For a number of years University College Cork Library has been facilitating Transition Year Students and their schools in their Work Experience programmes.
This has been a really successful outreach initiative for the library and has positively raised the profile of the library in UCC and the Cork region. It has also been a beneficial experience for the TY students and their schools. But, as coordinator for this programme I noticed over the years that there has been a distinct under representation of students from Deis Schools* applying to do their work experience with us.
For the 2018/2019 term UCC Library, in the spirit of inclusivity, decided to tackle this under-representation and to actively encourage Deis Schools students to apply do their work experience with us.
This paper will briefly touch on why UCC Library facilitates TY students and gives them the opportunity to do their work experience with us in UCC Library. It will contend it is important for libraries to do this as part of their outreach programme.
But in the main it will talk about why and how we went about addressing the under representation of TY students from Deis Schools. It will talk about how we liaised with Cork Deis schools and a number of UCC departments to offer TY students the most positive and beneficial first experience of work and college life that we can.
It will report on the experience of the students themselves and what it means to them. It will outline what our programme involves and, finally, it will provide some general take away tips and guidelines I have learned from coordinating the programme.
Hello. I would like to say thanks to Eimear for the lovely introduction. And thanks to you all for coming to this session. And finally, a big thanks to all the speakers for the two great papers just presented And a special thanks for Making it such a hard act to follow….
I’m here today to speak about, as the paper title states, The Transition Year Work Programme and DEIS Schools… The Experience from UCC Library. For The next few minutes I will talk about the TY programme at UCC Library I will talk about what we do Why we do it. I will explain why and how we tweaked our programme this year to make it more inclusive. I will provide feedback from the students on their time with us. I will finish by providing some lessons learned this year. These lessons will shape how I organise the programme going forward for and from next year. And if there are any Charlie Brown fans in the audience – and I do see one, hi Jane – you might just enjoy the slides…
But first before we continue some definitions in case there is anybody who doesn’t know about the Transition Year Programme or DEIS Schools …
The Transition Year(TY) programme has been available to secondary school students since 1992 and, according to the Department of Education, is designed to give students a year to mature, learn new skills and gain both work and life experience. The year makes up a students fourth year of secondary school study, immediately after completing the Junior Certificate and before the two year Leaving Certificate programme The aim of Transition Year is: "To promote the personal, social, educational and vocational development of pupils and to prepare them for their role as autonomous, participatative and responsible members of society. Most schools offer a work experience programme, often of two weeks duration – this offers students an insight into the real working world
Launched in 2005 by the Department of Education and Skills, DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) is the most recent national programme aimed at addressing the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities. A very significant element of DEIS is known as the School Support Programme (SSP) which is in place in about 340 urban primary schools, 340 rural primary schools, and 200 post-primary schools with the highest levels of disadvantage
All primary and post-primary schools participating in DEIS receive a range of additional resources including additional staffing, funding, access to literacy and numeracy programmes, and assistance with activities such as school planning.
As a part of our Outreach and community engagement we facilitate a number of work experience programmes. Erasmus, Interns, Library Schools Students. And we host Transition Year Students as part of their work experience.
Why do we host TY Students? A number of reasons. Outreach – it is part of UCC and UCC Library’s strategy – to develop and foster relationships with the local community. Taken from UCC Civic Engagement Plan 2017 – 2022. “Our vision is to be a leading civically engaged University, through capitalising on our teaching and learning strengths, and translating our dynamic academic and research leadership into far-reaching community engagement for the good of all.”
It gives us a chance to Show Case UCC Library and UCC itself to possible future students. We are all in competition against the other colleges for a limited supply of students. If students have a good experience of the university before their leaving certificate it might encourage them to choose UCC.
Part of UCC and UCC Library Strategy is to engage with the wider Cork Community.
Give Something Back to the wider community.
To raise the profile and goodwill of the library.
Though we have been facilitating schools with their TY work programme for many years I had noticed a distinct under representation of students from DEIS Schools. As to why this was I can’t definitively say. But in the years that I have been coordinating the programme I only recall one TY student from a DEIS school. And this is something that I wanted to rectify. WHY? Personal reason – I myself was brought up in what would now be considered a DEIS area – Moyross in Limerick - where life chances of many of my schoolmates would have been limited by community expectations. And I’m a strong believer in education as a social equalizer and if UCC Library could play a part in showing kids from these areas that university is for everybody – then we should do it.
But as this was just my personal wish I needed to run it by our library director Colette who loved the idea and told me to go about arranging it.
So I informally contacted a colleague in UCC Plus to see if this is something they could help with. She said they would offer all the help I needed. So I got the list of schools and contacts of all the DEIS schools in the city and contacted the TY coordinator saying that UCC Library hosts TY students for their work experience if their students would like to apply. I Contacted thirteen schools. Five of them got back saying they would like to take part. Most schools told their students about the opportunity and asked those who wished to apply, to apply themselves. One school the coordinator selected her students who she thought would benefit most from it. One of these students was a remarkably bright, academically student who had planned on leaving school when she turned sixteen. The teacher hoped being around college for the week would make her change her mind. No pressure on me then I said. And thankfully at the end of the week she had decided to go on at least into the leaving cert cycle and take it from there. That felt like we had made a difference.
All Employers and institutions seem to have different ways of facilitating Transition Year students. Other departments in UCC, and other universities organise a full week of lectures and classes and host maybe twenty students. Some organise a competition to select who gets on the week. Some employers only allow students to shadow employees and watch what is done in the work place. The look but but don’t do. But we at UCC Library put them to actual work so they can experience first hand what it is like to actually work a full week. At the start of the week it is very much supervised work and they learn by doing. As the week goes on there is less supervision and they have more independence. I feel the the nature of some library work allows for people to come in very quickly and learn the basics. This is something that they really appreciate. The TY Students work with us as part of the Research Collections Team for the week, (As I manage our student help team it is very easy for me to factor TY students into the work flow) They start the week by being shown what they will do for the week, They then start by managing the returns room and returns. We get them to fill trolleys for shelving. As the week goes on we get them to shelve in high demand. And near the end of the week we have them shelving the returns on the main floors.
I can imagine there are a number of people in the room thinking but what about the books. What if they do it wrong? What if they shelve the books wrong? Well, we have a plan. When they do get to shelve the books they shelve the books on their sides and we follow up on this to make sure they are shelved correctly. The few minutes it takes us to check the books is put against the half hour it takes our student help to shelve.
As well as working in Research Collections they also go to other sections. Our Special Collections Librarian Elaine Harrington takes the students for an hour. I will have informed her of the students interests – personal and academic – and Elaine will tailor her talk around these interests. Elaine is so enthuastic about her role and libraries – she is such a great ambassador for libraries. Due to the content and the passion for many students Special Collections is a highlight of their time with us The students go to Academic & Student Engagement Wednesday mornings for two hours. They learn about access, they sit at our main query desk to see the type of queries which come to the desk. They learn about our digital signage
On a Monday morning the students come to UCC Library’s very own Radio Show – Shush! Sounds from UCC Library (I’m one of the co-hosts along with Ronan Madden our head of Acquisitions. They sit in for the hour.
UCC Library hosts a Skills Centre – a writing centre by any other name. They are library staff but they are based in the library. They helped students with things like structuring essays, time management, notetaking etc. Our students go there for two hours and they do assigned work. Often testing their website for usability. The Skills Centre have made adjustments to the website on the back of comments from the students. TY Students also attend workshops that the skills centre run.
The UCC PLUS+ Programme / department provides assistance to Under-represented School-leavers and Supports Students Entering UCC via the HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) Scheme. The Schools Outreach Co-Ordinator meets with our DIS Schools students for coffee and explains the supports that UCC have in place for students.
To give the students a break from the work we give them a library tour and show them, and allow them to use, some of the cool stuff. Or that is what I now call it because of the amount of students who have said ‘cool’ in relation to it. So we make sure to show them the cool stuff. Our returns room, where they spend much of their time is something they all love We have a recording studio in the library that students and staff use for their work. If the room is not being used I get the students to record themselves. They get a kick out of this We have an Energy Pod on our third floor which students use to re-energise themselves if they need it. All the TY students get a go on this and love it. We are in the process of going live with a Virtual Reality lab. Thus far we have been able to show the students the lab but not for them to use it. Next year it should be on their agenda. Our Creative Zone is an alternative study space – slightly more funky in the way that Google or Facebook offices are – brighter, more colourful, more informal and made for group study. They also love our Laptop lending service even though the service is now becoming more usual in our academic libraries. We have recently installed a 3D printer in the library and they get to see this and learn about the workings of it. Returns machine – which we are used to now – is something that really impresses the TY Students at the beginning. By the end of the week they are well used to it due to the amount of time they spend there during the week. The cool stuff is what they remember and what can help shapes their impression of the library.
As part of my ongoing evaluation of how the programme is going I give the students an evaluation form as a means of seeing how their week went, what they liked, what they didn’t like, I ask for suggestions as to what they would do to improve the week for future TY students. I also include more general questions not related to the work per se. I ask about their perception of libraries pre and post working in the library for the week. I ask how they found college for the week. I also look for suggestions as to how the week could be improved.
The Responses and feedback we got from each student varies greatly. And please forgive me now as I read out a number of these.
The responses from students varies greatly. The good news is that all of them say they enjoy the work. They found there to be a lot more to being a librarian than expected. They all pretty much have the same perception of libraries prior to their starting here – a quiet building where you go to borrow books. They had never realised that there was so much more. They all immensely enjoyed the experience of being around a university for a week and all wanted to go to university after school. Special Collections is the biggest hit. A number of them mentioned that they needed to get fitter – (they found the physical aspect of the work the hardest bit. They would all recommend UCC Library as a TY work experience to their friends. From conversations with them about books it it does seems as if almost every school kid is a Harry Potter fan. Most of them did not expect to be so busy and were very surprised at how tired they were at the end of the week. One student, who actually wants to become a librarian – she has known this since she was 12 years of age – is reassured that libraries are not becoming extinct any time soon. Many realised how much they enjoyed organising stuff, They are surprised that we teach people how to research more effectively. Some mentioned how they are looking forward to what they see as the freedom of college as opposed to the regimented nature of school. One student found the shelving therapeutic – (something which I have been arguing for years) One mentioned that they have a new found respect for library staff (if nothing else this makes the whole thing worthwhile) One said that the week working was more fun than school. One person was surprised at how many people use the library – their idea of libraries beforehand was that they were small places with books where nobody went. One said the work was less tedious than they expected it to be. Many found it a great learning experience Most expressed their appreciation that they were given real actual important work to do rather than shadowing somebody for the full week. Or photocopying. Or making tra. The responses will help me tweak the programme for next year. (Actually as I am reading through these I think it would be great to work up a paper on TY students perceptions of libraries pre and post working in the library)
What have I learned? And what of going forward?
This year we deliberately took on a larger number of students than we normally do. Two reasons – some students had already been promised a slot from the previous year and if we wanted to facilitate TY students we obviously needed to take more. But I also wanted to take a large number so I could informally study the process for future years
And what are the lessons I have learned this year, and what of going forward? It is work, not necessarily hard work but it can be, particularly when the students are shy and difficult to engage. BUT I believe the work is worth it. Having two students doing the work experience is better than having one. The students have company, which makes them more confident. The more confident they are the less I need to be concerned about them. Having a gap between weeks when you take TY students is a good move. This year we had students most weeks in November and between February and April. This was too much. We need a break. So next year I will not take students two weeks running. Most students seem to understand what is required of them and what the work involves very quickly. One of the schools sends their students on work experience one morning weekly for the term. These students get a more rounded experience of the college. They see the cycle from the quiet and relaxed to the pressure of the exam period when the library is full and very busy. They really enjoy the cool stuff. This year we had two weeks where there was one student on their own. Our most recent student was like that and she found it quite intimidating being on their own amongst the thousands of students in the library and on campus during their breaks. So next year if a student student applies I will ask if they have a friend from the school who wants to join them for the week. The applications from the students really do give an indication of how good the student will be. A tailored to the library application in the main produces a better candidate than a generic email. I will really study the applications from students -
UCC Library has benefitted from being involved in this process. UCC libraries profile has been raised within the local community.
At often busy times we get extra help which helps us getting books back on shelves for the students. At quieter times we have extra bodies to take on the routine tasks like tidying, searching for missing books etc… our shelves have never looked so well or tidy. The amount of teachers who are so grateful to UCC Library for taking their students as many places won’t. This has led to much goodwill towards the library You can help to break the often staid outdated perceptions of libraries that exist out there.
It has benefited us as we have been able to build working connections with other departments such as UCC + and The UCC Skills centre.
So to conclude – UCC Library is very happy to be able to facilitate Transition Year students in their work experience, we gain from it, the students gain from it. And finally, if your library doesn’t facilitate students in their work experience I would suggest maybe do so for one or two students and see how it goes.
Any questions? Or to be more precise, does anybody have any nice easy to answer non difficult questions?
The Transition Year Work Programme and Deis Schools.... The experience from UCC Library Martin O'Connor
LAI / CILIP Joint Annual Conference 2019
The Transition Year Work Programme and DEIS Schools…
The Experience from UCC Library
• UCC Transition Year Work Programme
• DEIS school angle
• Feedback from the students
• Lessons learned
• Going Forward
Today I will talk about…