Dec 7, 2019
Episode 77 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores setting up a professional development library… anywhere!
Today’s episode is will be short and practical. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if it was an episode in its own right! However, based on the success of this particular initiative, I decided it was too good not to share.
So, here’s the issue: through conversations with teaching colleagues, I became aware that only a small number seemed to be reading for professional development (with the exception being our trainee teachers and those studying at Master’s and PhD level).
I’ve not yet come up with a definitive reason why - and it is beyond the scope of this episode - but it could be anything from lack of interest or incentive to not realising reading could be classed as professional development.
Whatever the reason, I decided one possible solution could be to make professional reading more (physically) accessible. We have some great books about teaching and learning in the library but we never see teaching colleagues there. This is probably because it feels more like a student space. Perhaps the answer was to take the books (and journals) out of the library and to the people!
Full disclosure - setting up a professional development library is not a new idea. While I had recognised “the problem” my inspiration for the solution came from a talk I saw at the ResearchEd National Conference back in September 2019. You can listen to my recap episode at theteachingspace.com/73. Thank you to Joanne Jukes, Joanne Tiplady and Louise Lewis for the inspiration (follow them on Twitter!)
There was only one person I need to talk to about this idea - my librarian (Learning and Information Services Manager), Rachel. Thankfully, we share an office, so that was easy.
I am extremely lucky to have Rachel as a resource. She is first and foremost a LISM but she is also a qualified teacher in FE, so she has a clear understanding of some of the challenges I face in my professional development role.
At first, Rachel was a little concerned about removing books from the library as she has systems in place for lending. This was totally understandable. However, our library facilities aren’t always staffed and there is a sign-out sheet system in place for these times. Moving books out of the library, under the sign-out sheet system, posed no increased risk. Furthermore, the creation of “mini-libraries” would likely result in increased loans.
Rachel was on board.
One major challenge we needed to consider was the fact that our College is spread over three campuses. We decided to set up a separate “mini-library” on each campus and ensure the curated book selection was the same, to ensure fairness.
So Rachel worked on a plan to create three mini-libraries. We wanted to start small and low key, so we curated a collection of five books about teaching and learning and a few copies of BERA (British Education Research Association journal). We also included an academic poster.
We agreed it would be good to refresh the books once a term (with the flexibility to change that frequency as needed). For our first book collection we selected:
We created a spreadsheet to note our current and future collections.
Then it was time for a “campus tour” to identify the best locations for our books - staff rooms seemed to make sense. Once the locations were agreed, we decided on a date to “go live” (two weeks later).
Rachel assembled the books and sign out sheets, I made posters and took charge of “marketing!” (Ahem… when I say “marketing” I mean that I mentioned the libraries in my weekly professional development email newsletter and tweeted about the libraries a bit!)
Our libraries went live on a Monday morning. We chatted with lots of colleagues about the libraries during the set up process and the reception was great. I tweeted all morning about the initiative and received a sponsored book collection offer!
At the time of recording the libraries have been running for over 6 weeks and lots of people have borrowed and returned books. My aim was to encourage colleagues to access professional development books - this has worked. I have yet to run the numbers but it’s clear that people like the libraries and they are being used purely based on sign out sheets. I will run statistics when we refresh the collection. I suspect we will need to refresh the collections more regularly to keep interest high.
We have so many ideas! Here are a few:
Ultimately we need to ensure the collections are carefully curated; books should be current (with some classic teaching and learning texts) and relevant. We plan to avoid subject specialisms and focus on teaching and learning.
What do you think? Is this something that could work in your organisation? Let me know, I would love to hear from you.
That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support by leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen.
If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:
The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.
Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.