Academic libraries after the Browne Review

The actual M25 (obviously!) - via Bob McCaffrey on Flickr

I should probably have blogged more about CPD25 over the past couple of months since I started getting involved in one of the task groups.  It’s one of those things I keep meaning to blog about, things keep distracting me.  Well, yesterday I delivered my first presentation for many years at a CPD25 event so now is as good a time as any.

CPD25 is, essentially, the training arm for the M25 consortium of academic libraries.  There are a number of task groups which are each responsible for a different aspect of academic libraries.  The group I am involved in, Task Group 3, is concerned with Operational Management – covering a broad range of activities including digitisation, use of social networking and, in the case of yesterday’s event, the impact of the Browne review on academic libraries.

In the lead up to the event, I was asked by one of the organisers if I would like to talk about Voices for the Library.  Normally I leave public speaking at these events to others involved in the campaign (I am far happier pottering around in the background…causing havoc mainly), but I thought this would be a great experience for me and, as I live relatively close to London, I thought I should take on presentation duties for a change.

The event itself was fascinating.  There were speakers from a range of different libraries, including one from a private university, BPP (who, it seems, appear to be embarking on some aggressive expansion).  Having not encountered a private University library before, I was quite interested to hear what their situation was and how they saw the future post-Browne (I fear that phrase will be used a lot in the future).  It seems there are few differences between ‘them’ and ‘us’, it just seems as though they are better prepared for the ‘customer orientated’ future that we are all facing.

We also heard from Goldsmith’s College and in particular how they dealt with the student occupation before Christmas.  Without getting into the politics of the occupation, it was hard not to feel sorry for the staff who had to deal with what must have been a very difficult situation.  It was interesting to see how they relied on social media to keep up to speed with what the students were planning (chalk another one up for social media).  It was certainly interesting to hear how the occupation was handled and what lessons were learnt for next time (and I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of student occupations).

After the first two talks there was a break out session which enabled the attendees to discuss what is happening in their universities and what they felt the future held.  The common theme emerging from all these discussions could probably best be summed up by the words ‘uncertain’ and ‘challenging’.  I don’t think we will have a clear idea on what the future holds until a year down the line when, hopefully, things will become clearer.  It was certainly interesting to hear from representatives of various institutions about the kinds of challenges that they were having to face – and I think it proved helpful for those in the process of change to hear about similar challenges in other universities.

After lunch we then heard from two representatives from UEL who talked about their inspiring New Beginnings programme.  The one thing I will take away from this more than any other was the story of a current PhD student who left school with no qualifications, took a chance on the NB scheme at UEL and gained the confidence to obtain a degree at the institution before embarking on their PhD. Really amazing stuff that underlines the importance of the libraries and trained librarians in universities.

The presentation before last was a Prezi on the re-structuring that had taken place at the University of Sussex.  Sometimes I am a bit ‘meh’ about Prezis (there’s a temptation to ‘show off’ what they are capable of, which is a little distracting), but this one was simple and not too ‘showy’.  Yep, all the Prezi lovers are going to have a pop at me for those comments I’m sure.

Finally came my presentation.  I won’t talk about it too much as you can view it yourself below.  I will say, however, that I was glad to have been given the opportunity to talk about the campaign.  I haven’t delivered a presentation or stood in front of an audience since me days on a PGCE programme many, many years ago.  Fortunately I was not presenting before a classroom of teenage boys so, despite some initial reservations, I was fairly confident that the crowd wouldn’t turn nasty (yeah, I used that ‘gag’ at the start of my presentation too…shoot me please).  I was also fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to dish out the business cards I had printed out a while back, hopefully a few people will check us out now they know where to find us.  Now I have got one presentation under my belt, maybe I’ll do a few more.  Although maybe I am not quite ready for Prezi just yet.

A copy of the script is also available.

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