(Lazy) Friday Five

Five…. best items of bling currently in Lost Property:

Bling in lost property


Just LOOK at those earrings, how did anyone manage to lose those? Also, if you wore all of those rings at once, I think that would count as a knuckleduster.

(Please note: this is by no means the only jewellery in lost property at the moment, but everything else is a tad more understated and I have my eye on some of it once the 30 days we hold it for is up…)


The sodding Student Experience

There was an interesting article in the Times Higher Education yesterday entitled ‘To spoon feed is not to nuture’ which examines research into learning behaviours undertaken at the University of Cumbria. Peter Ovens, Senior Research Fellow, suggests that many of today’s students are “puzzled” by the idea of independent learning, as a result of being spoon fed through their GCSEs and A Levels by teachers who have been forced to focus on targets and league tables. Dr Ovens further warns that current reforms that focus on improving the “student experience” could lead to even greater spoon feeding of students, which is not in their best interest, nor that of their Universities.

This is an issue that I’m very interested in, as I currently work at an Institution that is trying hard to improve it’s National Student Survey results which means that I hear the phrase “the student experience” roughly once a day. I’m also familiar, as I’m sure a lot of my fellow librarians are, with the irritation that is the Spoon Fed Student. You know the ones; they stand in a queue to ask how to get to the first floor, despite the large signs pointing to the stairs. They come to the Help Desk to tell you that the PC attached to the scanner is not turned on, to which the only response is “well why don’t you turn it on then?” They try and persuade you to look up every book on their reading list on the catalogue for them, then get all teary when you tell them you’ll show them how to do the first one and thats it. Then they ask for help finding them all on the shelf, even once you’ve explained DDC to them and shown them the stacks. They complain that no one ever sat down with them personally to go over all the Library rules and regulations in detail, so how can they be expected to comply with them? In short, they make you want to tear your hair out. And there seem to be more and more of them every year.

Now I’m not really qualified to suggest a solution for this state of affairs, but I certainly agree with Dr Ovens that more spoon feeding of students will not help and this is why I really dislike the focus on the sodding Student Experience. Everyone is so concerned that final year students will rate them badly on the NSS that they go out of their way to keep them happy; reading coursework before it’s handed in to advise on structure, being lenient about having student ID on campus, waiving deserved fines if someone kicks up enough of a fuss, giving direct links from Blackboard to e-journal articles that are required reading* etc etc ad nauseum. None of this helps the student in the long run, it just leaves them thinking that there will always be a way out of any difficult situation they find themselves in, they don’t really need to make much effort and if they complain enough their problem will go away. That is no preparation for the real world and is bound to have an effect on employability rates, which is not ideal when we’re releasing graduates into a recession.

I understand that students who are spoon fed through their school years are going to expect the same at University and this situation is unlikely to change unless schools and colleges change it themselves. I also think that it is unfair to expect 18 year olds to work in a way that they have never worked before, and to succeed at it straight away. Nevertheless, instead of giving into these expectations throughout their University career, maybe we should explain the realities of higher education in induction week and give them the first year to get used to it, with some assistance, and then let them sink or swim? After all, the current situation doesn’t seem to be working very well for any of us, and I would quite like to retire with normal blood pressure levels and a full head of hair!

* Unpopular opinion: I don’t even like putting Reading Lists on the catalogue. When I were a student (and this were all fields!)  we got one printed copy of the Reading List and had to look up everything on it ourselves and it didn’t do us any harm!!!

The USB Commandments

60 USB sticks in lost property

The 60 odd USB sticks currently in lost property. Bear in mind we only keep them for 30 days.

After spending half an hour of my day sorting out the box* full of USB sticks in lost property, I was inspired to write…

The USB Commandments

Thou shalt always place a file with your name, email address or ID number on thine USB stick

Thou shalt always leave a CV upon thine USB stick as apart from giving us a contact name, it also gives us great opportunity for merriment**

If thou insist on using the free usb stick that thy Faculty hands out upon enrolment, thou shalt ensure that thou personalises it in some way, so that the Blessed Library staff do not have to check 20 identical sticks to find out which one is yours

In fact, all USB stick owners shalt attach a ruddy great novelty keyring to thy stick upon pain of dismemberment

Thou shall not attempt to get a free USB stick by pointing to a random stick in the Lost Property box and claiming it is thine.

If thou are stupid enough to leave your USB stick in a PC, thou shalt not cast glares and accusations upon the blessed Library staff if thine stick is not handed in. It is not the Blessed Library staff’s fault that thou art a moron.

Thou shall not cry upon the Blessed Library staff’s shoulder and proclaim that the USB stick holds the only copy of your dissertation. Thine foolishness is thine own fault and thou art getting our shoulder wet.

If thou art daft enough to leave your USB stick in a PC, thou shalt not insist upon finding a distribution list for all students so that thou canst email the entire student body and demand your usb stick back. Well, thou canst go ahead if thou insists, but thou shall probably not like being accused by IT of being a spambot.

If thou call to report that you have left thine USB stick in a PC, thou must be able to say exactly which PC thou hast left it in. If thou sayest “it was somewhere on the 1st floor” the Blessed Library staff will hang up on thee.

If the Blessed Library staff email thou to say thine USB stick has been found, thou shalt collect it in a timely manner, and not saunter in after 4 months then get shirty when said USB stick has been thrown away.

*Actually it’s two boxes now. And I chucked out 10 from early October. *weeps*
**”in my spare time I enjoy reading Business and Management textbooks.” Of course you do, sunshine…

Friday Five

I’ve had this week off, which is why there’s been no post so far, but I couldn’t let Friday go past without something. So, since I’m off to the Zoooooooo today, allow me to present the Five… Animals that students sometimes remind me of:

5. Seagulls
(have you ever seen those films of cliffs absolutely covered in Seagulls, all screaming loudly at each other? That’s what the ground floor of our library reminds me of sometimes.)

4. The Sloth
(students who are take the lift up to the first floor rather than using the stairs, students who complain about the effort involved in getting their ID card out of their bag, students who claim that they couldn’t return their books on time because they live soooooo far away (next town over, with two direct buses) The only real difference is that sloths are cuter)

3. Goldfish
(slightly tenuous, but goldfish have only a 3 second memory* and the sheer amount of USB sticks left in PCs suggests that our students have similar.)

2. Peacocks
(when I was a student we lived in jeans and hoodies. We might make an extra special effort on a Friday night and wear a sparkly top, but we rarely ever changed out of our jeans. Nowadays the campus is full of undergraduates wearing knock off Galaxy dresses and VB style heels, all day, every day. In fact, one of the responses to last years Library Survey was that the staff “look scruffy” which in contrast to our students is fair criticism!)

1. Deer
Students gearing up for a fight always remind me of the deer in Richmond Park during rutting season; first there’s lots of macho posturing and shouting with both parties secretly hoping that the other will just slink off without any actual fighting taking place and if that doesn’t happen, the ensuing fight is just a bit of a let down.** we once had a fight break out in the silent area during exam season; my boss radio’d for security who clearly got the wrong end of the stick and called the police who turned up in three squad cars. The guys, who had barely got beyond the posturing stage, looked so, so embarrassed!)

* I suspect this has been QI’d, but don’t ruin it for me, the whole post will fall apart!
** come on, the antler clashing doesn’t really look like they’re fighting that hard!

Friday Five

Five… things that students do to Library equipment which we wish they wouldn’t:

5. Steal it

(Goes without saying really! Scissors, staplers, holepunchers… everything eventually wanders off. One of our sites has started numbering their staplers, which are tied to the Helpdesk. I think they’re currently on number 36. It’s not just the small items though; the same site had a thermal binding machine stolen last year; that’s quite a hefty bit of equipment so we have no idea how they got it passed the Helpdesk!)

4. Try to fix it themselves

(I find it quite entertaining when I come across a student trying to fix a jam in the printers; for one there’s the look of abject confusion on their faces as they realise this is nothing like their desktop printer at home, then I can make them jump about 3 feet by barking “what are you doing in that machine?!” and pointing out that most of the doors are padlocked and how were they going to get around that? Then there’s the look of begrudging respect when you pull out all of the innards of the machine revealing about 11 bits of paper in various places then put it all back together again in under 2 minutes. Top tip; always make sure you really emphasise how hot the fuser unit is, just to encourage them not to do it again. Hissing, shaking your fingers, gasping; let your inner thespian out!)

3. Put their Library card in it

(Our students are awful for this; sticking their Library card in anything that looks like it might take it, regardless of whether it’s supposed to or not. The photocopy card rechargers I can understand, but the note feeder on the print credit machines, really? We have a very useful little plastic stick called The Podger that gets deployed on these occasions; good old Podger)

2. Use it for purposes other than intended

(I wish I’d taken a photo of our laminating machine before we sent it off for repair. You know how laminators are supposed to take single sheets of paper in laminator pouches? Well someone had tried to put their entire dissertation through it. They’d already put it in a thermal binder, so had obviously got confused about which machine to use, but come on! It has a slot wide enough for a single sheet of paper, how did you manage to cram your dissertation in there?! Didn’t you think it seemed a bit strange?! Then there’s the Library at our arts campus which constantly has out-of-order photocopiers because the Tracey Emin wannabees keep trying to copy onto fabric, or put twigs and leaves on the glass to create silhouettes.)

1. Use it as a battering ram

(One time during exam season, when night opening is at its busiest, I came in to Supervise at 8am and was checking around the building only to find a massive dent in the wall at about the level of my head. The only thing we could surmise is that a student had either thrown a chair at the wall, or used one as a battering ram. Because that’s why we provide chairs, obviously. As weaponry.)

Please share your stories of the strange things student’s have managed to do to your equipment, if only to prove that students are the same the world over!