Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Extending the academic library: social responsibility, information literacy and schools #lilac13

Next up for me at the LILAC conference #lilac13 in Manchester, UK, is Extending the academic library: social responsibility, information literacy and school, from Carol Hollier (University of Nottingham: she was the presenter), Annike Dase (Nottingham Academy) and  Neil Smyth. As it says in the abstract "University of Nottingham librarians created a pilot for an information literacy service targeting schools in the local community. The project’s aim was to transform a piecemeal array of school visits to our libraries into a consistent service delivered by librarians in collaboration with local schools, university faculties, and the Widening Participation Office."
A particular stimulus was the more competitive environment, with students having to pay more for their education in the UK etc., but it did also fit in with university aims to widen and promote access to its resources within the local community.

They already had visits to the library from schools, but it was very ad hoc and piecemeal. It also tended to be the more privileged schools. The librarians decided to have a more systematic programme, with an explicit agenda of widening participation. There was a lot of consultation, involving librarians and also some other staff such as academics and widening participation staff. They went beyond the university as well, to get an insight into what is going on in secondary schools.

There is a lot of variation between English schools, from schools where the qualified librarian is doing excellent things with full support from the school, to ones where there are "lunch ladies" minding the library. Whereas for IT skills and literacy there is careful progression through the primary and secondary schools, there is no such progression for IL.

The "Step into University Libraries" visits for local schools focus on library locations, because there are lots of places that books can be, and on finding a book in the catalogue. A bit more than half the time, visitors ask for an academic to be there (to e.g. give a talk in their subject area) as well as having a librarian there. The aim is for school students to go away with a positive experience, feeling they would be able to find a book. Then there are optional items for students, e.g. tailored to A level students or at pre-16 students.

Success factors have emerged as: that "visits and activities need to be timely and curriculum related"; and that they need to work closely with school leaders. One of the suggestions from the audience was also working with primary schools, which is also an interesting idea!

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