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Beyond The Bookshelf: Your OCA Library - The Open College of the Arts
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Beyond The Bookshelf: Your OCA Library

Having joined Open College of the Arts at the start of the year, it felt high time for a proper introduction! I’m Richard, OCA’s brand new Librarian. Having stumbled into libraries by accident as a Biochemistry graduate, my career has spanned across a number of settings in Further and Higher Education and I couldn’t be more excited to bring everything to this role and help make the library make sense for you!

There is real power in libraries, for centuries the library has sat at the very epicentre of learning, a place where everyone has a right to openly access information, at no personal cost. I’m incredibly passionate about breaking down those barriers we face in education and giving everyone an opportunity to learn, to access high quality education, and use powerful resources. I myself had a real winding path through education and, as such, I know just how challenging it can be to navigate your own studies. Midway through my own degree, personal circumstances led to me needing to take a few years out and then return as a mature student at a different institution. Since primary school, the library was the space I found my success in, expanded my knowledge and overcame my setbacks. Whether it was borrowing books en masse, and reading far beyond my age, at 7 like Roald Dahl’s eponymous Matilda, or later using it as a study space to really focus on a university assignment with no distractions and secure my top grades. I’ve always felt at home in the library, I even did my Year 10 work experience behind my school library’s desk! My best friend remembers it well and speaks of me “reigning behind that desk, with an air of superiority.”

I know, first hand, how challenging distance learning can be. I myself am working towards my masters degree online, by distance learning. Finding the time and tools to keep up with the work, attend classes, research for assignments and, for many of us, work full time too can feel like spinning plates! The challenge with academic libraries is that, so often, they are built on complex systems and rules and that can feel really overwhelming. Whether you’re lost trying to find a 16 decimal place dewey number in a massive university collection, or struggling to search for materials on new databases, it can be a headache. But, I’m here to help. Whether you’re lost trying to find an eBook, unsure of how to do Harvard referencing, or even just can’t remember the web address for the library catalogue, I’m just an email away ([email protected]) and there is no question that is too small or isn’t valid to ask.

As your library here at OCA begins its next era, I hope to help everyone get a better understanding of how to use resources effectively and easily to scaffold your learning as you build a suite of skills alongside your creative work. There’s a real misconception that in our digital age, libraries are less relevant or useful, but the skills you build in effectively learning to find, evaluate and use information can make for powerful tools throughout your studies and beyond. As someone who cashed in on those, often misnamed, “soft” skills and turned them into my career, I want to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to do the same. Effective study and research skills can be like an educational driving licence, equipping you to tackle interdisciplinary subjects from a strong foundation of central tools which translate well into entrepreneurship, employability and even personal development! Let’s make the library work for you!

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Posted by author: Richard Cleverley

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