By Nayun Kim (Library Champions Student) and Arved Kirschbaum (Senior Library Assistant in Marketing & Communications)
One of the things we are most proud of here at Libraries & Collections are our Library Champions projects and the students who get involved with them. These projects would not work without their hard work and dedication and that is why every year we like to take a moment to celebrate their success. This year’s celebration took place on 29th of March at the Chapters restaurant in the King’s building, together with some special guests.
The event was attended by both student Library Champions as well as staff from Libraries & Collections together with guest from across the King’s community. We were very fortunate to have both Shitij Kapur, the Principal, and Darren Wallis, Executive Director for Education and Students come to the event together with friends from King’s Experience and faculty. The event was a great opportunity to share the outcomes from our co-creation projects via presentations, posters, talks, and hands-on activities, bringing the work the students did to life.
Nayun Kim, one of our Library Champions, spent the evening interviewing attendees of the event and this report is largely based on her interviews. Read on to learn what kind of skills and experiences students thought they get out of being a Library Champion and how the outcomes of the projects shape management perspective of the library service here at King’s.
Playing with AI
Professor Kapur opened his address with unusually mechanical thanks, praising the Library Champions as well as the librarians who got involved in making the projects happen, without going into specifics. It was quickly revealed by the Principal that this part of his speech was generated by him using an AI chatbot. He used the moment of shock to make the attendees aware that these new technologies are not going away and that it was his hope that when he comes back next year he could see the excellent basis the library has created here include a project that is exploring AI and information at the university. He praised our role as information professionals and singled out the “Find Yourself In Our Collections” campaign as the particularly promising.
Darren Wallis, Executive Director for Education and Students, was similarly impressed with the campaign calling the idea “imaginative” and “brilliant”. He was also especially struck by the aggregate effect of all the Library Champions projects saying that “…there is a lot in here around inclusivity and inclusive practice and creating inclusive collections.” He sees the library as the “heart and soul of the university” and was looking positively forwards towards the impact the Library Champions projects will have down the line.
Taru – Welcome to the Maughan?
The Principal’s words struck a chord with Taru (pictured above), an MSc student in Health Psychology, who works on Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence on the side. She took part in library user experience research involving using LEGO bricks, to imagine changes to the Maughan Library entrance area, and enjoyed this so much she promptly joined the Library Champions programme afterwards. This will enable the programme to benefit from her expertise and her perspective as a visually impaired student. Hearing the Principal’s speech reminded Taru of the library atrium of the future she imagined for that project, which featured AI to improve the user journey.
She agreed with the Principal saying that we are in a very interesting era in terms of libraries and their meaning and what kind of an impact AI will have, adding that: “we have tools, but we have to also start to question and define what the difference is between a tool, and AI as an active part of a project. We have to ask ourselves: ‘What are the opportunities and also the dangers of the tools?’” They are all open questions according to Taru.
When prompted to imagine a future Library Champions project, Taru fell back on her interdisciplinary background and said she hoped to see something that would open up interdisciplinary space more since currently: “I literally have to walk between Franklin-Wilkins and the Maughan in order to bring all the aspects of my studies together.”
Hfsa – Welcome to the Maughan?
Interdisciplinarity was also a big theme for Hfsa, a dentistry undergraduate, who contributed to the same research as Taru. After being asked what she would do, could she design her own Library Champions project, Hfsa explained that she: “…would want to bridge the gap that I feel there is between the healthcare and the humanities/arts side, because I feel the campuses kind of stick to themselves and it would be really nice if people from the different campuses could mingle more and get to know each other through these projects.”
Hfsa said that she really enjoyed the creative exercise of reimagining and revamping the Maughan Library with this in mind. She valued the opportunity to be able to pitch her ideas to real librarians because in her view she is “disappointed” that the interior of the Maughan Library doesn’t match the exterior.
Hfsa thought that the space should reflect the identity of King’s more, saying that she pitched: “…instead of having just a blank wall in the bit that we were discussing, why not have a tapestry or some sort of artwork that is made by King’s students, where everyone should see themselves reflected, not just people of colour, but also people from the LGBTQ+ community, as well as those that are neurodivergent - so everyone could see themselves! Because libraries aren't just a place with books and to study, they are a place for art and history and culture.” She would also like to see much more investment in social space at the libraries as an alternative to places like Guy’s Bar which can feel exclusionary.
Hfsa finished by giving the Library Champions projects a glowing recommendation, saying that she would “definitely” recommend them to future students because: “you really get to have a first-hand contribution to what your university buildings’ architecture and university life will look like when you take part.”
Ericka – Library Champion curious
Hfsa’s words found an echo in Ericka, a final year Medical student, who came along to the event looking to get involved now that her exams and her elective abroad were over. Since her school days she has always seen libraries as a calm, quiet, and safe space and so was glad that that experience translated to university libraries at King’s as well.
Ericka said she loved that our libraries are open 24 hours a day, because she has to study a lot for her course, so having that option proves really useful for her. Getting involved in a Library Champions project then was seen by her as a way of giving back and improving the libraries for future generations of King’s students.
Ericka was particularly impressed by the “What makes a good reading list?”- project singling out the fact that the project is planning to develop an auditing tool which other people can continue using in the future. Ericka thought that that was a really good way to keep the project going and to consolidate its victories.
Speaking of wins: Kat, a different student on the MA in Arts and Cultural Management here at King’s, who worked on the reading lists project said that writing one of the case studies that will underpin this auditing tool, has been really useful in helping her develop her writing skills.
Ericka also used the opportunity of the interview to encourage library staff to: “just keep doing what you're doing, keep listening to students and staff opinion …, and then just keep actually implementing that and improving and I think that's how we can just keep a good system going.”
Maggie – What Makes a Good Reading List
Maggie, a postgraduate student in international relations, was also involved in the “What makes a good reading list?” project noted her surprise that: “… we can actually improve them and they are not just something that follow the theme of: ‘Professors set it and we use it.’” She was hoping to see more interactive processes like that at King’s.
When prompted about what kind of skills she thought she got out of working on the project she highlighted: “…communication skills with people across teams, from different departments, and from different cultural backgrounds.” She encouraged future students to get involved not just for their own sake, but because of the value they can bring to the library saying that: “… they literally grow up with and are in touch with different information and definitely have more thoughts - and more different thoughts than students from just three years ago.” She was convinced that that would help the library and the university keep up with the times, which in turn would lead to a better student experience for everyone.
Teresa – What Makes a Good Reading List
Teresa had similar things to say about the reading lists project, noting that she “found the workshops with the reading lists pretty helpful because it made me reflect on like my own studies and my own project and the research that I am conducting.” She thought it was a great chance to enhance her communication skills and get to know people from other departments and their approach to research.
Library Champions and our strategic vision
Sam Henney, Interim Deputy Director of Libraries & Collections, used the opportunity the event offered to explain the strategic vision the Libraries & Collections team has and why the Library Champions projects were “incredibly important” to that strategic vision. Co-creation with students to inform the development the library services is critical to the success of Library Evolution. She sees the voice of our students as the heart of the vision, ensuring that Libraries & Collections designs and delivers the right services for King’s students.
By referring to it as a “catalyst”, she pointed out how the Library Champions projects are a great opportunity to hear the student voice via active and creative interactions between students and library staff. She highlighted the importance of collecting data on student experiences and perspectives: “because libraries are a space, but it’s how students engage with libraries that make them a place.”
For the students in return, she listed some skills the participants can gain from being a Library Champion, depending on which project a student chooses to get involved, as there are a diverse range of topics and skills each project covers. Her highlights were: project management, critical thinking, communication, team work, and data analysis.
Reflecting the values she outlined above, when asked about future improvements on advertising the Library Champions opportunities to the King’s student body, she answered that “we need to really make sure that we understand what the platforms and the communication channels are that the students are using” as well as that “[we are] sending out a consistent call to action”. In accordance with the purpose of the programme, she added “equitable opportunities to get involved” is crucial.
Finishing the interview, Sam was asked what the word ‘library’ means to her. She answered: “I think libraries offers space for reflection, a quiet study space for reflection, but also a sense of community. I find the – not the silence of a library – but the low murmur of a library comforting. There is nothing like it. I love it”.
Nayun Kim – Inclusive Library Education
Of course, we could not let Nayun go without getting her perspective on ‘her’ Library Champions project, and on collecting the raw materials for this blog. She said she especially enjoyed the opportunity to interview VIPs like Darren Wallis and Sam Henney, the Deputy Director of Libraries & Collections and that if she were to design her own Library Champions project it would definitely involve a hands-on, physical element like the LEGO bricks used to create the ideal Maughan entrance area already mentioned above.
We finished off by asking her what the word “library” means to her and, honestly, we could not have put it better than Nayun did:
“I think ‘library’ is a community that all the students can feel like we are part of. Just because of how big this university is, I think can be quite difficult to get engaged, let alone meet people and students studying different courses from different departments. Even within your department if you're in like a business course for example, there are so many students involved that you don't even know all the names of your peers. And I think the library is definitely providing the opportunity to break those walls down. I think that's the main function of the library.”
[Libraries & Collections would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Nayun for her role in putting this blog post together, getting involved in our focus groups, as well as for collecting valuable feedback data from students and senior university managers. She truly is a champion for King’s Libraries & Collections.]
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