From education to employment

Coleg Sir Gar make the most of CLA’s Education Platform

Image of a stack of books next to an open laptop

CLA spoke to Liz Chester, Librarian at Coleg Sir Gar’s Ammanford Campus about her institution’s uptake of CLA’s Education Platform.

Coleg Sir Gar and Coleg Ceredigion are colleges in South West Wales, numbering nearly 3500 full time equivalent FE students, and an additional 600 in HE. The college spans an impressive seven sites, with another campus a mere 90 minute drive from where Liz works! Liz’s remit is very much a mix of vocational FE and HE, looking after construction and care faculties.

The College took up the Education Platform in 2021. While Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) staff had visited the college as the platform was developed, and Liz and colleagues had attended Education Platform webinars – which they note were very helpful – other duties simply hove into view and it wasn’t possible to stitch the Education Platform into the overall strategy of the library.

That changed in 2021, when investment from the Senior Team prompted a re-think. The College’s annual Festival of Practice at the end of the academic year gives staff an opportunity to share new ideas and research in FE. The Library Team are delighted to be part of this and use the sessions as a chance to raise awareness and highlight good practice. For 2021, the team decided to share news of CLA and the Education Platform.

Liz noted the need for libraries to market themselves to teaching staff and to make processes as easy and straightforward as possible. Weeks before the Festival of Practice session the library team knew that the main obstacle for Education Platform adoption would be the unlocking of books in the platform, especially under covid. The Library was offering a click and collect service, but most staff were off site, and would not be able to access the college’s holdings to unlock the books they needed.

So, armed with devices Liz and her colleague Dom started to work through the library stock book by book. As Liz says, after a couple of hours, she’d had enough! Unlocking title by title wasn’t going to cut it, so she got in touch with CLA, who talked her through the bulk unlocking of materials, and a quick csv download later, the college’s unlocked books had gone from 50 to 570. Since then, the team has introduced EP book unlocking into their receiving process, so the EP catalogue now stands at nearly 740 unlocked titles, accessible to all seven campuses.

Back in June, Liz was now ready to run her ‘Fab 500+’ Festival of Practice session for staff. She started with the biggest selling point of the platform – the end result. Just look how good a copied page looks in Google Classroom she said. It’s got the chance to add notes and it’s crisp and clean. What’s more it’s free, digital, and green! Staff could see the benefits immediately, so it just remained for Liz to demo how the copy was made.

The Festival of Practice sessions were well attended and feedback from staff very positive. Liz notes the excellent availability of materials in Welsh, and how material from smaller local publishers like Crown House sits next to that from Hodder. She was conscious that she had to manage staff expectations regarding content on the Platform – this wasn’t a library of every e-book and not everything they want will necessarily be there, but alternatives might be – complimentary reading, material or diagrams that can supplement the core course text.

Liz is delighted that CLA has been able to negotiate this level of access to material with publishers. She notes that the process is ongoing, and that every time College staff search for an ISBN, that’s another title that CLA can request from the publishers. In turn, she views the Education Platform as a way to inform library procurement and encourage conversations about what materials staff would like purchased.

Liz left CLA with food for thought about future developments too. She suggested that regular analytics about staff use would be helpful – to inform further promotion and purchasing, and that while registering is one thing, using the platform as a daily and seamless habit is another. But for Liz, the benefits to students are clear. Students can quickly and digitally access crisp, clean versions, which Liz notes will be of huge benefit to learners with a visual impairment. The remote nature of the platform also supports work-based learners who can’t necessarily get on site. Liz will check in with staff to see how they’re going later this term, but the key benefit for her is that the platform offers access to credible and reliable sources, that offer a sounder foundation to learners than their own Google searches might offer.

Liz Chester has worked in libraries for her entire career, and sees copyright as one of the pillars of the sector. Before joining Coleg Sir Gar at the historic coal mining town of Ammanford she was at the Sackler Library at the University of Oxford.

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