I am always in awe of how much our Masters students manage to achieve in the eight and a half months they spend with us. The information that is thrown at them can be overwhelming at the beginning of term. As a library service, it is important that we remain timely and relevant, and do not become part of that “noise”.
CamGuides gave me a legitimate and professional reason to establish contact with my new students a full six weeks before their arrival. The distribution and launch of the comprehensive resource to Departmental and Faculty Administrators was a stroke of genius! It made our colleagues aware of the valuable resource, whilst highlighting libraries and our services as an embedded part of the student experience. At the Centre, between myself and the Administrator, we decided that I could use the opportunity to “virtually introduce myself” as their library contact.
Opening the lines of communication meant that I could offer a tailored service to those who may require extra assistance, or access to specialised resources even before term started.
Front loading the material on offer via CamGuides saved me the equivalent of at least a weeks’ worth of work during the induction period and the first couple of weeks of term. A resource that prepares them so thoroughly in terms of expectation, collections, and support available to them from the University, was invaluable.
I used the opportunity to send two further follow-up messages before induction, full of guidance on Africa-related resources and using iDiscover to find materials for their course, all whilst building on the foundations of the wider scholarly advice and support provided by CamGuides.
The result was that at induction it felt like we already knew each other. It was far more relaxed, and it gave them the space to ask me specific and in-depth research questions. This was because they were already versed in the basics of using the catalogue and felt confident in where they could find further help, whilst already understanding what was expected of them as a Masters student.
As a result, our 2-hour induction included far more exploration of: our materials in the archive, other relevant collections on the Sidgwick Site, the Black Cantabs exhibition at the UL, and still left us time for a team-building fetching exercise at the UL!
I felt like I had reaped some time back! I used this time effectively by curating and promoting a pop-up display of various materials from our working collection and archive, for use during four drop-in sessions for students from other departments (using the relevant contacts provided by the CILN contacts spreadsheet) and scheduled these drop-in sessions during our MPhil Core Course sessions.
These sessions would not have been possible without the excellent resources and promotional materials already prepared and circulated by the CamGuides team. I now had time to create my own materials for my drop-in sessions and spend time with each student with a research focus on Africa, without feeling like I was in “catch-up” mode during those first few weeks.
The resources available to us via CamGuides, LibGuides, and the other strands of the CILN Framework are the ultimate testament to working together to support our students’ needs. I thank all of you for getting involved and making such a difference!
Jenni Skinner – African Studies Library