Post 16 Education Consultation Meeting

SLIC hosted a discussion meeting on 7th December to look closely at the Scottish Government’s proposals for Post 16 Education in Scotland and to help formulate the response. Entitled Putting Learners at the Centre– Delivering our Ambitions for Post-16 Education, the proposals could have far-reaching implications for libraries in different sectors. The summary of proposals was the basis of our debate, which was led by David Scott of Dundee College.

 The concerns raised included:


  • This changes the demographic in colleges and younger learners need support.
  • Aspirations of the young people themselves will not be met by what is contained in the paper.
  • Colleges might not be able to offer courses as cheaply as private providers in education market but they offer other things like libraries, careers advice, additional support needs, etc, which the younger learners are even more likely to need that current learners.  Lots of voluntary organisations have pulled out of access level training because of costs and it is unclear if there is a market which is robust, quality and able to pick up slack.
  • Concern was expressed about the higher drop-out rate amongst young learners and the plans to penalise institutions if their retention rates slip.
  • Younger more vulnerable users will mean that libraries have a larger demand as the learners can’t buy resources for themselves and can’t necessarily study at home. It will cost the college more, for example, as they will need more liaison officers to keep students engaged and enrolled.

 Partnership working with other providers for adults

  • Structural changes and reduced capacity will have an impact on vulnerable areas and groups where previously they have been well-served by local authority community learning and development provision and this helps keep people in learning.
  • Need to look at the profile of 16-19 year olds on a regular basis to ensure that the real problems are being addressed and the type of library service who support these individuals may be very different from the types of services we currently plan to provide or do provide.
  • The vulnerable group of youths are the ones to have concerns about – they won’t go to college who don’t have skills or confidence and they will suffer disproportionately. They need a special type of support and they can’t be shoe horned into the wrong institutions or they will fail to survive and retention rate drops will be punished. The library staff are the ones who sit down with them to do a literature search or who work with them at a pace which suits their learning style better.
  • They lack confidence and skills and won’t go to local colleges even if it’s down the road because they don’t think they’re good enough. Strategies will need to focus on who the learners are.


  • Most people will travel for specialisms but this has an impact on people in terms of time and money. In many parts of Scotland learners are often local and take a pick from the curriculum because they are looking for a local solution.
  • Economic deprivation is a real issue because the transport costs aren’t refunded at a time which makes it possible for families to support the learners in the meantime.
  • Budget cuts are driving a regionalisation agenda and makes the delivery of curriculum and qualifications much more focused.
  • Progression routes of access to education at any age affected by this.
  • Non-certificated courses will be one area greatly affected, if this is introduced, and this is the starting point for many, before they develop the skills and confidence to progress into formal education.
  • The issues about IPR, copyright and licensing are considerable when sharing resources/VLEs across regions.
  • Teaching joint course might be an attractive option but it doesn’t necessarily mean a cost reduction and there are huge issues about support and quality.
  • The licensing models haven’t changed so it might be useful for Scottish Government to help pressure change by the publishers. SHEDL is a model but it is under pressure and expansion will be limited as the straightforward publishers’ content is already included and the licensing for other services/publishers will be much harder to negotiate.


  • Concern as expressed about a narrowing of the curriculum and education is defined as narrow vocationalism.
  • Need for consistency of decision making about funding for the same courses across Scotland and there were example around the table of variation.
  • Capacity in colleges, the community, local authorities, private and third sector is all reduced, so clear routes and funding for those outside the main college focus need to have other alternatives.
  • This requires funding support for courses other than core skills or qualifications over SCQF level 6.

Rhona Arthur, Assistant Director


‘Library staff are the signposts to learning’

So said Principal of City of Glasgow College  Paul Little as he welcomed delegates to his college. The SLIC annual FE Libraries Conference took place there on Thursday 24th November, shortly before the new supercampus building development was announced.

Once again the programme was planned in partnership with Scotland’s Colleges CoP and the JISC RSC Scotland.
‘Learner Landscapes: the future of FE Libraries’ opened with a topical debate around Scottish Government proposals for post 16 education reform which Tom MacMaster summarised neatly for everyone. It was clear from the feedback that the proposals were generating worry among the FE community but nevertheless offered some opportunities for library services too.

Tom MacMaster

Moving on, the annual FE Libraries survey was launched by Director of SLIC, Elaine Fulton, who discussed  findings which revealed increasing use of online resources and technology such as QR codes as well as more Saturday opening in response to learner demands. Everyone received a copy of the survey in Conference pack which is also available to download.
Karen Stevenson, Library Management System Coordinator at Glasgow University, reprised and updated her presentation  given to a CILIPS audience in Glasgow earlier this year and discussed developing a mobile strategy for the library, something which more of our members are starting to think seriously about.
From Boston College we welcomed JISC award winner Daisy Fulton accompanied by Bran Lanbourne who introduced delegates  to their use of QR codes in library induction in a very enjoyable presentation. Our exhibitors, 2CQR, CLA, Demco Gresswell, OCLC and PTFS looked on as Daisy discussed her prize winning project.

Daisy Fulton, Boston College

Following a networking lunch, beautifully catered for by Rhona of the catering company franchised to the college, and a look round the exhibition it was straight into a QR exercise in the College’s Learning Curve, before Mark Clark and Joan Walker of the JISC RSC Scotland took some time out with delegates to discuss recent advances in eBooks technology.
After more refreshments we heard from OCLC on their Webscale discovery project and CLA on the new licensing arrangements planned for the sector. Gordon Hunt, our super able chair for the day had one last duty after that which was to pick our prize draw winners with the assistance of Jill Evans. Congratulations to Stephanie Rae of Jewel and Esk College who won first prize of a Kindle!
Did the delegates enjoy it? Let them speak for themselves:
“Sessions were highly relevant and engaging; active session on QR codes overcame possible post lunch slump; good buzz in the room all day!”
“This was one of the most engaging events I’ve been to, the programme was fantastic, the venue is easy to get to, the food was good, and Gordon Hunt was a great chair”.
“It was an excellent event with a well balanced programme”

Shared Library Services at Scottish Borders Campus

I was welcomed with freshly brewed coffee when I paid a visit to Borders College library in Galashiels recently. I hadn’t visited the college since SLIC assisted them with shared services discussions some years back. The Scottish Borders Campus is part of a co-location project with Heriot Watt University and hosts Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design as well as a Business Programme. It’s on the site of the former Scottish College of Textiles (which merged with Heriot Watt in 1998) and the building is a mixture of new build and refurbished accommodation.

Borders College Library, Galashiels

The impressive library is located in a refurbished area formerly used to house textile looms. The college library service is an interesting example of shared service provision as it is provided by Heriot Watt University Library Service. The Library Team, headed up by Peter Sandison, HE Liaison Librarian, delivers an integrated service to both college and university students.

Peter Sandison, HE Liaison Librarian

I was interested to learn that the anticipated problems of service sharing (such as differing learner expectations in everything from noise levels to support provision) had either not materialised or been successfully tackled by Peter and his team. As in other examples of shared services the main issue has been to do with IT and access to e-resources. Both college and university share the Voyager library management system but the college has gone with Moodle as a VLE while Heriot  Watt uses Blackboard.

Jamie McIntyre, FE Liaison Librarian

FE Liaison Librarian, Jamie McIntyre, makes sure that the University is apprised of college requirements and expectations by attending college Academic Board meetings and Faculty Council meetings where shared reporting takes place from FE/HE student representatives. There is also a campus library user group which ensures that learners views and opinions are taken into account when planning services. My visit was really worthwhile as I learnt a lot about good partnership work in a shared service setting and was pleased to witness the positive outlook exhibited by the Library Team at Galashiels. I was especially  especially encouraged by this as I recalled the early discussions on shared library services and the concerns expressed then.

Principals, funding reviews and college libraries

SLIC is preparing to publish its first annual survey of FE college libraries.  It is doing so in an education environment where Scotland’s Colleges have recently announced they have commissioned an independent review of the future of higher education.  Last November the Scottish Government published a Green paper on higher education which is currently out for consultation.  This came hot on the heels  of the Coalition Government’s decision to shift the cost of higher education in England from the state to the student by introducing tuition fees.  The Scottish Government ruled out an independent review so why have the Principals gone ahead and set up the Commission (to be chaired by former First Minister, Henry McLeish)?

Well, it seems that the Principals are seeking a more ‘holistic view’ of higher education which recognises that Scotland’s colleges offer a diverse range of vocational and academic courses and that the sector is pivotal to the lifelong learning and social inclusion agendas.  50% of Scottish school leavers go on to higher education but only 28% go to university  with the remainder studying at colleges.  With the further education sector also providing part time HE opportunities for more mature adults Principals are anxious to widen the debate beyond student funding. Why is the outcome of the Principals’ review of interest to further education librarians?  Well, precisely because college librarians have an important role in assisting learners to become independent in their studies.  They often work in environments where funding is constrained but where the range of learners for whom they provide support can vary from basic skills to the first and second year of degree courses. College library staff will be found helping learners with a range of abilities and information needs to improve their information handling skills and working with academic staff to contribute to attainment levels and enrich the learner experience of college.

SLIC has long argued that college library services are key strategic assets whose staff has a major contribution to make in supporting flexible, responsive learning and teaching programmes and in promoting learner engagement.  In order to do that, library services need to be adequately funded and staffed to support the range of learning that takes place there. Equally there is a lot of benefit to be had from the HE and FE library community working in partnership to improve the learner experience.

The SLIC FE Library survey will be published shortly.

Valuing our professional differences

LLUK held their annual seminar at the Scottish parliament on 15th September. The discussion was chaired by Martyn Wade, LLUK Council Member and Chair of LLUK’s Scotland Committee and focused on workforce development. The specific challenge was ‘how do we create a single lifelong learning workforce for Scotland’s future?’

LLUK has six constituencies: HE, FE, Community Learning and Development, Work Base Learning, Libraries Archives and Information Services (LAIS), and Career Guidance. The immediate response is, of course, whether this is a ‘good thing’ and then shouldn’t we be celebrating our unique contribution since we all meet the needs of our customers with proven success? Each of the sectors had a chance to put forward ways of joining up approaches to CPD, common standards and qualifications, sharing of resources and ways of overcoming barriers.

The discussions were of particular interest in a week when LLUK proposed changing the title of the LAIS National Occupation Standards (NOS) to Knowledge management services, Information and knowledge management services, or Information and knowledge services. In a stated attempt to avoid jargon, the title of one section is suggested at ‘Managing the interface with the customer’. During the development of the last set of NOS, LLUK promoted a generic approach but we have to consider what defines our profession, wide as it already is. We have to balance new skills with traditional, professional ones.

In an interesting discussion, the group agreed that shared competencies and values can sit comfortably at the core and accommodating the uniqueness of sector partners is vital. The event was followed by a Garden Lobby sponsored by Des McNulty MSP.

Fit for purpose?

‘The 21st century college library is a space that offers a lot more than shelves of books; the 21st century college librarian is a multitasking individual who knows how to use educational resources in both the material and online world to support students and staff in their institution.’

So states the Scottish JISC Regional Support Centres’ 2010 Enhanced Training Needs Analysis (ETNA) survey, ‘On the right track.’ ETNA  surveys involve analysis of thousands of responses from individuals (both staff and students) in every further education college in the country.  Commendably, a whole chapter of ETNA relates to the delivery of learning resources in colleges.

Acknowledging the skills and expertise of library and information professionals as ‘key to providing access to technology and resources in colleges’ ETNA recognises the specialist nature of their role in interacting with learners from across the disciplines and with ‘a wider range of abilities than would be normal for academic staff.’

The report informs us that the 21st century college librarian is likely to be fully  engaged with technology such as virtual learning environments (‘essential to their role’), wireless networks, video casting, podcasting, blogs, wikis and social networking sites.  E-books and their promotion and utilisation feature strongly too, no doubt partly due to the JISC e-books for FE initiative.

Despite the difficulties college library staff experience in getting out of college for training, there is an expressed interest in  subjects such as information literacy support, metadata tagging and also in emerging areas of college activity such as online repository management.

The strategic information ETNA provides on college library services is invaluable to SLIC and CILIPS since it informs our FE Conference planning and provision of CILIPS CPD. This report provides a starting point for future partnership work between our organisations and the JISC Regional Support Centres as well providing information which will be complementary to that soon to be collected in the first annual SLIC/JISC FE  libraries survey.

4th Annual FE Conference and quality guidelines launch

Over 50 FE Librarians joined the hordes of coffee cup commuters and travelled to Stirling for the 4th SLIC annual conference featuring a programme planned jointly by SLIC with partners, the JISC RSC’s and Scotland’s Colleges Librarian Community of Practice.

Ably chaired by Janis Carson, Vice Principal at Glasgow Metropolitan College, the conference opened with the launch of the quality guidelines for colleges, by Alan Inglis, Assistant Principal at John Wheatley College and HMIe Associate Assessor. Alan explained the new ‘light touch’ review arrangements, the shift in emphasis from quality ‘improvement’ to ‘enhancement’ and the dropping of ‘grades’ in favour of ‘confidence statements’.  He offered the audience tips and hints on applying the new SLIC guidelines in their own organisations and discussed the ‘professional dialogue’ that now takes place between HMIe and support services in colleges.

Angie McKenzie, Learning Resource Centre Officer at Moray College, had first hand experience of that dialogue having piloted the toolkit for SLIC during the recent HMIe review at Moray. She reminded us that college libraries were first to self-evaluate with the aid of the previously published SLIC toolkit back in 2003 and demonstrated by example her cyclical approach to quality from internal customer evaluation to accommodation and building bids.

Customer evaluation was exactly what Suzanne Crawford, a student at Forth Valley College, came to discuss as she related what makes a good learner experience in the college library. (good facilities, service and respectful treatment)

Cleo Jones, former Librarian at Anniesland College, followed Suzanne. For the past ten years Cleo has been managing the school library service in Edinburgh and highlighted opportunities for librarians to support the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence using many examples from schools. 

After lunch delegates were treated to a second SLIC launch – the newly published Web 2.0 guidelines then heard John Kelly from JISCLegal discuss compliant use of Web 2.0 in the library.

Award winning teacher and keynote speaker, Ollie Bray, (via videoconference link from Glasgow Concert Hall) began his presentation on ‘ICT, Libraries and the Curriculum for Excellence’ con brio but was felled by technical gremlins which rendered his talk impossible to follow due to difficulties with sound. He promised to make his slides available via his website  All the other presentations are in the usual place at

Thanks to all for making it an interesting and informative day!