Monday this week marked the occasion of two exciting ‘firsts’ for me: my first LibTeachMeet and my first attempt to live-tweet something. Two words of warning before I get started, I’m going to bravely attempt to write up my memories of the whole event so this might turn into a mammoth post…and there will be many mentions of the amazing cake.
For those who aren’t aware, a LibTeachMeets are an informal way for library and information professionals to share ideas, experiences and skills, whilst sampling [gorging themselves on] cake. I’d first heard about the concept from someone on a visit to Oxford and jumped at the opportunity to become ‘an enthusiastic audience member’ when I heard about this year’s London event.
The topic was Supporting Diverse Learners and to kick off the evening was a nice little networking activity showing the diversity of the attendants, making us talk about how we differed and what things we had in common. Then it was down to the real business of the night, a mixture of 5- and 2-minute speakers from a range of backgrounds:
Sue Merrick: Curating with students and teachers
Sue works in an international school library and spoke about using websites to guide students through project work and actually used one of the websites she recommends – Jog the web – for her presentation. It was a great whizz through online resources, some of which I’d heard of, like Scoop it, and others which were completely new to me, like Symbaloo.
Ka-Ming Pang (presenting on behalf of Carly Miller): How can public libraries engage with homeless people through outreach activity?
This talk explored the issues that homeless people face and how public libraries can provide support for them through access to computers, bibliotherapy, literacy training and providing free study spaces. There are barriers in some public libraries, such as needing a permanent address to borrow, or even use the IT facilities, but the Quaker Mobile Library was an innovative case study of how a library service can operate without excluding homeless users.
Adam Edwards: A game to teach less confident speakers about resources
The best way to tell us about the game that Adam thought up to improve literacy skills was to get us all to do a ‘speed-version’ of it. Groups of 4 were given mixed up sets of laminated cards, one set had the names of resources (e.g. non-fiction book, journal, website) and others had descriptions of them and what you might find in each. The game was very engaging and you could see how it was a great way to get everyone involved and thinking about the types of resources out there.
Kate Lomax: Teaching technical skills to non-technical types
Kate spoke about how library staff could learn technical skills and how the usual barriers to using e-learning where a lack of collaboration or understanding about how or why you need training. She gave cpd23 and the Code Year programme as examples of successful tools for learning technical skills, due to the community that has formed around them, providing support and feedback. Kate had an interesting suggestion that we need 23 more things for cpd with a more technie focus. (I’ll need to get this 23 done first!)
Anne Pietsch: Engaging diverse learners through audio technologies
Having learnt a bit about audio technologies when I visited the library at the RNIB, I was really interested in Anne’s talk. She spoke about the potential for using things like voice recognition software and text-to-speech for all students, not just those with physical or learning disabilities. Since everyone has different ways in which they best learn and work, it’s great to raise awareness about technologies like these.
Barbara Band: Start at the beginning – differentiated uses of covers and starts
I loved Barbara’s talk about the activities she uses to improve the levels of literacy and interest in younger pupils at secondary school and it really put some ideas in my head about wanting to work in a school library. Barbara scans a variety of book covers and prints them onto card to give out to groups (less intimidating than presenting them with a pile of books) and asks them to match the genres to the covers. She can vary the difficulty but asking them to assign more than one genre or giving them tricky covers to suss out. Another activity involved typing up the first page or paragraph (type instead of scan so you can choose where to end it, preferably on a cliffhanger!) and ask them to pick their favourite and explain why they think it’s good.
Suzanne Rush: Cultural awareness
Suzanne showed us an activity that she’s used to help front-line library staff working in a university with a high percentage of international students. Members of the audience were given one of three sets of cards which told them which planet they were from and their traditional greeting. They then had to go round the group, greeting everyone and finding other people from their planet. After a few moments of silliness and LOTS of handshaking, they were asked how the activity made them feel. The response was that it made them feel awkward and isolated, but then relief when they found someone from their ‘planet’. It was a really interesting method of helping counter staff empathise with international students.
Alison Chojna: Skills Days
This talk really got me excited (you can tell by the amount I tried to tweet during it) and I’d love to be able to take the ideas back to my library. Alison told us about the Skills Days that London South Bank University has started holding on topics such as referencing, searching techniques and plagiarism. Faced with issues of timetabling and non-attendance for skills training, they came up with the solution of holding all-day drop-in sessions with workbooks on the various topics for students to work through, ask for help when they needed it and take it away when they left. The monthly skills days were a success and the attendance numbers that Alison mentioned were pretty impressive. Although printing and staffing for the events were an issue, they were outweighed by the benefits that students gained by being able to see people face-to-face and take material away with them.
Julia Abell: Search preparation – reaching mixed users
Julia spoke about how information professionals can support a variety of users with limited searching skills with their research. She stressed how important it was to have a search strategy, regardless of the level/experience of the student, and that students could not restrict themselves to one medium any longer, they had to use all the resources available to them.
Phew, it’s fantastic how much information all the speakers got across in the limited time they had and I came away from the event absolutely buzzing with excitement and ideas. Overall there was a really welcoming, informal and positive feeling to the evening and there was a great variety of speakers. It was one of the most informative and interesting events that I’ve been to and I’ll certainly be looking forward to next years LibTeachMeet.
Finally, I’d like to thank the organisers: the event was extremely well run and the cakes and snacks there were amazing! I think I overdid it on the beautiful lemon cake during the break half-way through but it was completely worth it! More details on the talks should be added to the London LibTeachMeet website sometime soon.