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Information Scotland

The Journal of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

ISSN 1743-5471

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June 2003 Volume 1 (3)

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

FE libraries

Next Generation

Catherine Kearney gives an update on the review of further education libraries and introduces the Quality Framework ahead of its November launch.

Last year SLIC set up a short life working group to look at further education (FE) libraries. Previously the Council had published Libraries in Scottish Further Education Colleges: Standards for Performance and Resourcing (1997). Since then developments such as interconnectivity, the introduction of virtual learning environments and Government policy with regard to lifelong learning, networked learning and access and inclusion have made another review necessary.

Consequently, in April 2002 I was seconded from my post as Director of Library and Learning Services at Glasgow College of Building and Printing (GCBP) to SLIC as FE Network Project Officer to look at a review in more detail.

My starting point was the 1997 publication which had advanced a proposal that colleges establish an information and communications technology (ICT) strategy and which went on to speculate that future developments might include:

Five years on from speculation, how did the FE library landscape look? Had these recommendations been taken up?

Well, from 1999 onwards the Scottish Further Education Funding Council (SFEFC), the funding body for the sector, had initiated a programme of increased funding for college ICT. This had resulted in:

However, few ICT strategies gave mention to the role of libraries in a networked environment and fewer colleges still had considered the 'fit' between digital library resources and VLE's. No specific guidance had been issued from the funding body linking ICT, libraries and services to learners in a networked environment. The HMIE inspection framework made no connection between libraries, ICT and access to resources but continued to maintain that it was the number of books available to students that was important in college reviews.

A study carried out on behalf of SLIC by the Centre for Digital Library Research (CDLR) as part of the Scottish Portals Initiative confirmed that five years on from the 1997 Standards many further education library catalogues were neither web-enabled nor z39.50 compliant thus limiting opportunities for college involvement in resource sharing initiatives. In short, despite the increased ICT funding programme there was little interconnectivity within the sector. Only the UHI and Glasgow Colleges Group (GCG) had addressed networked library services. One college had scrapped its library service altogether in the belief that access to the Internet would provide learners with all the resources necessary to complete their course of study.

This is a brief summary of how things looked when SLIC initiated the Next Generation FE Libraries Working Group. Membership was drawn from other key strategic players such as SFEFC, JISC, ELLD, SFEU as well as FE and HE representatives. Assistance from SFEU's JISCmail list meant that SLIC could engage the whole sector in discussion and review and keep librarians informed of work in progress.

Committee work concentrated on the following areas:

  1. Interconnectivity - SLIC recognised the need for all FE libraries to be interconnected if they are to realise the full advantage of resource sharing and we were also interested in exploring the strategic alliance between libraries and ICT departments to facilitate the growth of e-services.
  2. Drafting of a new set of 'standards' for online services, which would set recommendations in a self-evaluative quality improvement framework and promote the link between libraries, the learner and ICT.

Early discussion within the Committee led to recognition that the increased use of resource based, online, flexible and distance learning, the Web and technology supported learning together with partnership arrangements with other information providers had led to changed learner needs. We had to consider how learners wanted to access library service - physically, remotely, within VLEs etc. Network technology had opened up the potential of shared access to resources for learners who could benefit from library services without the necessity of a physical visit.

By last November, after a summer of hard work, visits to service managers and much debate and discussion, the Committee had ready a draft set of indicators set within a self-evaluative quality framework for consultation with the sector. The framework addressed the following areas:

The SFEFC gave financial support to a SLIC organised consultation event in Perth, which attracted over 50 delegates. Both JISC RSC's and the SFEU gave generously of their time and assistance to make the day a huge success.

During the course of that day delegates heard from a range of speakers including Elaine Fulton, then Assistant Director of SLIC, and Bill Harvey, Deputy Director Quality and Innovation at SFEFC. The draft framework was launched, generated much enthusiasm and interest within the sector and consultation continued until early 2003.

Following the consultation exercise the draft framework was piloted in eight college libraries with assistance from library managers and quality assurance managers. This exercise reassured the Committee that the draft framework was appropriate for use.

Since the February pilot several key developments have taken the project further than even SLIC had anticipated:

SLIC's willingness to support sector librarians and engage in discussion with other key strategic agencies on future service delivery has led to a better understanding of the link between libraries, librarians and the learning process. Our collaborative work with partners such as SFEFC, JISC and HMIE has raised awareness of the value and contribution of networked library services to further education. The FE Quality Framework will be launched in Stirling on 27 November. IS

Further information
Information on the project can be obtained from Catherine Kearney, FE Network Project Officer:
Members can keep up to date with the latest developments by visiting the FE pages on

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Information Scotland Vol.1 (3) June 2003

© Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

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Last updated: 13 February 2004