The CamGuides effect – African Studies

I am always in awe of how much our Masters students manage to achieve in the eight and a half months they spend with us. The information that is thrown at them can be overwhelming at the beginning of term.  As a library service, it is important that we remain timely and relevant, and do not become part of that “noise”.

CamGuides gave me a legitimate and professional reason to establish contact with my new students a full six weeks before their arrival.  The distribution and launch of the comprehensive resource to Departmental and Faculty Administrators was a stroke of genius! It made our colleagues aware of the valuable resource, whilst highlighting libraries and our services as an embedded part of the student experience.  At the Centre, between myself and the Administrator, we decided that I could use the opportunity to “virtually introduce myself” as their library contact.

Opening the lines of communication meant that I could offer a tailored service to those who may require extra assistance, or access to specialised resources even before term started.

Front loading the material on offer via CamGuides saved me the equivalent of at least a weeks’ worth of work during the induction period and the first couple of weeks of term. A resource that prepares them so thoroughly in terms of expectation, collections, and support available to them from the University, was invaluable.

I used the opportunity to send two further follow-up messages before induction, full of guidance on Africa-related resources and using iDiscover to find materials for their course, all whilst building on the foundations of the wider scholarly advice and support provided by CamGuides.

The result was that at induction it felt like we already knew each other. It was far more relaxed,  and it gave them the space to ask me specific and in-depth research questions.  This was because they were already versed in the basics of using the catalogue and felt confident in where they could find further help, whilst already understanding what was expected of them as a Masters student.

As a result, our 2-hour induction included far more exploration of: our materials in the archive, other relevant collections on the Sidgwick Site, the Black Cantabs exhibition at the UL, and still left us time for a team-building fetching exercise at the UL!

I felt like I had reaped some time back! I used this time effectively by curating and promoting a pop-up display of various materials from our working collection and archive, for use during four drop-in sessions for students from other departments (using the relevant contacts provided by the CILN contacts spreadsheet) and scheduled these drop-in sessions during our MPhil Core Course sessions.

These sessions would not have been possible without the excellent resources and promotional materials already prepared and circulated by the CamGuides team. I now had time to create my own materials for my drop-in sessions and spend time with each student with a research focus on Africa, without feeling like I was in “catch-up” mode during those first few weeks.

The resources available to us via CamGuides, LibGuides, and the other strands of the CILN Framework are the ultimate testament to working together to support our students’ needs. I thank all of you for getting involved and making such a difference!

Jenni Skinner – African Studies Library


CILN on the road

It’s no exaggeration to say that in the seven (only seven!) months since the official creation of the Cambridge Information Literacy Network, we as a community have achieved an extraordinary amount. In celebration of this, and to inform the rest of our library colleagues across the community about progress and plans for the future, we were treated to two CILN roadshows, organised by the members of CILN responsible for staff development and training.

The roadshows started with Libby Tilley and Catherine Reid, the Chair and Deputy Chair of CILN, and this timeline of events, from March 2017 to today:

A timeline of CILN so far; its development from the Task and Finish Group, through the CILN launch, to the future.

CILN developed out of a Task & Finish Group to explore library teaching and training, and directly from their recommendation that the library community would benefit from an information literacy framework. The timeline shows the major events that have happened since then: the development of this framework, a successful bid for funding from the Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning, the inaugural CILN Forum, in 2018 (details here), the launch of CamGuides (details here).

But these are only the headlines. So – fasten your seatbelts – this is what we’ve done!

The Master’s OER strand

Otherwise known as CamGuides! This is a pre-arrival, online resource for Master’s students with a taught element, regardless of discipline, background or mode of study, and ready for launch by the start of term in 2018. Helen Murphy reported on the development of the course, through the research, planning and development stages. Much more information about CamGuides is available elsewhere on this blog.

A slide detailing the purpose, output, team and honorary team of the CamGuides strand of CILN. Purpose: to design an online, pre-arrival resource for Master's students.

The Undergraduate OER strand

The goal of the Undergraduate OER strand, as Jenny Blackhurst and Catherine Reid outlined, is to produce a pre-arrival resource on academic skills and information literacy in time for the 2019 intake. While the content will be designed to be relevant principally for offer holders to Cambridge, it will be accessible to (and hopefully useful for) students interested in applying, or making decisions about where to apply.

Since the launch of the project in January, the team have been researching and reviewing the literature around undergraduate transition to university, exploring similar resources at other universities, gathering info, attending events (including LILAC and the CILN Forum). The next steps involve making use of the research done by other CILN strands, some research with our 2018 incoming freshers, discussion with A-level teachers and the Cambridge admissions office, and looking at integrating the undergraduate resource with the Master’s one.

A slide detailing the purpose, output and team of the undergraduate group. Purpose: to design a pre-arrival information literacy resource for undergrad students of any discipline.

Mapping student learning deadlines

Angela Cutts reported on the incredibly useful information gathering work being conducted by the Mapping Student Learning Deadlines slide. Their role is to gather information on all significant curriculum events for a student in any subject – such as hand-in dates, exams, etc. This is being collated and presented in two curriculum maps in Google Doc – one for undergraduates and one for Master’s students – and so far 510 events have been logged. This work will be so useful as library staff plan and schedule the teaching they offer, and the strand plan to make their work so far available to the library community in Cambridge in the next few weeks.

A slide describing the progress of the Mapping Student Learning Deadlines group - tracking preparation deadlines, submission deadlines, exams, placements.

CILN Online

The role of the CILN online group, led by Clare Trowell, was to explore and make recommendations for a potential suite of generic online resources that the library community might use, or that might form a just-in-time offering of support and teaching. Through exploring the offerings of other institutions, researching pedagogical approaches to digital education, thinking about technology and delivery, and learning from the CamGuides experience, the CILN Online group presented a report with recommendations for the development of online resources, tutorials and other learning objects.

A slide outlining the purpose, output and team of CILN-Online. Purpose: to scope what libraries could provide as a suite of information literacy tutorials

Mapping Competencies

The work of the Mapping Competencies group, led by Suzanne Paul and Lynne Meehan, was to identify existing training in Cambridge, learn about its intended audience, schedule, eligibility, and then map this training to the four competencies in the information literacy framework. The group have been talking to library staff from over 60 libraries in Cambridge (with a final push on the horizon) and are learning huge amounts about the ways in which College, and Faculty and Departmental Libraries, approach teaching and training. Most of the work we do, they say, is focused around Resource Discovery but there is definitely interest from library staff in developing teaching around the other competencies too. They also promised a report to the library community in the next few weeks.

A slide describing the goals and team of the Mapping Competencies group, identifying existing training and mapping it to the four competencies.

Inductions and Orientations group

The inductions and orientations group set out to survey all induction and orientation activity that happens in Cambridge at the beginning of the academic year. Having gathered that information (report to follow), they set about developing materials that Cambridge library staff might use in their inductions and orientations, and especially those staff whose induction is necessarily limited because of the students’ schedule. These materials – a handicam video, flyer, posters, Powerpoint slide – will all be circulated in the next few weeks.

A slide with details of the work of the inductions and orientations group - the purpose is to develop Cambridge libraries induction and orientation procedures


The Comms group, led by Andy Corrigan, was initially developed in response to a need to coordinate the launch of CamGuides but have achieved a huge amount in a very short space of time. Since their inception, they have come up with a Comms strategy to ensure that all of the CILN strands are communicating a consistent message, and to ensure the successful delivery and reception of CILN outputs, to manage risks, and much more. They’ve produced lots of CamGuides materials (posters, flyers, a banner, email signatures, and more), and are generating a key contacts list from across the university.

Slide detailing the outputs and team of the Comms group - a strategy, promotional material, key contacts

Staff development group

Last but not least, there’s the CILN Staff Development group, chaired by Meg Westbury. Their aim is to ensure that library staff across Cambridge have the skills, support and confidence to deliver the teaching and training that they want to!

The principal output of this group is intended to be a Teacher Librarian course, for any member of the library community, for beginners, for those with experience, for anyone in the community with an interest in teaching. It’s a 9-month, blended learning course. A third will be delivered online, and will focus on learning theories, developing a learning philosophy, and information literacy frameworks; the other two-thirds will be practical, around the design and delivery of teaching. The goal is to have this course, once developed, accredited by the HEA.


Thank you!

All of those providing updates agreed on one thing: their work, and any achievements, would not have been possible without their project teams, all of whom were thanked and praised repeatedly throughout. What we’ve managed to do in seven months definitely justifies the buzz around CILN and the enthusiasm within our community for the work that CILN might do. Needless to say, it’s an exciting time to work for the University of Cambridge libraries community.

CamGuides is live!

On 20th August CamGuides – a pre-arrival online course for taught Master’s students, regardless of discipline, background or mode of study – went live. The launch was ably managed by the excellent CILN Comms team, and as our new Master’s students begin to arrive in Cambridge we are already avidly gathering feedback and ideas for ways to improve the course.

Click the image below or click here to take a look at the course!

A screenshot of the CamGuides homepage

Any and all feedback is welcome – use the comments or contact the Project Team.

Final CamGuides countdown

In the eye of the hurricane, there is quiet.

For the past fortnight CamGuides has officially been ‘in review’, being put through its paces, tested, critiqued, and assessed by a variety of people. This essential work is being carried out by Rose Giles (University Library) and Amy Theobald (Betty and Gordon Moore Library), and I can barely express my gratitude to them for taking this work on with such commitment and rigour.

Their short- and longer-term recommendations are due any day now, which means I’m currently in a semi-blissful state of not really knowing what Rose and Amy will recommend, or how hectic the pre-launch period is going to be! But this quiet point seems like the perfect time to reflect on CamGuides itself – the product, not the process. There will be time, later, to consider what we as individuals and as a community can learn from its development; there will be time, later, to ensure that we learn from mistakes and missteps, and to share this with the wider CILN teams and the Cambridge library community as a whole.

So, although this might seem premature, with the recommendations yet to be published, here are five things that I would like you to know about CamGuides:

1. It is a set of learning objects.

And it has its own learning objectives. Though the purpose of CamGuides is to support students in their chosen discipline, it is also something to be learned from.

2. It is officially an open educational resource.

Nearly all of the content on CamGuides is licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0, which means it can be reused with attribution and under the same terms. This means that it definitely qualifies as an OER, defined by UNESCO as “teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation and distribution”. It isn’t just that members of the Cambridge library and academic communities can reuse, remix, and redistribute the content on CamGuides. Anyone can.

CamGuides being an OER isn’t just a matter of it being accessible to all students, or outside of a Cambridge authentication wall, though this is also crucial! Rather, this might represent an early step for us, as a community, joining in with and being a critical voice within the openness movement in HE. This movement, lauded as being inherently democratising, anti-hierarchical and counter-cultural (Gourlay, 2015), is also deserving of critique and dissent. CamGuides might catalyse our engagement with these sorts of debates.

3. It will never be finished.

This doesn’t mean it won’t be ready in time for launch before new students start arriving at the beginning of September – it definitely will. (This is more closely a result of stubbornness than good planning). But there will always be room for improvement, for development, and for change. CamGuides is a long-term commitment.

4. It will not solve all of the problems that students face when they begin their Master’s degrees.

Students will still need substantial, knowledgeable and committed face-to-face support from library staff across the whole library community. Fortunately, there’s a lot of that about.

5. It is a product of many hands and voices.

I can’t stress this enough: CamGuides exists because of the commitment and generosity of so many people, who deserve to share both the blame and the thanks. It is a result of current Master’s students who have shared their experiences, lending their voices and giving advice to future Master’s students; of the gifted and committed team at the Language Centre, whose creativity is boundless; of the administrators of the Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund, without whom we may never have begun; of library staff across the colleges, faculties, departments and UL – and particularly the Digital Services team and my fabulous colleagues at the English Faculty Library; of experienced and knowledgeable administrative staff who shared links and names; of academic staff who shared ideas and feedback; of Amy and Rose, whose work will improve CamGuides considerably; and of the CamGuides project team – Ange Fitzpatrick, Lizz Edwards-Waller, Chris Grogan, David Marshall and Lihua Zhu – without whom, among other things, it would definitely not have such a catchy name. Thanks to all of you – now let’s get back to work.



Gourlay, L. (2015). Open education as a ‘heterotopia of desire.’ Learning, Media and Technology, 40(3), 310–327.
Miranda, Lin-Manuel and the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton: An American Musical. (2015). In The Eye Of The Hurricane. Warner.
UNESCO. (2017). Open educational resources. Retrieved August 5, 2018, from

CILN FORUM presentations

A selection of the CILN FORUM presentations:

Thank you to all our speakers!

CILN Forum

On Tuesday 19th June 2018 the first Cambridge Information Literacy Forum was held on the Sidgwick Site at the University of Cambridge.

The Forum saw over 100 members of the network and their colleagues gather to discuss and develop ideas for mapping the newly devised Cambridge Information Literacy Framework.

Speakers were invited from other HE institutions to provide an opportunity to hear the experiences of others about implementation, sustainability and good practice.

The day was tweeted extensively, thanks to a team of live-tweeters, see below for tweet summaries of each session. You can also have a look at the hashtag #CILNForum for an overview of the whole day.

The day was opened by an introduction and welcome from Libby Tilley (University of Cambridge & CILN Project Team Member) and Dr Jess Gardner (Cambridge University Librarian).

The welcome was followed by a series of talks from Lorna Dodd (Maynooth University, Ireland), Helen Murphy (University of Cambridge), and Shazia Arif & Sam Piker (Brunel).

Lorna Dodd shared the process of adopting, developing and implementing an information literacy framework at Maynooth University, Ireland.

Lorna’s talk was followed by Helen Murphy, who is heading up the CILN CamGuides pre-arrival course for taught Master’s students. Helen shared developments in the process of creating the course and the questions raised by the need for and choice of technology.

The final speakers in the morning session, Shazia Arif & Sam Piker, shared Brunel University’s experience of developing digital capabilities through their Graduate LibSmart Programme.

The morning talks were followed by a number of parallel sessions. For more tweets from each session follow the link to the hastags:

Parallel Session #CFP1A: David Marshall (Futurelib, University of Cambridge) – Student journeys research

Parallel Session #CFP1B: Claire Packham & James Atkinson (City, University of London) – Implementation & future-proofing

Parallel Session #CFP1C: Helen Clough (Open University) – Implementing an Information Literacy Framework

Parallel Session #CFP1D: Katy Woolfenden & Jennie Blake (University of Manchester) – My Learning Essentials

Parallel Session #CFP1E: Angela Young (UCL) – Using Information Literacy Frameworks in teaching and skills training

Over lunch our project groups shared the progress of the various CILN strands.

The second set of parallel sessions continued in the afternoon:

Parallel Session #CFP2A: Emma Thompson (University of Liverpool) – Sustainability of Information Literacy programmes

Parallel Session #CFP2B: Sarah Elsegood (Anglia Ruskin University) – Information Literacy research project & academic liaison

Parallel Session #CFP2C: Susan Halfpenny (University of York) – Digital Literacy Framework

Parallel Session #CFP2D: Alison Hicks (UCL) – Pedagogy & Information Literacy

Parallel Session #CFP2E: Helen Murphy (University of Cambridge) – Implementing an Information Literacy Framework in Arts & Humanities libraries

The third parallel sessions were divided into two sessions led by Alison Little and Jane Secker.

Parallel Session 3A
Alison Little (University of Sheffield) – Advocacy with stakeholders when implementing an Information Literacy framework

Parallel Session 3B
Jane Secker (City, University of London) – CILIP’s new Information Literacy definition

The day finished with two concurrent panel sessions discussing the theme of ‘Information Literacy and the transition to university”:

Thanks to all our speakers and attendees. Keep an eye on the blog for more reflections from the day.

Guest post: Themes from the CILN Forum

This is a guest post written by Veronica Phillips, Reader Support Assistant at the Cambridge Medical Library. Read the original post on her blog here.

Cambridge libraries have had information literacy on the agenda for a while now, and I’ve been part of the groups working on this area for some time. Last year, I was part of a small teaching and learning task and finish group, working on making preliminary recommendations to the University regarding information literacy policy and guidance. This preliminary work fed into a much larger network of Cambridge library staff — of which I am also a part — called CILN (Cambridge Information Literacy Network). CILN has been working hard on all things information literacy: mapping key dates for students across subjects and years, mapping competencies and training provision, and much more. CILN has also been hard at work planning an information literacy forum, with speakers invited from other universities, and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend.

As always with my conference/workshop write-ups, I am not going to attempt to provide a word-for-word paraphrase of every single thing that was said at the CILN Forum. Rather, I will pull out a few key themes which I felt were the main takeaways from the event. (However, if you want a live summary of events as they unfolded, the conference hashtag on Twitter might be worth checking out.)

The main theme of the forum for me was terminology. Almost every speaker mentioned a degree of discomfort with the term ‘information literacy’, stressed the need for a clear definition, and noted that it was important to translate terms into language that reflected the activities and priorities of the intended audience. For example, Susan Halfpenny, of the University of York, explained that her library’s information literacy framework deliberately mapped to learning outcomes and assessment criteria of university courses, so that the framework (and the training and other support her library provided) was contextualised within courses and academics, students and university administrators could see how it connected with their own goals. Likewise, Alison Little of the University of Sheffield noted that her framework was embedded within a wider university teaching and learning strategy.

I was particularly impressed with the choices in terminology used by library staff at Brunel University London, as outlined by Sam Piker and Shazia Arif, which to my mind reflected the actual learning activities undertaken by students. (You can see the names of some of the library courses offered at Brunel here.)

What we should be aiming for in creating information literacy frameworks (and planning training and other services to support it) is a clear use of terminology that is understandable to its audience (whether that be university administration, academics, or students). We want colleagues and library users to understand what we do, and make use of services that they themselves need, and we need to use language that will help in these aims.

Image_blogpost_information literacy forum

The other main theme of the forum was something I come back to again and again: institutional support. Where did information literacy support fit within overall teaching and learning undertaken by students at any given university? Was it integrated into academic coursework, or was it treated as an optional extra and positioned as a wholly library-led endeavour? Lorna Dodd of Maynooth University stressed that the information literacy framework at Maynooth was contextualised within the curriculum aims and graduate attributes of the university, tacitly acknowledging that the library does not take sole responsibility for information literacy. Rather, it is embedded within curricula, and indeed much information literacy teaching, while being held in library teaching spaces, is not delivered by library staff. The result was a redesigned array of services that were much more integrated into students’ coursework, and a better reflection of what they and their lecturers actually needed.

How and where information literacy support is positioned means virtual positioning as well. It’s essential the information about support and services is located in online spaces where students can find it easily. We cannot rely on them finding LibGuides buried in the depths of a library website — or even finding the library website itself. Where do students go to find information or support to help with their studies? They are more likely to look in places like their VLE, or perhaps a tab marked ‘current students’ on the homepage of their university’s website. Information literacy support (whatever terminology is used to describe it) needs to be prominently linked in these kinds of locations, and indeed many speakers at the forum noted that they had battled to get such content embedded in exactly these places. When library support for information literacy is not only face-to-face teaching, the possibilities for positioning it within curricula and in online spaces where students are likely to access it are even greater; staff at Sheffield designed their information literacy teaching explicitly with that in mind.

The CILN team is clearly intending to proceed having taken on board the experiences of peers at other institutions, and I very much hope that the strong recommendations regarding terminology and positioning of information literacy content and support are followed at Cambridge. For my part, what I learnt at the CILN Forum will inform several changes regarding my teaching that I’ve been contemplating for a while: overhauling the naming of courses I offer (based on user feedback if possible), and working more actively to forge connections with course coordinators and other academic staff in order to ensure my training is meeting the needs of students, and is well integrated into the rest of the teaching they receive throughout their courses.