Hidden Disabilities: Mental Health with Take Off.

On the 10th May we had another Libchat in our Hidden Disabilities series. We were visited by Mark and Ellie from the mental health charity Take Off, which is based in Canterbury. Mark and Ellie talked to us about their personal struggles with mental health. Their candid interview was enlightening, inspiring and heart wrenching.

Take Off started in 1998 and is now one of the leaders in Peer Support for those that have experience mental or physical health problems. Take Off helps people improve their mental and physical wellbeing by managing their social care needs in a creative, social and safe atmosphere.

Take Off hosts a number of projects, including self-help groups, crisis support groups, and a mental health service user forum.

Mark, a retired police officer, has struggled with depression for many years and has had a number of diagnosis, including multiple personality disorder and bi-polar disorder. When meeting Mark, it is hard to envision such a cheerful, chatty man being affected by mental health, yet Mark talked to us about his time in secure units, and the frustration and the peace that these places can inspire. It is through his time in mental health facilities that Mark entered into the world of helping others. Mark recalled an incidence of being made to create an egg cup, but not being allowed to boil an egg to go in it. Mark believes that patients should be allowed to choose how they recover, which has inspired the way in which Take Off is now run.

Ellie, a recent graduate from the University of Kent, has also suffered from anxiety and depression. Ellie, like Mark exudes a persona of someone jovial, fun loving and carefree. It is sad to think of these wonderful people being let down by the medical profession, however, Ellie recounted visiting the GP and automatically being prescribed pills to combat her anxiety. It is through a degree in Psychology, that Ellie was able to identify her anxiety and through self-help guidance was able to overcome some of her fears. Through this she has been able to develop Take Off with Mark to help other young people gain the help and support that they need.

Through talking to Mark and Ellie, and discussion of their experiences. As the heart of the University, could the library do more to help our students that may be suffering from homesickness, anxiety, depression and other stresses that higher education can bring. Ellie’s advice is to ask. If you see someone that is upset, do not brush them off and walk past, but ask if they would like to talk, take them for coffee. In Ellie’s experience if someone is not ready to talk they will tell you so, but do try and follow up, book in a time and a place to have a catch up. Take their email and check up on them. Although everyone has different needs and recover in different ways, we all need to be able to feel that there is someone out there to talk to. But remember, you can control what you say, but you can never control the answer!

Staff and students can find help by going to the Wellbeing service on campus.

From Nikki on behalf of the Libchats team.

Using professional standards to inform information literacy work

For our last LibChat of the 2015/16 schedule, we were delighted to welcome David Bedford, Academic Support Librarian at Drill Hall Library, Universities at Medway. He is responsible for a number of schools including Sport and Exercise Sciences, the Centre for Professional Practice and Medway School of Pharmacy. David presented a paper at this year’s LILAC Conference on this topic and took the opportunity to talk us through how he has been working to improve information literacy skills amongst students.

Drill Hall Library, Universities at Medway is run in partnership between the University of Greenwich, University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University.

Drill Hall Library, Universities at Medway is run in partnership between the University of Greenwich, University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University.

The key, David explained, is to ensure that the lifelong learning aspects of information literacy are understood by both students and their tutors. In terms of professional practice in a range of subjects, including Nursing, Paramedic Science and Dentistry, there are established standards set out by regulatory bodies, such as the Royal College of Nursing. By highlighting how these standards and professional guidelines link to core information literacy skills, David was able to integrate this training into core teaching.

Topics covered included keyword searching, appropriate use of social media and investigating useful resources which might appear outside an individual’s search scope, all of which are touched upon by guidelines within the students’ proffesional sectors. David was also able to draw direct parallels with librarians’ understanding of information literacy, such as SCONUL’s Seven Pillars of Information Literacy.

Throughout the development of this work, the relationship with tutors was vital: to support, encourage and, sometimes, to learn. David stressed that the ideal would see these sessions embedded over the full three years of the academic course, with a focus on future employability. Feedback gained during and immediately after the sessions has proved positive, while training on how to understand information, rather than just using tools, has increased the value of the limited time David has been able to spend with the students.

Using simple feedback mechanisms madei t easier to establish the success of the session. The exclamation mark stands for learning something new.

Using simple feedback mechanisms made it easier to establish the success of the session. The exclamation mark stands for learning something new.

Discussions after the session were wide ranging, with David emphasising that many degree courses have supporting professional practices, even if these are not as high profile or essential as the medical professions. Conversations about the leap in skills expectations between school and university offered several new avenues for deloping this topic, and may well form the basis of a new LibChat coming in the 2016/2017 schedule.

Until next time…

So that’s it for 2015/2015 LibChats, but we’re already starting to plan out next year’s sessions. If you have any ideas, comments or feedback, do let us know. You can comment on this blog, or email us at libchats@kent.ac.uk (please be aware this inbox is checked sporadically, but we will get back to you as soon as possible).

If you’re interested in learning more about LibChats and seeing what we’ve covered in the last year, why not browse through the blog?

Hidden Disabilities: Autistic Spectrum Condition

The first LibChats event of 2016 welcomed record numbers for a fascinating and insightful talk about Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC).

Natalie Savage, a Disability Advisor for Student Support & Wellbeing here at Kent, led a thought provoking session which gave us an insight into what it can be like to live with an Autistic Spectrum Condition, from the challenges of social communication, interaction and imagination, to the importance of routines, rules and rituals.

What is an Autism Spectrum Condition?

Autism is a developmental condition that affects a person throughout their whole life.  It is part of the autism spectrum, and is sometimes called Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autism Spectrum Condition, ASD or ASC.

the other rainbow

It is refereed to as a spectrum condition because the condition affects people in different ways, even though they share some of the same characteristics.  The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are sometimes known as the ‘triad of impairments,’ which are:

  • difficulty with social communication
  • difficulty with social interaction
  • difficulty with social imagination

However, people who are on the autistic spectrum may also experience a need for routines, suffer with sensory sensitivity and anxiety, and may also have special interests.

Support available at the University of Kent

Here at the University of Kent, Student Support and Wellbeing are currently aware of 94 students who have either Asperger’s or Autism (both Autistic Spectrum Conditions), of which 21 are registered with “two or more impairments.” However, there are 16 students who have not applied for an inclusive learning plan, or do not wish to have one, who disclosed their condition to UCAS.

Social Communication

So Literal...Many people with an Autistic Spectrum Condition have a very literal understanding of language which can lead to them thinking that a person is saying exactly what they mean. Common phrases that we can use in everyday conversation are a good example of this. For instance, if it was raining heavily outside we might say that it is ‘raining cats and dogs.’ Most of us will not take this literally, but someone on the spectrum may not understand that this isn’t being used literally.

Body language, facial expression and tone of voice can also be difficult for a person on the spectrum to interpret.

Social Interaction

There are many unwritten social rules that we don’t need to think about.  However, someone with autism may not understand these rules. For example, they may stand too close to another person without realising their is personal space etiquette.

Endless forms most beautiful

People with autism often have difficulty recognizing or understanding other people’s emotion or feelings.  For instance, they may not be able to interpret that a person is crying because they are happy. Equally, they may not know that someone is crying because they are sad. This can mean that they may appear to be insensitive because they struggle to recognise how someone else is feeling.

They may also find it difficult to express their own feelings and emotions, which can sometimes lead to ‘strange’ behaviour, and they can often prefer to spend time alone rather than in the company of others.

Social Imagination

Social imagination allows us to understand and predict other people’s behaviour, to imagine situations outside or the immediate routine and make sense of abstract concepts. These can often be difficult for someone with autism to understand.


They may find it difficult to understand what is going to happen next, and may even have little or no concept of danger.  They may also find it difficult to prepare for change and plan for the future, or cope in new or familiar situations.


Imagination should not be confused with the challenges associated with social imagination.  Many people with autism are very creative and may be accomplished in fields such as art, music, science, drama, etc.  Some famous people throughout history who may have had autism can be found here, and include Albert Einstein, Amadeus Mozart, Charles Darwin, and many more.

A Love of Routines and Rules

For someone with autism the world can appear to be very unpredictable.  However, a daily routine can alleviate the anxiety levels that some autistic people may experience by limiting the amount of exposure they have to unpredictable events.  For instance, a student may work with Student Support and Wellbeing Services to develop a timetable to help them manage their routine.  They may like their lunch at the same time everyday, they may need to factor personal study time around lectures, etc.  However, they may find it difficult to cope with change, but it is often easier for them to cope if they are prepared in advance.

Once someone with autism has been instructed to do something in a particular way, they may find that very difficult to change.  If certain rules accompany this they do not always react well to them being broken.  For instance, a group of people talking in a silent study area may be upsetting. They may also not know know how to deal with this rule breaking.

Sensory Sensitivity

(Video from ‘Interacting with Autism;’ Animated by Miguel Jiron; Produced by Scott Mahoy; Written By Marsha Kinder)

People with autism can experience some form of sensory sensitivity to sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance and body awareness.  Their senses will either be intensified (hypersensitive) or under sensitive (hypo-sensitive).  For example, a student using the new library extension may be able to ignore the background noise, but to someone else it could be too loud and distracting.  This can cause anxiety or even physical pain.

Those who are hypo-sensitive may not be able to feel pain.  They may burn themselves if washing their hands under very hot water, some may rock, spin of flap their hands to stimulate sensation, deal with stress, or to help with balance.

One persons experience of sensory sensitivity will vary from another persons and can be affected by other factors such as mood and stress.


It is very common for people with an autistic spectrum condition to experience high levels of anxiety.  As you would have seen from the video above, this can escalate into ‘meltdowns,’ trauma and result in complete withdrawal.

It is not uncommon for them to have an irrational belief that a situation is or is going to be far worse than it actually is.  This is known as catastrophising.  The Musings of an Aspie website gives a personal insight into how “Catastophizing sucks: one woman’s thoughts about life on the spectrum.”

Highly Focused Interests

Many people with autism have specific and focused interests, often from a very young age, which can change over time or be lifelong.  The interest can be anything from types of transport, computers, cartoons, music and art to collecting certain items.

A student here at Kent who is on the autistic spectrum has a special interest in lifts.  He has mapped all of the lifts on campus and created a “Random Lift Tour” video on YouTube. He has over 6,000 followers.


What our students say about their experience of using the library?

What our students like about the library:

  • “Overall I am very happy with it. I can usually find a space.”
  • “I love it! (The new part that is) The café is also lovely.”
  • “It’s okay. There are still places where you can read.”
  • “I quite like it, I like the social areas.”
  • “It’s brilliant.”

What our students dislike about the library:

  • “I haven’t used it.”
  • “It’s too busy.”
  • “When I need help, I don’t know who to ask.”
  • “Because I’m a Third Year, I can’t ask for help ‘cos people will think I’m stupid … I’ve left it too late.”
  • “I don’t work there, but I might do in the future.”
  • “The light is too bright in the new part; I prefer the lower ceilings in the original building and the quiet corners.”
  • “I don’t like the open plan. People’s noise is constantly disturbing. There are no private places to hold small group discussions. It is too crowded.”
  • “I liked the old study sections where it was closed in and quiet. The new sections are too open and too noisy. The sound carries easily, even small sounds carry and echo. There are no small silent/quiet areas to study. I don’t study in the new part at all.”
  • “The water is too hot in the toilets.”
  • “I hate it when people use the library to make phone calls ‘cos it’s quiet.”
  • “Never go in there. I use the online resources though.”
  • “Stuffy – not enough oxygen. Not enough computers.”
  • “Stressful. Too exposed. Too much activity.”
  • “Difficult to navigate – especially when you have to go around the building.”

How our students think we can make improvements to the library:

  • “More signage – I’m really afraid that I’ll go down to a dead end and then have to retrace my steps and look like an idiot.”
  • “Separate 1:1 library tours that relate to my course only would be brilliant.”
  • “Sometimes I’m told to speak to my Subject Librarian, but in my eyes, they’re too important to address because they might think my question is stupid.”
  • “I’d really value practice sessions (task based) on how to navigate library facilities.
  • “Don’t make assumptions; either that I must know something or that I don’t.”
  • “Do check understanding; if possible show me, not tell me.”
  • “I’d like a video of library staff introducing themselves and saying what they do. This would take away a lot of the unknowns and make me less anxious.”
  • “Is there a way of letting students know the busiest/quietest times of day/term? They must have some clue about volume of students in there at various times so perhaps they could advise good times to visit and not have others waiting for staff and lots of people to contend with?”
  • “Demonstrating empathy and patience would be great.”

How can we improve the library experience for those with autism?

“Professor Tony Attwood in conversation with Autism Care UK.”  Here Tony discusses autism friendly environments, transitions and autism awareness.  (From a conference supported by Autism Care UK).

Natalie has provided some tips for dealing with students who visit the library:

  • “Some students do not like asking for help if they are surrounded by people. Maybe take them aside to a quieter space?”
  • “Many are very anxious and would have tried to resolve their problem before asking for help. Listen to their needs and try to resolve their query in a direct way (perhaps write down information/directions).”
  • Some students may not be sure of what or how to ask for something. Do not bombard them with questions/answers in an attempt to be helpful. Give them time.
  • Most importantly – mean what you say and say what you mean. Do not promise something that cannot be delivered.
  • Don’t make assumptions or judgements. If you pathologise someone, this is going to be a barrier to genuine connection and authenticity.
  • Positive experiences will help the student to gain confidence and improve access.
  • Negative experiences may mean that the student never returns.

Your feedback will be used to make positive change happen

The event slides are available here:

LibChat – Autism ; Slides – Natalie Savage, Student Support & Wellbeing

Comments and suggestions raised during this LibChats will become part of ongoing work to make improvements to the library and university wide experience for those with hidden disabilities.  If you have any other comments regarding the student experience for those with hidden disabilities please contact us at libchats@kent.ac.uk

Your feedback

Where to find out more







  1. http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asd.aspx

By Josie Caplehorne

Juanita Foster-Jones presents ‘Impact Toolkit: Student experience and you’


Our Impact Toolkit LibChat on 2nd November 2015 was presented by Juanita Foster-Jones, who is a Development Officer (VLE) that works with Regional Member Networks, Special Interest Groups and external suppliers to develop resources for CILIP’s VLE.


The Impact Toolkit can be found online and offers practical ways for information professionals to demonstrate their value and the impact of their services to stakeholders. It is divided between two areas, the first ‘understanding value’ and the second ‘communicating value’.  It was launched at the CILIP conference and is available to all CILIP members.  Here is a link to further information on accessing the Impact Toolkit: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/membership/benefits/virtual-learning-environment-vle/impact-toolkit At the conference in Liverpool, delegates were each given a little black book with a pen and sticky markers (see image), which can be used to record your impact on a daily basis.

Impact Toolkit book

There are six courses which help you to demonstrate your value as a service. The courses can be completed in order or you can select those of most interest to you.  Each course includes activities, readings, a discussion forum, videos and worksheets. The worksheets are important for those who prefer a physical record of their learning and can be useful for chartership or revalidation evidence.


After an introduction to the Toolkit and its aims, we divided into small groups to tackle the Stakeholder activity (see image). Using a worksheet, we discussed who the key decision-makers in our organisations were and who accessed our service.  Each group then contributed examples of stakeholders which Juanita wrote on the board.  This exercise neatly led to Juanita’s next question, how much do the key decision-makers, those who have power over your future as a service, know about what you do as a service and as individuals?  How well do they understand the services that we provide?  One example would be online services, which stakeholders only recognise as a service managed by professionals when it is not working successfully.  We then took part in a second activity, mapping the expectations of a stakeholder.  Ways of discovering their expectations can include looking at the language they use in their official statements or in the case of users, by creating surveys and focus groups.

Impact Toolkit worksheet

Juanita advised that as a service you should compare your aims with those of the larger organisation. What are you doing that contributes to the organisation’s strategic aims and how are you showing this to key stakeholders?  The information profession is not so good at communicating the work that is often completed behind the scenes.  Juanita emphasised that we should show that this invisible service is achieved by professionally trained staff.  Stakeholders need to hear about the value of the service and the Toolkit provides guidance on how to achieve this.


Juanita concluded her LibChat by asking for any feedback on our experiences of using the Toolkit. These can be added to the online CILIP VLE discussion forum or by tweeting comments using these tags: #impacttoolkit #cilipvle.  The future of the Toolkit includes a review and new courses including one on electronic surveys and another on designing impact forms.  We should also keep a lookout for an article which will appear in CILIP’s Update magazine soon.


Lynsey Blandford

LibChat: Impact and the Student Experience

Exciting news!  Our next LibChat on 2nd November, 12:00pm to 1:30pm, will be ‘Impact and the Student Experience’ presented by Juanita Foster-Jones, a member of the development team at CILIP.  Juanita will be introducing the new impact toolkit and working through some of it’s elements to examine impact in a wider context, especially focussing on how we can define and measure the impact of our work on the student experience.

We’ll be hosting the event in Templeman Library’s new Lecture Theatre, so contact us if you would like to know more.

Link to Impact Toolkit: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/membership/benefits/virtual-learning-environment-vle/impact-toolkit



LibChats team plans upcoming events!


Kent’s 50th anniversary wheel


Yesterday, the LibChats team met to discuss ideas for this academic year’s upcoming events and talks.  There has been an exciting development; we will now be working alongside our Tech Talks colleagues.  We’ll each organise three events per year with two produced as joint events… watch this space for more news once we have it!


Topics under discussion included the importance of libraries in refugee camps, such as the Ideas Box which was highlighted at this year’s CILIP conference: http://socialtech.org.uk/projects/ideas-box/ .  Supporting library users with hidden disabilities and learning difficulties is another subject which caught our attention, especially if approached from the student’s perspective.  Demonstrating value and impact of a library service, a topical issue, would be useful to everyone working within the library and information profession.  Interest in exploring the role of libraries within prisons proved a strong talking point with an emphasis on how external partnerships could be forged.


If you have any burning ideas for a LibChat, please let us know.



Digital Life

Our summer LibChat on 24th June 2015 on ‘digital life’ proved to be such a wide-reaching topic that it involved three speakers each with a different perspective.


MOOCs: The Possibilities and Opportunities for Online Learning at Kent. The K-MOOCs Beacon project – Dr Mark O’Connor


Image from presentation


The project investigated how MOOCs, free online international courses, could enhance the university’s reputation.  They also considered its value for outreach and how it could be marketed to academic audiences.  The project explored how MOOCs could enhance the digital skills of academic staff and produce resources that could be used in teaching via blended learning.


The team created a MOOC on Functional programming with Erlang in close collaboration with an academic, Professor Simon Thompson (http://www.kent.ac.uk/elearning/themes/kmoocs.html ).  It could be used for revision and as an introduction for first year students.  They promoted the course through Twitter and gained more participants than expected, which were finally limited to five hundred.  The MOOC was hosted on External Moodle and used KentPlayer.  One teaching assistant was dedicated to supporting the course.  The biggest cohorts were from the US and UK, and 95% of the participants were male.


Each week there were a series of activities.  Videos were effective as they could show live coding while other sections encouraged participants to add to discussions.  Masterclasses featuring experts from outside the University showed how Erlang can be used to solve real problems.  These videos took three days to film and two months to edit, although when complete could be reused in teaching.  The MOOC took two weeks to build in Moodle, based on the FutureLearn layout.  It was challenging adapting the raw material from courses into Moodle.  The project team has since recommended that any future MOOCs are created on FutureLearn, a dedicated platform.  In the future, they visualise the creation of three to six courses per year spread across faculties.


Digital Librarians: Exploring technologies to support students – Catherine Sherwood  


Image from presentation


Catherine, the Faculty Liaison Librarian for Education at Canterbury Christchurch, highlighted three reasons for library services to engage with new technology:

  • Providing a parity of service for distance learners, students on placement or those living off campus.
  • Offering a flexible service to meet the needs of those with other commitments (e.g. children, work, etc.) who need to access information on the move.
  • Engaging with students in the virtual spaces that they use.


Catherine discussed the different technologies employed by the Academic Services team at Canterbury Christchurch.  These included the VLE Blackboard where they have created a library folder which includes links, an introductory video and lectures.  Catherine has used Kaltura and Screencast while also providing links to bite-sized videos on YouTube which tutors can play in classes.  Catherine showed a Powtoon animation which she created to start her workshops as a fun introduction.


Another colleague has pioneered the use of webinars to introduce the library and collaborative software for students based in Kent, Bristol and Athens.  These sessions were recorded and uploaded to Blackboard for the use of other students who could not take part.  Web conference software also enabled a reading group to connect and work with their tutor.  Skype was useful for one-to-one tutorials, especially for distance researchers.  The team have developed their Twitter presence and increased the number of followers through a competition.  They have created Twitter accounts for individual subjects, for example for the Education and Health students, which will improve the relevancy of information for followers.


The challenges of engaging with new technology included learning how to use new tools, keeping focused on the pedagogical theory, the difficulty of filming in an open-plan office and also being part of an institution with its own rules and regulations.


The benefits included gaining confidence through learning how to use the new technologies, partnership working with for example Learning Technologists and sharing knowledge amongst the team.


In the future they would like to introduce an online chat service, blog, more online inductions and tutorials, student videos of personal library experiences and improve the University’s app.


Student Experience of Digital Life – Jess Vincent


Study bedroom (Jess Vincent, Student Experience of Digital Life)

Study bedroom (Jess Vincent, Student Experience of Digital Life)

Our final speaker was a postgraduate student from the University of Kent, Jess Vincent, who spoke about her experience of digital life.  Jess showed an image of her study bedroom and explained that connecting to the internet had been very easy with the University’s guide.  Internet speed is good which is essential for her studies and also to compensate for the poor phone signal.  Jess also praised remote printing as all she needs to do is log in, print a file, walk to the printer and collect the document, rather than going to a PC room.  She felt that this service should be more widely publicised.


Another tool which Jess recommends is the ‘Where can I study?’ webpage, which is particularly useful for stressed undergraduates who cannot find a PC in the library as it shows where available PCs are across campus.


LibrarySearch is great for research as she can type in very niche or obscure keywords and it will often bring back results.  It also highlights new or unfamiliar resources.  In contrast, as a member of IS staff working within Stock Control, she has found it less useful in providing detailed records for items and prefers to use the previous catalogue.


As an undergraduate, Moodle was very helpful as it contained everything she needed for her course, including weekly plans, readings, links, forums and a place to submit essays.


Jess explained that in terms of online resources, e-books were ideal during exam season when books are in high demand; however, it is difficult to browse through them especially if they take time to load.  Jess found that she had discovered more online resources, such as Box of Broadcasts, as a staff member than as a student.  She recommended that information on these resources be given throughout the year, not only at induction, as many of her peers were not focused on study at the start of the year.




All of the speakers have kindly provided their presentations for display on our blog.


Catherine Sherwood Kent LibChat 24.06.15

LIBCHAT powerpoint

Volunteering at Kent

The first LibChats event of 2015 kicked off in March with a range of speakers talking about their experiences of volunteering at the University of Kent and beyond.  Those presenting ranged from volunteers themselves, to University of Kent staff that are supported to undertake external volunteering opportunities, to those who manage volunteering opportunities across campus and within specific teams.

Volunteering at Kent

© Image courtesy of Kent Union, Student Activities Department

 “Volunteers are people that can contribute to the success or task of an organisation” explains Jane Gallagher, Senior Library Assistant for Special Collections.People have different motivations for volunteering, such as the desire to develop new skills or build on existing experience or knowledge, or they may feel that they want to ‘give something back’ and make a difference in the community.” Whatever the motivation, becoming involved in volunteering can provide experience and open up opportunities for employment, can lead to new found friendships and be extremely rewarding.  “Special Collections has been overwhelmed with volunteers this term, which is a testament to the positive message of those who already volunteer for us.  Collaboratively our volunteers have cleaned, stabilized and prepared 240 shelves of rare books and archives.” Their achievements have been profound, having made a huge impact on the preparations for the Big Underground Move.


Charlotte Merrekin

Charlotte Merrekin cleaning a rare book in preparation for the Special Collections and Archives ‘Big Underground Move’ project.

Charlotte Merrekin is one such volunteer who has been volunteering with Special Collections and Archives since September 2014. “I was approaching my third year and wanted work experience where I could progress in a role both individually and within a team.  I undertook a Theatre History module as part of my course and enjoyed using the archives so decided to email Jane.”  Charlotte was initially involved in the cleaning of rare books within the archive in preparation for the Big Underground Move, which will see over 3 kilometers of shelved rare books and archives transferred from the current store to their new home within the library extension.  The experience has been a positive one for Charlotte who has watched the volunteer team grow during the time she has been involved with the work of Special Collections.  “There are a broad range of volunteers who you can also learn from, having been a good collaborative effort and an exciting way of learning new things.  I wasn’t sure about my future career but I would now most certainly consider a career in this sector now.

Ann MacDonald, University of Kent Archivist, speaks about how “engaging with, and offering opportunities to volunteers supports best practice in collections management.  Supporting and engaging with volunteers is fundamental to demonstrating the value of Special Collections & Archives,” and will be a major boost to the collection’s pursuit of achieving Archive Service Accreditation, which is the UK standard of good practice for archive services across the university and heritage sectors.  Archive Accreditation can be expected to bring benefits to an organisation across seven core areas (according to the Archive Service Accreditation Standard); Professionalism, Performance, People, Patronage, Partnerships, Profiles, Planning and People.  The people that can help Special Collections & Archives on its way to Archive Accreditation are its dedicated team of volunteers.



©Margaret Rountree – Ingrid is one of the ponies ridden by the children at the Riding for the Disabled Association

Supported by the University of Kent, Margaret Rountree, Information Assistant for Lending Services, is able to undertake volunteering for the charity ‘Riding for the Disabled Association. Margaret is registered as a staff volunteer and as a result is able to dedicate one morning per term enabling children with a range of disabilities to experience horse riding. “It’s great to see the enjoyment of the children” explains Margaret, whose first task was to lead a pony for a wheelchair bound child.  Four to five sessions are provided within a morning, which includes two schools, and each rider is supported by up to three volunteers.  Margaret has so far accrued 19 volunteering hours, for which she was awarded a certificate at the universities award ceremony.  She is looking forward to continuing to volunteer with the RDA and the rewarding work that she undertakes with the children who are enabled by the service that this organisation provides.

The Kent Union empowers students and enables them to have a voice, fulfill their potential and get the most from university,” explains Steph Hughes, Volunteer Manager at the Kent Student Activities Department. “It’s about aligning staff and volunteers behind a charitable purpose, and recognising and rewarding the contributions our volunteers make.”  There are currently an estimated 1,800 volunteers working across multiple departments here at the University of Kent who have notched up over 104,000 volunteering hours throughout 2014.  All of those who volunteer are supported to do so by the Kent Union and are recognised and rewarded for the work that they have undertaken.  “Volunteering has its place and is a key part of many organisations, providing great development opportunities for our volunteers.”


Welcome helpers

©Image courtesy of Kent Union, Student Activities Department


Welcome to the LibChats Blog

Although LibChats have been going for over a year, it isn’t until recently we felt the need for a blog. Now we are starting to spread the word about LibChats outside the university, and open the talks up to a much wider audience, it seemed appropriate that we give the programme an external location to ensure that all of our speakers, visitors and attendees are able to access the slides and materials (where possible), write-ups of the talks we have had, and participate in discussions together.

We hope that throughout this second year of the LibChats programme that we are able to keep this blog updated with all of our speakers as we confirm them, news and ideas that we have, and also anything else that may come up, you never know what might happen! So, welcome, please comment and let us know what you think of LibChats, pass on any ideas you might have, things you would like to see, or just generally say hi, we’d love to hear from you!