The Northern Collaboration Conference

Being Digital: Opportunities for Collaboration in Academic Libraries

Leeds Beckett University, Thursday, 10th September 2015

I received a sponsored place through The Northern Collaboration to attend this conference.

The Northern Collaboration, which was formed in 2011, is a group of 25 HE libraries in the North of England. The Collaboration’s aims are to improve the quality of services within our libraries and be more efficient by, as their website states, exploring “new business models against a backdrop of rapid change in higher education and in the information and technology industries”. The yearly conference, which rotates and changes theme each year, is part of this exchange and promotion of ideas

The conference took place in the Rose Bowl, which is a gorgeous building I’ve never seen the inside of, so it was nice to be able to have a nosy. With several parallel sessions, a sponsors quiz (that I won! £20 book voucher which is very welcome) and two keynotes squeezed in to a seven hour day this was an intense but useful one day conference that also made a great start for the new term.

Here are my highlights from the day

Nick Sheppard, Leeds Beckett @BeckettResearch

I’ve seen ‘altmetrics’ float around for the past year without really taking the time out to properly understand it or how it works, so Nick’s talk was incredibly useful for me. He clearly explained where alternative metrics come from, what they can mean for you as a training provider (ie which Schools like need a little bit of support in using social media/which Schools are being talked about in blogs a lot and therefore should be mentioning this more). He also showed how using altmetrics to see exactly who had been looking at and sharing research articles from the repository allowed him to curate a Twitter account for the research support at the university. I got a lot of ideas for how to promote our institutional repository better through this presentation (although I have to say altmetrics does seem a little bit like another arbitrary way of using otherwise seemingly abstract numerical statistics to measure impact without first taking into account the cultural or practical differences between the research output/format of the differing sectors or academic fields, the same as regular metrics).

Partnership Working with the Students as Researcher Project, Teeside University

I think the Student Researcher Project from Teeside is a brilliant offer, one that, had I my time again, I would definitely have applied for

The library put a bid in to do some UX ethnographic student-led research within the library look at how students themselves research. Although the sample of the final research was small, it did show some interesting results-mostly surrounding the requirements for instant support, and the assumption that every member of the University staff should be able to offer instant support-from librarians to lecturers, and panic when this support is unavailable. The suggestions that came out of the research included library staff being advocates for information skills with drop in sessions throughout the terms, and that one-to-one tutorials should be self-booking (in a similar way to room booking software?). This last one I think in principal is a brilliant idea-however my calendar changes from week to week so unless you had it pre-scheduled and maybe less subject-specific then it would not be sustainable. I think one thing we could do more of is promote a presence at the enquiry desk, or just enquiry help as being something we still do!

Information Literacy Online, Newcastle University

I was VERY impressed with the website showcased here, that came out of a need to have materials that visiting schools and sixth form groups could use externally, in order to lessen the pressures of the numbers of visits that Newcastle University Library was seeing. Obviously this is good advertising for the Uni, but it covers HE libraries in general and the information skills needed to search and find information in most libraries and database situations. It includes games and videos, all of which are optional and cater for a multitudes of learning preferences, and all look very swish-despite being created on a limited budget.

The design was done in partnership with local colleges looking at what wanting, with some of the graphics being bought in. A range on in-class games, such as ‘Top Trumps’ style sources games also reflect the branding, along with very cute fluffy penguins. I’ve seen a lot of libraries incorporate gamification and online learning, but it is rare to see the branding lead and be so on point throughout.

And like all good conferences I came away with a HUGE list of ‘Stuff to Google Later’, which I will now crack on with!

Thank you to the Northern Collaboration for the opportunity to attend the conference, and, once again, for the £20 book token!


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