Teaching the Library landscape: European perspectives

Inside Göttingen State and University Library

In this post, Christine Love-Rodgers, College Lead for Library Academic Support (CAHSS), reflects on her trip to the University of Gottingen where she attended an ERASMUS library staff training week…

When I heard about the Go Abroad Staff programme of funding for international training and exchange, the idea of attending an ERASMUS staff training week for Library staff really appealed. One of the first programmes to be advertised for 2019 was for the University of Göttingen which already had a history of partnership working with Edinburgh University Library. Plus, although I had learned German at school, I had never been to Germany.

Göttingen State and University Library

So at the beginning of May, I travelled to Göttingen, joining a group of 49 staff from 24 countries. In our Library group of ten staff, we shared presentations on our institutions and our library roles. There’s a current debate as to whether information literacy teaching is best delivered by subject librarians, or by dedicated teaching librarians, and so I was immediately interested to hear that university libraries in the Czech Republic and in Lithuania had created new subject librarian roles. This enabled individual consultations for literature review support and stronger connections between central and departmental libraries. In contrast, the University of Gothenburg in Sweden had moved away from a ‘subject librarian’ model to a functional model with a dedicated teaching team.

In addition to specialist sessions from subject librarians, Göttingen’s information literacy teaching is delivered by an information literacy project team (including student interns), covering library induction, literature searching, and reference management. Göttingen University Library has dedicated teaching rooms in their main Library, with glass walls enabling their information literacy teaching to be visible to the University. The University Library has a rich mixture of learning spaces, from bookable group study to bookable individual silent study carrels. There’s an adjacent Study and Learning centre with bookable study rooms, and plans for a new Digital Creative Space. I was particularly interested in the parent and child learning spaces Göttingen provided, as support for parents and children in the Library is currently being discussed here at Edinburgh.

We visited the historic Göttingen University library for pre-1900 collections, which incorporates the PaulinerKirche, a fantastic exhibition and event space for Gottingen’s rare books and manuscripts. Throughout the historic library building, low value books were used as a visual tapestry, and many archive photographs of how the library used to look gave a strong sense of the library as institutional memory.

Historical Building of the Göttingen State and University Library

I really enjoyed the ERASMUS experience, and felt proud that I’d reconnected with my schoolgirl German to manage German airports, hotels, and public transport. I had some objectives that the prearranged group programme didn’t deliver – for instance I didn’t get to see Göttingen’s Gutenberg Bible, and I didn’t hear about how their historic collections are used as part of teaching and learning. However, the ERASMUS week gave me a new understanding of the European library and information landscape, and I found myself constantly framing my own institution in the context of other European institutions. This reflective process gives a new awareness about my institution and my own role, which I can take back to improve our practice. I hope that we can build further links with Göttingen to enrich our information literacy teaching.

Christine Love-Rodgers

Christine leads a team of Academic Support Librarians working to support the Library in delivering the University’s strategies for learning, teaching and research within the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science. Christine offers specialist library support to the School of Divinity and the School of Social and Political Science, curating digital resources, information and advice in Library Subject Guides. Christine delivers bespoke information literacy teaching within her Schools, as well as interdiscplinary sessions delivered via the Digital Skills team and the Institute for Academic Development.

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