In May we hosted an event to celebrate the completion of our 2021-2022 Library Champions programme. The event was attended by student Library Champions and staff from Libraries & Collections, as well as special guests from across King’s College London, including KCLSU representatives. This was a great opportunity to share the outcomes from our seven projects through posters, slide shows and conversations.
Elsa Donnat, one of our Library Champions, spent the evening interviewing other Library Champions and attendees to hear about their experience. Read on to find out what motivated student Champions to take part, and what they take with them as they progress in their studies and careers.
Nada Aljohani: Become an Open Access Champion
(read the full blog post about the project here)
The Open Access project introduced Library Champions to Open Access (OA) resources and investigated how they might benefit taught students. OA is a relatively new approach to research funding which requires that research outputs – typically, journal articles but also datasets, books, theses and more - are made freely available to as wide an audience as possible. It intends that researchers, students - everybody - are able to read, use and share the published results of research projects. As part of the project, Library Champions were asked about how they find information for their studies and research, before and after receiving 3 hours of training on OA resources. They were also asked to find out the same information from their student colleagues. Elsa interviewed one Library Champion from this project: Nada, a PhD student in the Faculty of Nursing.
Nada told Elsa that they learned a lot from the training they had received prior to conducting the surveys and interviews, noting that “there were a lot of assumptions on my behalf about Open Access as a researcher.”
Calling it a “fantastic learning experience” Nada told Elsa that because she not yet had a chance to collect her own data for their PhD project, she was able to gain valuable experience in seeing what it's like to conduct research interviews and how to facilitate the process. In Nada’s own words: “what to do if there are barriers and problems; how to solve and address them.” Nada also told Elsa that after conducting the interviews with her fellow students, she was happy to share the project resources she got from our Libraries and Collections colleagues Dan Crane and Manuela Palotto Strickland, who led and supported the project.
Elsa finished the interview by asking whether Nada would recommend the project to future students. After some reflection, Nada answered, yes she would, because:
“... I was able to work with students from other faculties as well: from the Humanities faculty, the Public Policy department, in short members of King’s which I don't think I would have gotten the chance to [without this project] - because I just have this tunnel vision focus on Nursing and all the people I meet and work with usually are in Nursing. So it was really great to mix and mingle with other faculties as well.”
Ellen Beveridge: Vanguards and Trailblazers
The Library Champions online exhibition ‘Vanguards and Trailblazers’ was devised as an exciting opportunity to spotlight individuals of various disciplines within the King’s College London community and further afield whose diversity of thought has singled them out as prominent figures in academia and/or society, yet their lives and their work may be less known to mainstream audiences.
Ellen described the project to our reporter Elsa like this: “We were a group looking at individuals that we found inspirational, or kind of trailblazers - hence the name - and we were proposing them to each other to include in an exhibition. The uniting factor between them was they were published, so tying in with the library.”
She went on to explain that she enjoyed the rich exchange between her and her fellow project members, calling it “fun” because she got to share some of the individuals she was most fascinated by and at the same time learn a lot about other people as well. No boundaries were set on time or geographic location and the end result is a rich tapestry of inspiration with a lot of resources and information.
She went on to explain that she is currently studying for an MA in Arts and Cultural Management so is deeply interested in exhibitions and museum curation. Working on this exhibition thus tied in with her career goals and let her practise her own approach to curation. She told Elsa: “I'm particularly interested in feminist curation and bringing women's histories back into the narrative so, big surprise, the people that I chose to include were lost women of history.”
“And now it is only, [for everyone] to be able to have a look at, which is quite fun”, Ellen told Elsa with a sense of pride.
James Cimino: Supporting Inclusive Education through Reading Lists
James explained the project best when he said: “I am on the Library Champions project ‘Supporting Inclusive Education through Reading Lists’. I study a Masters in International Affairs and I decided to participate in this project because I think that our programme is too Eurocentric.”
He told Elsa that him and other students, especially those who are from the Global South, are finding some of the reading and resources they are being offered on reading lists problematic. He said with a broad smile that: “... the programme is called ‘International Affairs’, but we joke that it should be called ‘Eurocentric and North American Affairs’ because it's the only perspective that is offered to us.”
He added that the head of his programme had been very receptive and praised the fact that Libraries & Collections showed initiative on inclusive education, calling it a “very positive thing” and “a driver for real change”. He nevertheless cautioned others from celebrating early victories. When asked by Elsa whether he was likely to recommend this programme to future students who get involved he said: “Of course! I think it's a continuous job, because change only happens if you keep [up the work] all the time.”
James was also adamant that change is not a one-way street. When asked about his contribution to the project he brought up a trilogy of works on slavery in Brazil that is written in Portuguese that does not (yet) have a translation into English. (You can see him brandishing one of the volumes in the picture above.) He was able to make a convincing case to the library to buy it because he strongly believes that: “... it is also our [the Global South’s] responsibility to translate our production, to publicise it, and to offer it around the world, so that there can be a broader exchange of ideas and manners, ways of seeing the world, and historic events.[...] 'Escravidão' should be read because Brazil is the country who received the most African slaves in the world, 5.2 million out of 12 million, and our economy’s foundation was totally based on slavery, which demonstrates our responsibility in one of the most cruel chapters in human history."
Arslan Zafar, KCLSU VP (Activities & Development)
Arslan stopped by the event to see some of the fruits of him working with our Service Development team to get more people involved with the Library Champions project this year and in the future. Elsa was able to grab him for a quick chat and this is what he had to say to current and future KCL students.
Arslan: “Honestly, I would recommend [working with library staff] any day of the week. This is probably a great opportunity for any student. It's not just that you get to show on your CV that you were part of one of the campaigns at university, it also leads to your personality development as well when you get to meet all these senior people. You get that early exposure. And when you try to compare yourself to your peers as we're trying to, let’s say, enter the job market, you see that your communication level or your way of talking would be at an entirely different level compared to them. So being part of these meetings, being able to talk to the senior people and getting that feeling, getting that sense of significance in the decision making in the university - it goes a long way in developing your personality and developing your relations at the university as well.”
Elsa Donnat: Improving how we help users in our libraries
We of course also could not let Elsa go without getting some of her own thoughts and perspectives on the event as well as the Library Champions project as a whole.
When asked about her thoughts about the event she had just witnessed today she said that she found it “valuable” to see what some of the other Library Champions were up to. She intimated that it is easy to only see “your” Library Champions group and think that that is it. She said: “It turns out it's really not only that, and it feels great to see how other projects have come up with their output and findings.” She called herself “impressed” by the creativity and drive of her fellow students.
When asked by our colleague Arved Kirschbaum, now that she had seen them all, which of the projects she personally considered the most important she reflected for a second and then named the “Supporting Inclusive Education through Reading Lists” project James was working on. She said: “You always have to ask, whose role it is to act in this fight? And I feel like as the Libraries & Collections, it makes sense that they would be the one pushing for a more inclusive collection. I feel like they are also able to then have an impact on professors and how things are presented to students.” Elsa closed by saying that she is “glad” that Libraries & Collections are implementing this and that hopefully the work the Library Champions have done with library staff will prove to have an impact.
To bring the interview to a close, Arved asked her about her experience working on her project.
Arved (library staff): Would you recommend getting involved as a Library Champion?
Elsa: I would recommend [Library Champions] clearly to my peers. It's a way to get involved with the university and with the library that's a bit special, and although I didn't do much, I kind of feel like it's really personal. But the way I feel while entering the Maughan now is still kind of like slightly different from how it was before. Although my role is very teeny tiny - it still feels a bit different, which is valuable, in my opinion.”
Arved: What was it like working with library staff on this?
Elsa: “Oh, great. They were really accommodating. They really understood that we were students and we had our own schedule. It was really easy to fit with my student life.
Arved: How would you describe Library Champions?
Elsa: “It’s a collection of very different and fascinating projects that aim at improving the life of students in relationship to their use of libraries and collections.”
[Libraries & Collections would describe Elsa’s contributions as everything but “very teeny tiny” and would like to sincerely thank her for her role in putting this article together as well as her work on collecting valuable feedback data from her fellow students as part of her Library Champions project.]
Interested in joining Library Champions? To find out more about the benefits to you and King’s, please visit: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/library/further-support/library-champions
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