speakers.

Carolyn Smith, Information Manager at UH spoke about recent work ‘badging’ the i-Spy information skills tutorials with the Graduate Attributes as well as evidence received from employers and placement students on the value of information management skills in the workplace.

And lastly Neville Kemp, a Careers & Employability Adviser from the University for the Creative Arts highlighted a few online resources in his talk which can be used to deliver current employability-related information effectively with students and graduates. After more questions all delegates were asked to do a couple of tasks, first we asked them to vote for their favourite speaker (gold stars were provided!). Secondly we asked everyone to write on post it notes reflecting what they are currently doing in their own institutions and what they are going to take away from the meeting.

The last few slices of cake and biscuits were snapped up and some more bite sized networking ensued.

Many themes ran through the afternoon, but those of partnerships with employers and collaboration within different teams both stood out as key messages. Also putting the student first and recognising the skills acquired by students still need to pertinent to the world of work. Getting employers to contribute to the conversation is a valuable step forward. For many of the delegates this was a new area of their work and several are in the process of developing sessions and programmes for students.

To me it seems an exciting area to explore especially with today’s agendas on employability for students. Collaborating with colleagues can bring a variety of new and fresh ideas to the drawing board and from a librarians perspective we can use this opportunity to enhance our own presence in our institutions. The feedback from delegates was really positive; many praised the range and variety of speakers and format of the afternoon. One delegate said that they most liked “The great balance of formal presenting with informal and professional networking and discussions”. Another commented “Very welcoming and open exchange of practice – great opportunity to network!” The subject seemed very timely as several delegates would have liked a longer session or day meeting, as there were lots of issues that were barely touched upon, so that may be an idea for sometime in the future.

There was plenty of enthusiastic chat, everyone keen to get ideas to take back to their own institutions. Warm congratulations were passed onto Emma Coonan who won the star speaker prize and received the gift vouchers of her choice! A resume of the slides can be found here.

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