Looking back over the last year of service in the Education Library it genuinely seems amazing that we’ve got through it all! Between staffing problems and strikes and Covid (oh my!) it’s been a genuine adventure figuring out how to put the pieces together to provide a professional, approachable service for the Education Faculty.
We wanted to take a look back at some of the challenges we have faced over the last year, when essentially we have provided an embedded service for half the year in person, and half the year online, with some of the feedback we’ve received this year along the way.
Half in person…
“You guys have been real life savers throughout the year and the library has been the perfect little bubble in which to focus on my studies.” – PGCE student
Reading Lists: The Education Library supports seven different programmes within the Faculty, each with multiple courses, and a big part of this is the summer work in organising reading lists for the coming year. Starting at the end of June, the Library Team researches, updates and creates over 100 reading lists from across the Faculty for the coming academic year. Unlike most faculties, our Michaelmas Term starts in early September with the incoming PGCE Teacher Trainer cohort of over 300 students.
“…an exemplar of an inclusive approach…” – Head of DRC
In order to make material accessible to every student, whether they are full-time, part-time or studying at a distance, for several years the Library Team has worked closely with academics to ensure that nearly all core readings are accessible electronically — a practice which has proved invaluable during the pandemic. However, the start of 2019-2020 had a few additional piquancies. Changes in the library catalogue meant that many of the thousands of entries in the reading lists had to be changed again AND 1/3 of the Library Team went on maternity leave with uncertainties over cover for their positions! Meaning we started the year with a big question mark around what services we could provide at all.
“I think you (and your colleagues) are doing an amazing job. Many thanks for your time and the care you are taking over [organising reading lists]! Good luck with the other 100 lists!” – Academic staff
New Staff: Luckily, the two positions were filled, and we were able to start the year with a full team! It meant that 1/3 of us were getting trained/up to speed during Michaelmas–the busiest term of the year–but with a lot of long hours and dedication from the entire team we were able to provide a seamless service to our staff and students.
“Just wanted to note how much we appreciate the positive and supportive attitude of the Faculty of Education library staff. I’ve never found its equal anywhere.” – PhD student
Teaching and Inductions: The Library Team were kept busy throughout our time in the Faculty this year, leading over 60 group teaching sessions for students! In addition, we conducted at least another 65 follow-up 1-2-1 appointments with both academic staff and students on referencing and literature searching through our range of resources. Our offer of individual support continues even at a distance, adapting our 1-2-1 in-person service to digital sessions.
“Thank you so very much for the session this afternoon. It was fabulously useful. I’ve been wondering around since with the “I WISH I HAD KNOWN THAT FOR MY MASTERS!’ feeling. […] Thank you. It’s made such a difference to my approach to my subject already.” – EdD student
“Once more, the Education Library have shown what a brilliant service they are. Their rapid shift to many more on-line sources and resources has enabled our students the kind of access they need to produce outstanding work. Thank you Education Library Team from the Faculty of Education!” – Professor Susan Robertson, Head of Faculty
Closing the Library: Between the union strikes during the year and the pandemic, it feels like even for our full-time students we have been running a distance service for at least half the year. Updating our “Digital Library” through the Moodle Site was vital as all of our students became distance learners! We have changed resources and recommendations to re-centre on online resources, expanding our LibGuides and creating new sections to specifically support different forms of dissertations, research methods, as well as online teaching & learning during lockdown.
“…library resources, information and guidance into the very centre of the Faculty’s presence in Moodle…with specific sections for the courses and then generic sections for research, literature review and other guidance.” – Teaching & Learning Systems Team Leader UIS
Needless to say, our distance requests for support have been higher than ever!
“I really don’t know what I would do without you. I am so bad at referencing but you have been a wonderful teacher . Thank you so much!!” – MPhil student
Ebook purchases: In the past year the Library Team received over 700 requests to purchase new material from staff and students! Nearly 400 of these requests were ultimately purchased as ebooks, and added to our Online Education Library. The Online Library has been something the Team has been building and organising for years to support distance and part-time students, but has been an invaluable resource while we plan for teaching to be conducted online.
“This is a brilliantly helpful initiative!” – Head of the Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning
During the past 4 months we have continued to use our specialised subject knowledge to assess purchase requests for new material in Education on behalf of our Faculty and the University Library — to find the best and most relevant titles for purchase where possible, and researching and recommending similar resources when not. A lot of staff hours and professional expertise goes into expanding our Online Library with high-quality resources, making it easy to use whatever course or research our Faculty members are engaged in.
“Thanks so much for all the support you have provided us students in this time. The ebooks list is absolutely fantastic!” – PhD student
Emails & LibChat: The Library Team email has never exactly been a quiet place. But losing one team member leaving just before lockdown, and the move to providing an entirely online service, it seems to have kept us on our toes more than ever before. In the past week alone we’ve responded to over 200 emails (and this has been a relatively quiet week)! During lockdown, we have also launched a trial of the LibAnswers App, LibChat. We have had incredibly positive responses from staff and students on both services, and it has certainly been a way to continue maintaining our drop-in service for the Faculty community while we are all working remotely. It’s again through the long-hours and dedication of our team that we have helped our Faculty keep pace with the demand of their learning and research over the last months.
‘Thank you for all of your lovely emails during this challenging time. Thank you again for all your support throughout my three years here. I was very much looking forward to the afternoon cake parties in Easter term and I will treasure the memories I have of the library.” – Undergraduate student
Coming full circle….
‘Thank you again for your amazing support so far. You have been so helpful with all my requests. We are really lucky at the Edu Faculty to have you as our librarians!’ – PhD student
It’s that time again where we are receiving new reading lists every week for the coming year. The team is hard at work sourcing new and existing online resources to support full learning online, which for us begins in September, not to mention the volume of queries from graduate students getting ready to hand in!
Funnily enough, we are yet again facing staff insecurities going into the new academic year, this time with the possibility of operating our service with only half the team. It’s a prospect we’re not looking forward to — not only because we may lose some wonderful colleagues who have been invaluable in supporting Faculty students, staff and researchers throughout 2019-20 — but because sadly we will have to rationalise the services we currently provide to over 1,000 students, and more than 100 academic and research staff and which are so highly valued by our Faculty.
‘The Education Faculty Library provides an excellent service and facilitates the study experiences of all of its students and staff members. Having completed my undergraduate, PGCE and currently my MEd at the Faculty, I can’t but emphasise the importance of having a library and a library team that provide high-quality and specialised services. […] I think the Education Faculty stands out among the Cambridge libraries due to the quality of support given to all students and the wonderful team that always goes the extra mile to make learning an enjoyable and high-quality experience for all.’ – MEd Student