Developing supportive spaces for researcher communities #researchspaces

The Vitae day on spaces for researchers was a really interesting event. The morning was spent hearing about the Hive at Sussex. This is a dedicated researcher space and one of the things it helped me understand is that it isn’t so much the space itself but what you do with it and the people involved in it. The Hive is swipe card access (swipe card access seems to be very important for these researcher spaces as it gives control and exclusivity) but otherwise is a fairly simple space with sofas, computers and laptop spaces. On the surface it doesn’t seem like anything special but the community that has built up around it, in no small part due the partnership with Sage, seems like a vital part of the researcher’s experience.

Sussex is working in partnership with Sage (who apparently want to adopt more universities …). Sussex get funding for things like the Hive Scholars and Sage in return get the opportunity for feedback from researchers far richer than anything they could get from surveys and other traditional research methods.

The Hive scholars are three researcher’s who receive a bursary for 6 hours work a week. They all work on things to promote the hive, utilising social media to great effect. Something they said echoed with what we did at Cass – using a variety of methods that interlink to get maximum liaison opportunities. The scholars reported how the Hive enriched the research community by providing a hub which allowed informal social events as well as more formal events to take place. These events then meant people who may have been doing similar research in different departments met and exchanged ideas. It is easy for researchers to be silo-ed but the library is a centre for all of them and therefore a sensible place for these hubs to be located.

A couple of great ideas they had were Shut up and write! (re


searchers meet in a cafe, have a chat then concentrate for a set period of time and then have another break) and advice written on the glass walls by more experienced researchers for new ones at the welcome event including “Read A lot”.

2012-12-13 12.55.572012-12-13 12.56.15


In the afternoon session we had a talk by Dawn Duke, Researcher Training and Development Officer, about the SPLASH area at Surrey and writing boot camps they set up to encourage researchers. One was a full on boot camp with people telling people off for not working and things, this was for full time Phd students because they identified a big problem with procrastination and that it usually had a cause. The bootcamp helped people identify causes, suppo

Finally we heard from Fiona Colligan, Warwick Research Exchange about how Warwick has introduced somethin

g akin to online dating for researchers called Research Match this built on similar set ups to the

Hive but has broken into some groups which didn’t interact so much with the physical space for examrt each other and break through the procrastination problem in spaces that suited them so if they needed quiet that was available but if they wanted to collaborate that was available. Surrey also identified a few issues about completion so they organised a retreat for part-time and distance students. This was more relaxed than the bootcamp. One thing the library did was source a collection of thesis so students who may not have seen a UK thesis before were able to see what this was. Two senior academics also stayed at the retreat for the whole weekend (students stayed on site for the weekend).

ple people in the hard sciences who have their own networks in labs etc but they have signed up to research match in large numbers. This sort of innovation really seems to come out of physical spaces.

By the end of the day I really felt encouraged to think beyond physical spaces for ideas that the library can be central to in the support of the researchers but also confirmed that a physical space dedicated to researchers, ideally controlled by swipe card, is a worthwhile idea but needs to be part of something bigger in terms of collaboration and student involvement. A room with a sofa and computers labelled “researcher’s space” isn’t enough.

I have stroyfied some of the tweets from the day below:

  1. Vitae_SE_Hub
    Hearing about the Sussex Hive, Surrey’s SPLASH and

    the Warwick Research Exchange. #researchspace

  2. sussexreshive
    The hive scholars are presenting at the ‘developing supportive spaces for research communities’ event in the library today #researchspace
  3. sussexreshive
    Looking forward to sharing our experiences as scholars and hearing about how other libraries support researchers #researchspace
  4. melon_h
    Really interesting to here from Joanna Ball about collaboration with SAGE over the Hive #researchspace
  5. sussexreshive
    Now hearing from Patrick Brindle from SAGE about how they benefit from their relationship with the Hive. #researchspace
  6. sussexreshive
    Patrick brindle: open access could potentially change everything for publishers #researchspace
  7. melon_h
    Patrick Brindle from Sage now talking about what the Hive does for SAGE #researchspace
  8. robwannerton
    Really interesting analogy of 92 Election on where information is being drawn from to make decisions in publishing #researchspace
  9. sussexreshive
    Patrick Brindle: a more meaningful relationship with researchers through the hive that gives better insight than surveys #researchspace
  10. melon_h
    value of Hive means that Sage don’t rely on polls and get deeper relationship and understanding with library and researchers #researchspace
  11. melon_h
    Really interesting hearing the hive scholars discussing the importance of networking as part of he Hive #researchspace
  12. joanna_ball
    Welcome event in @sussexreshive : five things I wish I’d known in my first year as a doctoral student #researchspace
  13. joanna_ball
    Hive Scholars: Shut up and Write events provide opportunity for researchers at all levels to share experiences. #researchspace
  14. BrindlePatrick
    Really like Sussex Hive #researchspace idea of ‘Shut Up and Write!’ sessions for @phd students overcoming writer’s block.
  15. sussexreshive
    Took participants on tours over lunch, people seem inspired by hive as both space and community #researchspace
  16. sussexreshive
    Now hearing from SPLASH at university of surrey – they offer intensive writing courses for researchers #researchspace
  17. sussexreshive
    SPLASH publication boot camp – 1 week from notes to first draft with ‘drill sergeants’ stopping procrastination and advising #researchspace
  18. sussexreshive
    This meant that researchers could talk through problems as thy arose. Supporting creative process of writing #researchspace
  19. sussexreshive
    This is inspiring, I want to go to a publication boot camp! #researchspace
  20. sussexreshive
    SPLASH at Surrey also ran a thesis writing retreat over a weekend aimed at part timers struggling to complete #researchspace
  21. sussexreshive
    They made a collection of 75 theses available at the retreat to give people a better idea of completion – this is so useful #researchspace
  22. sussexreshive
    The retreat gave the feeling of being ‘locked up’, short 15 min training sessions, one on one advice and a social function #researchspace
  23. sussexreshive
    Procrastination is never just procrastination – underlying cause #researchspace
  24. sussexreshive
    There were 900 research led events in the research exchange at Warwick in 2011-2012 !!! #researchspace
  25. sussexreshive
    How can a space facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration amongst researchers? #researchspace
  26. sussexreshive
    Warwick run an online ‘research match’ service matching research interests for collaboration. Amazing. #researchspace
  27. sussexreshive
    This has allowed new research networks and collaborations to emerge #researchspace
  28. BrindlePatrick
    RT @sussexreshive: Warwick run an online ‘research match’ service matching research interests for collaboration. Amazing. #researchspace
  29. pretty_curious
    Effective use of PGR ambassadors also works well to create community and peer support #researchspace
  30. pretty_curious
    But possibly you need some dedicated space to provide focus for events and study space that appeals to researchers #researchspace
  31. sussexreshive
    Great day, loads to think about and lots of ideas for future events and collaborations #researchspace

Library Day in the Life – 6 Introduction.

My name is Helen Westwood and I am the subject librarian for Cass Business School. I only started this job in December but am really enjoying it! My previous role was establishing the LRC at INTO London.

This week (or at least the first 3 days of it) I am going to take part in the Library Day in the Life project for the first time (I’m hoping it will kick start me blogging here!). The idea came from Librarian by day and gives librarians a chance to document what they do. There is a twitter hastag if you want to follow on twitter #libday6 and Flickr, you tube and other blogs will be tagged with something like: librarydayinthelife

The wiki with a list of who’s taking part and links to their blogs etc is a good place to see the variety of librarians.

I’ll only be doing it until Wednesday as on Thursday I am having jaw surgery and won’t be doing much librarian-ing.

Library Routes Project

This is a post for the Library Routes Project which was started in October 2009 for Information Professionals to share their route to the profession.

My roots and my route

Ever since I was tiny I have used libraries and been a fan of them. When I was really small my choice of reading was somewhat narrow – I’d hand the books in on the way in, walk round the counter to where the returned books were and get the same books out! Luckily I eventually appreciated the range of books on offer.

My future as a librarian was probably foretold by the fact I used to set my books up as a library, stamping them and sticking coloured labels on them. However I must confess now it was a future I tried very hard to avoid.

When I was at school I said I wanted work experience as a journalist because I liked writing. This apparently translated into work experience as a librarian in one of the local branch libraries. It did not spark a great love for the profession as the library was deadly quiet and still had a card catalogue (this would have been about 1993), my main memories are of a very dull period where the days dragged on forever.

One of my biggest interests is family history and so I decided to do a library degree with a view to becoming an archivist.

And here’s another confession … I avoided all modules on my degree with the word library in them. Little did I realise this would actually provide me with the skills needed in modern academic librarianship.

When I graduated I took a bit of time out and visited family in Australia on my return there was an advert in the local paper for a part-time Assistant Librarian at the local university library. I applied and was lucky enough to be appointed.

This was perfect, I realised that my heart really did lie in libraries while still supplementing my income working at the local zoo.

When the opportunity for a full-time job came up I applied, despite the fact it seemed like a job slightly beyond my experience but the panel saw something in me and seven and a half years later I am still an Information Adviser working with the School of Health.

I love my job, I love the people I meet, liaison with academic staff, being part of the course development teams, the freedom to try new ideas and be at the forefront of initiatives. We have been very lucky in that we are left to dictate our own work which provides freedom. Teaching has become a large part of my job and I enjoy trying new things. I have worked tirelessly to develop inductions targeted at the level of students and needs of different types of courses.

As a multi-site university the opportunity to share ideas with different librarians is also wonderful.

However I am now ready to spread my wings and try new opportunities. I’d like to move towards library management, which would use the skills I have from running my own business (I ran a bookshop for 3 years – running your own business gives you management skills beyond the libraries which I hope gives me a unique profile.)

I never thought when I started my course I would actually be proud to say I am a librarian but proud I am. It is a great profession which sometimes goes unappreciated but which is vital to the success of any institution.  I hope others find their way to it and get as much from it as I do. We need enthusiastic newcomers!

Quiet Please … article in Times Higher from 5th November

I was just perusing the Times Higher website when I came across this article:

It reflects a growing concern in libraries (as previously mentioned), balancing the quiet spaces that many users enjoy using with the needs of modern social spaces other users require.

It is interesting to read the opinion of an academic when the majority of libraries focus on student needs for study rather than the academic staff. The content of libraries serves both but the buildings themselves are usually student focussed.

Certainly this is going to be an issue for years to come.

Teaching in Higher Education

Today I have been taking part in the Teaching in Higher Education short course at university. It’s been a really interesting day, sharing ideas with people who are teaching all over the university in a variety of departments.
Today we mainly focussed on planning and discussing ways of dealing with different situations.
I can’t wait to apply some of what I have learnt to inductions and training. It wouldn’t be a bad exercise to produce aims and learning outcomes for the various things we do. It would be a far better use of our time than faffing with screenshots!
I’m hoping this will all help to inform my National Teaching Fellowship.

College of Occupational Therapists

Last Wednesday I attended the first College of Occupational Therapists (COT) library day. This was a chance to meet 11 other librarians who support Occupational Therapy and hear about what the Occupational Therapists do to support our students.

It seemed we were all agreed that OT students are very rewarding to work with. They make use of the libraries and are grateful for the help you give.

It was also good to meet other librarians too, it’s so easy to get caught up in the day in day out part of the job but getting out and meeting people who are experiencing the same things and sharing ideas is invaluable. It also made me feel very fortunate to work for a university which is forward looking and supportive of libraries.

The major thing I hope will come out of the day is an ongoing peer group where we can share helpsheets, learning materials and other advice.

Part of the day was spent discussing Information Literacy and the best way of supporting it. One group discussed definitions of IL and agreed the CILIP definition from 2003 was the best:

Information literacy is knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner. (

My group discussed how we can help students to develop information literacy skills. We agreed one thing that is needed is for students to be able to get all their infomation in the same place, they don’t need to know the library does one thing while Student Services does another. I am proud to say at Brighton we do this already!

It was also agreed it needed to come in a variety of formats from hands on sessions to workbooks and online tutorials.

It was lovely to meet the team from the COT library. They are so helpful and the resources are great.

Welcome to the wonderful world of libraries …

These have been a turbulent few months at my library which have made me reflect a lot on my profession and my future as a librarian but in a week a new dawn is coming which we hope will bring calmer waters.

I love being a librarian. I believe libraries are the key to any successful university and should be valued but I do get frustrated sometimes that change can be stilted. I’m sure I’ll reflect on this more in the coming weeks but I have been a subject librarian at the University of Brighton for 7 1/2 years. In many ways I love the job, the contact with students, the involvement with courses and the chance to be innovative. However that brings me to my major frustration – I want to innovate and do with great success in my own subject areas but there are people who seem to want to block any innovation and change.

I don’t think this is a unique problem, I encounter it in conversations everywhere with other librarians but it is a huge problem for the profession.

Other professional careers have a clearly defined CPD requirement, an expectation of development and also clear possible career pathways so every job provides people with the skills to move on to the next rung of the career ladder. Why don’t we? Why do the naysayers often get to dictate what is going on?

I understand in many cases the jobs have changed a lot from the jobs people signed up for but how do we balance that with the needs of younger eager professionals who I see countlessly becoming demotivated and frustrated.

I feel at a stage where I need to move forward but when I apply for jobs I am told I don’t have the relevant experience, management often. I do have management experience from running my own business but because it isn’t from inside libraries  it appears it isn’t enough. How can I get the experience when my peers say adding management will take the job away from the one they applied to. My colleagues in assistant positions see that  I am getting frustrated and wonder if I can’t move on how will they?

I’ve always seen two potential avenues for my career, management or academia. I’ll continue plugging away at the management path, I’ll take courses and continue applying for jobs. I know I am a good manager, I have respect of colleagues, I try and listen, I can see the bigger picture and the experience I have from running my own business is unique.

The academia plan is now my real focus, I am resurrecting research ideas from previous bids which I was perhaps not experienced enough to progress. I’m networking and hoping that I will have two super mentors to help me. I’m going to look at the National Teaching Fellowship as my ultimate goal.

I am eligible for the National Teaching Fellowship because I was lucky enough to win an award for Teaching Excellence in 2005. (The only Information Services member of staff to do so – yet it is strangely unrecognised in the department).

So onwards and upwards! Hopefully this blog will record my adventures in the world on Brighton University libraries.

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