Interface: Jane Core
Jane Core is the Associate Director of the EduLib project. Her home base is the University of Abertay in Dundee  where I met her on a wet day in January. EduLib is one of the projects which received funding under eLib’s Training and Awareness programme strand and is a collaboration between the University of Hull  and the University of Abertay Dundee in association with SEDA (the Staff and Educational Development Association) .
EduLib provides a nationally recognised programme of educational development for library and support staff. EduLib’s central objective is that library and information staff of the future should possess both the networked information skills and the teaching skills needed to work within the environment of the electronic library. "EduLib is a developmental project" says Core. "It is testing the capacity of the higher education sector to take responsibility for education and training in this area."
So what is the rationale behind such a project? Certainly most librarians involved with what used to be known as bibliographic instruction or user education are aware that the nature of the task is now far more complex and that there is a much greater demand. There is a debate taking place within higher education about the lack of formal teaching qualifications for academic staff. The Association of University Teachers, SEDA and the Universities and Colleges Staff Development Association (UCoSDA)  have all produced policy documents in this area. Core believes that EduLib provides the forum in which information professionals are conducting the same debate. "It is highly ironic that teachers in higher education do not generally have a teaching qualification." Yet the impact of the shift to mass higher education, together with the Quality Assessment programme in universities has forced many academics to look at educational principles and to introduce teaching programmes based on, for example, problem-based learning methodologies.
EduLib will provide librarians who teach information use with particular skills in managing student learning. "We are not setting out to create an elite" says Core, "but librarians do have particular problems. Unlike academics they don’t have continual student contact. Their sessions are typically one-off with no feedback. If there is no assessment then students are not motivated to attend. "
I remembered reading what became known as the 'Jaundiced View' debate on lis-infoskills. The question asked, essentially, was whether the teaching librarians were giving to students was worthwhile or was it all a waste of time? "Many people do user education because they think it is 'a good thing' " says Core. "But 'a good thing' is not enough - there needs to be a focus on learning rather than teaching. We need a new perspective. What librarians teach should be linked to the learning the student is engaged in a particular course. We have to contribute in the institutional context and be involved in teaching and learning strategies." It is misdirection - the attempt to teach information skills in isolation from the rest of a student’s learning programme - which creates the jaundiced view. "The transferable skills which we are teaching need to be based on sound educational principles and assessed within the cognate area. The assignments we set should require the use of the skills being taught. We need to work in partnership with academics - what we are engaged in is a professional collaboration."
What do librarians think about formally accrediting such staff development? EduLib has undertaken a training needs analysis. Discussion in focus group sessions certainly indicated that librarians were concerned about their lack of understanding of what constitutes an acceptable level of knowledge and expertise in education. Accreditation would enhance their status in higher education, improve their career paths and contribute to their continuing professional development (CPD). "We have over a hundred people registered for the First Wave Workshops, which we find very encouraging".
The needs analysis identified training needs which are strongly focused on general teaching skills. So where do library schools fit in? If it is accepted that librarians in higher education will spend an increasing amount of time in transferable information skills teaching then surely this is a factor which library schools should be taking on board in their own curriculum development? Core disagrees. "A teaching option within the library school curriculum would not provide the environment for continuous reflection on practice". Reflection and re-evaluation are part of the SEDA principles underpinning EduLib's programme. Library schools are interested in what EduLib is doing but there are already a large number of librarians actively involved in teaching who need training. "Library schools may not consider a role in CPD as a viable diversification of their portfolio, and, to be fair, there are huge resource implications" says Core. "If a library school is asked to take this on board, will employers be willing to pay for their staff to participate? "
EduLib has to persuade the higher education sector to recognise its modules and be prepared to adopt them as part of their own staff development strategies. Core admits that there are thorny issues connected with this which the EduLib Steering Committee is starting to debate. In the longer term it remains to be seen whether the modules are accredited by various institutions and formally adopted as part of the staff development of institutions.
And for Core personally? "Libraries are part of the learning process. As a librarian I am here to help that process, and if that means I need to teach, then I am happy with that - but I want the confidence to know that I can do so effectively. "
- EDULIB Web pages,
- University of Abertay Dundee Web Site,
- University of Hull Web Site,
- SEDA (the Staff and Educational Development Association) Web pages,
- Universities and Colleges Staff Development Association (UCoSDA)
Interviewee DetailsJane Core
Assistant head of Information Services,
University of Abertay, Dundee.
Tel: 01382 308851
Fax: 01382 308880
Personal Web Page: http://www.tay.ac.uk/www/library/staff/jane.htm
Address: University of Abertay Dundee, Bell Street, DUNDEE, DD1 1HG