Primary page content

And Action….. Redressing BAME representation in academic libraries

 

It may come as a surprise to you that the UK library workforce identifies as 96.7% White*- this is compared to a UK population that identifies as 88% White.

It’s only in the last 2 years that SCONUL (Society of College, National and University Libraries) and CILIP (Chartered Institute for Librarians and Information Professionals), which are the library and information sector’s leading representative bodies in the UK, have worked with staff to establish networks that platform BAME voices and experiences – SCONUL’s BAME Staff Forum and CILIP’s BAME Network, both of which have Allies networks.

As with other areas across HE, libraries are hugely underrepresented by people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. This is true throughout the workforce but is most startling at the very top, with only 3 BAME library directors.  One of those 3 is Goldsmiths’ Library Director, Marilyn Clarke.

Recognising the enormous value, advantage, and creativity that diverse voices and experiences bring to all aspects of what we do, faced with this reality we had no choice but to become activists. So, at Goldsmiths library, as part of our Liberate our Library* initiative and EDI commitments we are being proactive and intentionally taking positive action to change our staff profile and contribute to a more diverse recruitment pipeline within the sector. One way that we are doing this is through our positive action BAME Graduate Traineeship. The role has been a long time coming! Finances and a global pandemic slowed us up, but we’re thrilled that we launched the inaugural traineeship this year.

The intention of the role is to have an annual opportunity for a BAME Graduate who has not necessarily had any experience but is interested in exploring a career in the Library and Information sector to do so. We have designed the role, so it allows the successful candidate the opportunity to experience library work across all its core functions. The idea being that they come away with broad ranging experience, the skills and knowledge necessary and hopefully, a desire to build a career in libraries.

We’re determined to make this the best grounding experience in library work that we can so, acknowledging that our BAME Graduate is in a unique role and is moving around teams, we’ve established a ‘Buddy’ scheme so that they can share their experiences, have support and a network to help them settle in. Gloria Ojosipe, our Library Administration Coordinator, is championing this.  She has a wealth of professional, Goldsmiths, and life experience, and is also an academic mentor.

We decided to offer our first traineeship to a Goldsmiths Graduate and are pleased to introduce Adil Rehman, who began working with us in September.

Adil has just finished studying English and History at Goldsmiths. He has always been interested in the humanities and had considered becoming an English teacher after his degree as he wants to experience living in different countries and thought teaching would be a good fit.

While studying Adil spent a lot of time in the Library and enjoyed being in the environment. When he was picking up some books with a friend in 2020 they had a conversation about how cool it would be to work in a library, but he didn’t think any more of it until he got a job alert from CareerSpace advertising the role and thought he’d go for it!

He says he had no particular expectations of what it was like to work in a library before starting, but has been surprised at how many staff there are and how many different things we do. As a student he used Reading lists and online   resources but had never really thought about how they get created and had only really considered books and the helpdesk as library work. Now that he has started. like the rest of us, his family and friends have been asking him if he spends all day reading books (we’d love to, but sadly we don’t).

Adil has been enjoying moving around the different teams, getting to know people and learning about different aspects of library work. He is looking forward to getting to know more about Special Collections, his appetite having been wetted after being shown the works of Charles Dickens*, which were published in monthly issues after Dickens’ death and sold on newsstands.

It’s early days for Adil and you will be hearing lots more from him throughout the year – but for now, welcome Adil – we’re delighted you’ve joined our team.

We’re incredibly excited about this role. We’re excited for Adil’s journey and for the opportunity to work with and learn from him. We’re also pleased that we’ve been able to create this as an annual BAME traineeship. This will allow us as a library to be more representative of the communities we serve and show our BAME students that there is a place for them in academic libraries, if they want it, which is incredibly important in student engagement, interaction, retention, and attainment.

 

Marilyn Clarke, Nuala McLaren & Adil Rehman

With thanks to Carl Dunford-Gent, Gloria Ojosipe, Careers, HR, and the Library Team

 

*https://www.cilip.org.uk/page/Workforcesurvey/ – ‘A Study of the UK Information workforce / CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and ARA (Archives and Records Association) commissioned report.

*https://www.gold.ac.uk/library/about/liberate-our-library/ – decolonising and diversifying collections and the profession.

* https://librarysearch.gold.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=44GOL_SYMPHONY191436&vid=44GOL_VU1&search_scope=Physical&tab=default_tab&lang=en_US&context=L

The works of Charles Dickens.

SEAL Programme, South East Action Learning

Hi everyone, I am Gloria the Library Administration Coordinator. This is my 23rd year working in the library. I was recommended by Marilyn Clarke, Director of Library Services, to apply for the 6-months, 1-day a month, SEAL programme (South East Action Learning), which I successfully gained admission to. I have chosen to share this post with you all because it’s an excellent opportunity for you, if you wish to learn more about Action Learning.

What is Action Learning

  • Action Learning is an approach to the development of people in organisations which takes the task as the vehicle for learning.
  • It is based on the principle that there is no learning without action and no clear understanding and careful decision making without learning.
  • It is also about promoting Courageous choice – helping people to take action that is meaningful for them, rather than directing people into a course of action that you think you would take in their shoes.

Coaching and action learning

  • This is a learned skill like any other – we are given the techniques and principles, but it’s up to us to apply it and practice it regularly (like learning to drive, teaching, writing, etc.).
  • It will feel awkward, uncomfortable and stressful at times, and you will not always do it perfectly, especially at first. But, the more you approach the challenge, the easier it becomes – especially under high pressure situations.

What are the benefits:

  • Learning a more ‘disciplined’ way of working.
  • Learning to network.
  • Learning to relate to, and communicate with others more effectively.
  • Gaining increased self-confidence.
  • Gaining increased awareness.

The method has three main components:

  • People who accept responsibility for taking action on a particular issue; problem, or the task that people set themselves;
  • A set of six or so colleagues who support and challenge each other to make progress on problems.
  • Action Learning implies both self-development and organisation development.

Finally

It was a wonderful opportunity and experience to meet such an inspiring, warm and diverse group of women to spend time with. What made our group of women special: communication, honesty and vulnerability, which allowed the group to trust, to grow and for bonds to strengthen.

The sessions were really interesting, hearing other members of staff’s reflections, and those from other groups. I am grateful for the positive learning environment, the SEAL programme provided. I had so much fun learning with the group, and our very patient and helpful facilitator Juliet Flynn. Thanks to all our participants.

I recommend the SEAL programme because there is a world of wealth to be gained.

For those of you in academic roles you might be interested in this recently published book: Coaching and Mentoring for Academic Development (2021), Guccione & Hutchinson, a good read for those wanting to find out more about coaching and mentoring specifically in academic contexts for people in various roles. It includes helpful coaching questions.

I have shared some slides which will enable you to understand the process of the SEAL programme.

2021: Year of REF (and some other things), or What’s an Assessment For?

 

 

REF 2021 was completed and submitted earlier this year, in March 2021. The assessment by the REF panels is underway now, with results expected to be announced in Spring 2022.  In the following Goldsmiths Library blog post, Fred Flagg, one of 3 REF Project Officers at Goldsmiths supporting REF 2021, reflects on this colossal undertaking and on the wider picture of rankings and assessments.

For the first Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), the named year (2014) was the year of the assessment and release of the results. The work of submission was done by the end of 2013 with the results released in December 2014 (with a submission date in late November 2013 and all of the submitted work had to be published before 2014).  For the second REF, 2021 will be both the year of submission and most of the assessment. The REF 2021 results are expected in approximately April 2022.  The deadline was postponed four months until March 31st and the Goldsmiths, University of London submission to REF 2021 was submitted on March 25th (announced and celebrated in a 9th April Goldsmiths all-staff email from David Oswell, Pro-Warden for Research, Enterprise & Knowledge Exchange and Jane Boggan, Research Excellence Manager; email summarised at https://goldmine.gold.ac.uk/AdviceInformation/Pages/REF-2021.aspx (Please note that this link is to an internal Goldsmiths intranet site which is not publicly available).

Many other things were on our minds over 2020 and 2021, and the global SARS-COV2/COVID-19 pandemic put an exercise like the Research Excellence Framework in a harsher light than before.  How do you weigh and prioritise an exercise to measure national research during a global pandemic? There were debates within the academic community throughout 2020 (example of a case for a longer postponement at LSE Impact blog here, and against further postponement at Wonkhe here).  The delay of four months was the biggest mitigation made by Research England, but there were others, mostly allowing for delays caused by the pandemic (REF links here and here).

National assessments like the REF have been accumulating somewhat since the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) was launched as part of the Office for Students in 2015/2016.  The first Knowledge Exchange Framework was completed and published to little fanfare on 1st March 2021 (see dashboard of results here).  Reviews of both the TEF and National Student Survey have already been released this year (with the Subject component of TEF definitively removed, and the NSS largely unchanged for now.  Science minister Amanda Solloway discussed the REF in an October 2020 speech, stating that the reforms following 2016 Stern Review didn’t go far enough and that Research England and its counterparts in Northern Ireland, Scotland & Wales will be starting “a plan for reforming the REF after the current exercise is complete.”

Along with these completed (and anticipated) national reviews, it is worth reflecting on the immense local undertaking REF 2021 has been at Goldsmiths.  Colleagues across all academic departments, in the Library and across Goldsmiths have completed a large amount of difficult work, in circumstances far more difficult than usual.  In the Library Online Research Collections team, as the team that looks after the open-access institutional repository Goldsmiths Research Online, we are responsible for the primary source of data on publications by Goldsmiths researchers.  We are currently reflecting on the work behind Goldsmiths’ REF 2021 with the goal of making the next submission as smooth as possible, whenever it rolls around.

Whatever happens with the national reviews and whatever we turn up in our local reflections, the open-access component of the next REF will follow the REF 2021 open access policy for the time being: any research published in a publication with an ISSN will be required to be made open-access within three months of the date of acceptance for publication (following publisher embargo periods as required).  The REF open-access policy is linked to UKRI’s open-access policy, so it is expected to change after UKRI releases the new version (expected ca. Summer 2021).  The UKRI OA policy consultation gives Research England and UKRI a deadline of “no later than six months after the UKRI policy is announced” for the release of the new REF policy.  As the UKRI policy will include a stronger open-access mandate, and is phasing in a new requirement for open-access for books and monographs, it is expected that the new REF policy will also include books and monographs eventually, but not expanding to include them until at least 2024.  This would be consistent with the current relationship between the RCUK (now UKRI) OA policy and the REF OA policy, with more strict open-access requirements for work funded by UKRI than for work submitted to the REF.

For anyone who is curious about a different format of research assessment, the Hidden REF is an alternative inspired by the REF that has recently closed (on 14th May) that plans to release its results in June.  For another thought-provoking take on metrics and assessment, Lizzie Gadd’s recent post at the LSE Impact blog extends the challenge of re-thinking research assessments even further, to considering the value and ethics of university rankings, with some constructive ideas for change included.  National assessments and rankings are not going away, and this observer suspects they are not likely to change drastically anytime soon either.  With all of the work, resources and employment invested in assessment, accreditation processes and rankings, it is still worth asking serious questions about them.

Fred Flagg

Guidance on making the most of the library’s eBook collection.

I’ve been working in my role as Acquisitions Assistant, at Goldsmiths Library, for 2 years now. Prior to starting this role, I assumed I had a reasonable understanding of what eBooks are, and how they compare to print books and other online resources offered by an academic library.

I soon realised that eBook publishing is complex and getting the most out of the hosting websites’ features, or identifying licensing restrictions, is not always straightforward. I’ve written this blog post and an eBook License Guide to highlight some of the things I’ve discovered.

The role of the eBook has never been as fundamental, to the support of learning and research, as it has been during the pandemic. Though it would be unfair to expect online resources to resolve all the issues that arose from library closures, and limited access to physical collections, there have been significant problems with eBook provision, that ought to be rectified.

One critical issue is the cost of eBooks, which has been well documented over the past year. If you haven’t already, please read and sign the open letter asking the UK Government to investigate the practices of the academic eBook publishing industry. Some publishers have chosen to increase eBook prices during the pandemic, or only offer key texts to libraries as part of expensive subscription packages.

It is clear that most academic libraries prefer to purchase permanent (aka perpetual) licenses for specific eBooks, rather than paying for packages, which may have a few key texts bundled in with less popular or relevant titles. Another inescapable problem is that many titles, particularly those published before the 21st century, have never been available as eBooks, and certain subject areas, such as art and design, offer limited availability for recent publications.

There is still a tremendous amount of content out there, and it is always worth checking the selection of open access eBooks, available free of charge, including the UCL Press collection. Goldsmiths’ students and staff also have access to eBooks via Senate House Library.

The Goldsmiths Library catalogue acts as a gateway to the available eBook collections, but the websites that host eBook content vary greatly in terms of layout, functionality and access restrictions. Some eBooks are laid out like print books, while others are viewed online as a continuous body of text.

You may have more experience of reading eBooks on an eReader, but academic eBooks are not always compatible with these devices. It may be necessary to download specific software and even then access to full eBook downloads are often time limited. More information on using the websites of the library’s main eBook providers, Proquest Ebook Central and VLeBooks can be found on the eBooks Libguide.

The eBooks available via these 2 providers, alongside EBSCO eBooks, will typically have some Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions, that may limit the number of users that can access a book at the same time, limit the loan length of a full download, or the percentage of the book that can be printed or copied.

Other websites, particularly those hosting content from university press publishers, offer fewer restrictions, and it is often possible to download the full eBook, in PDF format, to keep permanently. An excellent example of this is the Duke University Press collection, for which Goldsmiths Library offers access to all titles.

For reading list materials, it is always worth planning ahead as some eBooks, like their print siblings, will have limited availability at the times when they are most needed by other students on your course. Digitised versions of essential chapters may be available to download via the module’s online reading list. If your reading list specifies a chapter or section to read, it is also advisable to check if that part of the eBook can be downloaded, as a PDF, using the copy or print features on the hosting website.

For guidance on identifying the type of eBook license the library provides, and the restrictions of use, an eBook License Guide is now available on the library webpages. It can be a confusing and at times frustrating topic, so if you have any questions, or specific accessibility requirements, please get in touch with the library for additional support.

Nick Leigh

 

 

 

 

 

Are we doing your headings in yet?

This is the time to be asking. At Goldsmiths, we are getting serious about subject headings. How does the way we describe the books and e-resources you use affect YOU? Are we representing the people who produce and access our collections fairly? Could we do better?  

Students and staff at universities across the UK are criticising and debating library terminology, as part of a move to decolonise and diversify curricula and academic culture. This follows historic and revolutionary stirrings in college communities across the Atlantic, where real change and liberation from conventional-but-oppressive practices has already begun. 

As she departs, Cataloguing Assistant Karen Smith leaves us this short audio-visual presentation on alternative subject headings, and why we should all care about them.

How to Liberate the Library Catalogue (without waking the cat)

I joined the Goldsmiths Library team in January as a Cataloguing Assistant. Immediately I launched – like a leaking ship – into the bewildering new world of pandemic-induced working practices and a screen-shaped sea of colleagues’ miniature (and very lovely) faces. I’ve not set foot on the campus yet (as an employee; I was a shy but adoring English student at the start of the century) but I’m already impressed and excited by the Liberate our Library project, and this remote initiation has allowed me time to research the subject of Critical Librarianship #critlib (those trolleys bursting with uncatalogued books will have to wait, sorry).

Take a break, take a #critcat

In the name of professional development (and in order not to disturb the softly snoring cat on my lap), I took this free Decolonising Education Course on Future Learn, created by the University of Bristol. Through videos, articles and interviews it covered the history, theory and contemporary impact of colonialism in academia, but what I took away as a librarian was the message that decolonisation of the university is an ongoing and evolving process, which needs to be a rooted in the wider community. Even more importantly, it should be a collaborative effort, with input from staff, students and groups outside the university setting. The key message seems to be ‘thinking otherwise: outside of the categories, hierarchies and binaries of coloniality’ in favour of a more relational approach.

Who made the handy-but-boring-and-faintly-perplexing library record for the latest ebook / research paper / thesis / journal article you need anyway? Yes, I know they look like they are the lightly fevered dreams of machines (in many ways, they are) but they’re actually created by nerdy, book-loving, professionally-trained robots like me. And we’re always thinking about you, the reader, and how we can better unite you with the “best” information. The trouble is, we often need your input on what “best” looks like. And of course we need to think about how we can better enrich life in a broader ‘social justice’ sense too.

Results of a keyword search for ‘illegal aliens’ on Library Search

It’s too easy for ‘insiders’ not to notice how biased the system is. The 2019 documentary Changing the Subject highlighted the embedded racism and ‘othering’ in Library of Congress Subject Headings (many libraries around the world use these, including Goldsmiths). Students at Dartmouth College, with the support of their librarians, took their objections to ‘anti-immigrant’ language in their catalogue (specifically, the term ‘illegal aliens’) to the US policymakers and were met with a mixture of political assent and resistance.

But the appetite for progressive change only increases. And in libraries, everyday aspects of our work are falling under an ethical spotlight, including our cataloguing practices, for which there’s a new ‘code’. Through a critical approach to librarianship, we can consider how we can better represent a broader range of communities in the library’s collections, underpin the diversification of knowledge production at the university – sorry, pluriversity – and how far we might be able to achieve decolonisation of our library catalogue. One way we’re beginning to do this at Goldsmiths is with our Liberate! Zines collection.

But to really succeed in our project of liberation and decolonisation, we need your help. Current students or staff might like to join one of our Resistance Researching workshops to incorporate this critical approach into your own research, or suggest material for our LiberateMyDegree collection. And of course, if any person (non-robot) should notice anything offensive on our catalogue, while you’re looking for that book, please email us. Your library needs you!

So yes, there are already benefits arising from this time of great uncertainty and change. Time to reflect on how what we could do better is always valuable, but it feels like librarians and library users at are at an important crossroads together right now; one that dovetails with the burgeoning academic (and wider social) movement towards decolonisation. Ever heard of Critical Cataloguing #critcat before? Didn’t think so. But perhaps it’s not as irrelevant as you think, after all.

Written by Karen Smith, Cataloguing Assistant

 

We’re Back! Reintroducing on campus Library Services

 

When we say we’re back, we were never really away.

As with the whole of campus, and shops and businesses across the country, we closed our Library building on 23 March but throughout the whole of lockdown our extensive digital library, including 228 databases, over 40,000 e-books and over 12,000 online journals, has been available.

More importantly, our amazing staff have been available on live chat, email and for one-to-one teaching and appointments 7 days a week to support your learning, teaching and research.

We will continue to work hard providing the high-quality Library Services you expect remotely, but we also have plans to reintroduce access to our physical stock, study spaces and computers, which we necessarily couldn’t access during lockdown, but we know you have missed.

Planning for reopening

For several months now we have been planning for a phased reopening of our building and reintroduction of physical services.

It has proved to be a complex operation involving many people contributing to preparing the building, assessing risks, configuring new systems and adapting our services and ways of working into a new covid-safe shape.

Working together with Library staff, staff from across the library and HE sectors and our colleagues from Estates, Security, IT&IS, Communications, Student Support, Student Engagement and people across Goldsmiths we are now delighted to be able to gradually reintroduce services and welcome you back to the building.

How the Library will look in the Autumn Term

When you visit us you will notice that there are lots of changes to how the library looks. Some of the things you will notice are spaced out study desks, sneeze screens and lots of signage explaining social distancing and seating arrangements.

The safety of our staff and library users has been central to all of our planning, so when you are visiting us on campus we expect you to follow college guidance including wearing a face covering and practicing social distancing. You can find out more about measures we have put in place to help keep everyone safe on our Library Guide.

How you can access the Library in the Autumn Term

With all our safety and social distancing measures in place using the library to borrow and return items, to study or to use a computer will look a little different in the Autumn Term.

For borrowing books, we have now introduced a Click and Collect service so that you can access collections that aren’t available digitally. You are also able to return books to us in the Library lobby, by post or with our security colleagues.

To use a computer or study at the Library we will be introducing Bookable Study Spaces in the week commencing 21 September and do get in touch if you have questions about accessing our Special Collections and Archives.  We need to ask people to book to use the library in advance rather than just turning up and walking in because of social distancing and also because we are required to comply with NHS Test and Trace.

You can find out more details about how you will be able to access the library on campus and what you can expect from the new services and arrangements by visiting our Library Guide.

Photograph of Marilyn Clarke

Some more changes

Alongside delivering our remote service, planning for reopening and doing lots of other work to support learning, teaching and research activities we have had some changes to our teams over the summer.

We have a new Director, a realigned library management team and we are also delighted to introduce the newly re-configured Library Academic Support Team (AST).

The AST encompasses skilled and experienced librarians, study skills professionals, the Royal Literary Fellows, and our administrator. The team are dedicated to working together to offer an impactful, blended model of academic support and skills provision to enhance the student experience and support you.

The team offer one-to-one tutorials, workshops and lots of specialist knowledge to help you get a head start on your learning. You can book one-to-one

tutorials with our Subject Librarians to help you make the most of library resources or with our Study Skills Tutors  to help you improve your study skills, research skills and academic writing.

You can also meet one of our Royal Literary Fellows who are professional, published authors whose role is to help you strengthen your writing. Bookings can be made by emailing:

Mondays: dyan.sheldon@rlfeducation.org.uk

Tues & Weds: marianne.kavanagh@rlfeducation.org.uk

Thurs & Fri: rachel.seiffert@rlfeducation.org.uk

Keeping up to date and feeding back

As with everything in the ‘new normal’ we will be revising and adapting our access to the library and services as things change and progress. To keep up to date with any changes keep checking our Library Guide and we welcome feedback on our live chat and email.