Visit to The Sixth Form College, Colchester

study photo

Last week myself, Jake and Katrina went to visit the Sixth Form College, Colchester to meet staff and learn about their library. Our hosts were very welcoming, and it was really good to share experiences of working in libraries as well as see how their library operates. One thing I’ve found with the different visits we’ve been on is that there are a lot of shared experiences, and it’s good to know you’re in the same boat.

The college provides further education for over one thousand 16-19 year old full-time students on a historic town centre site in Colchester. They cover a broad range of over 50 A level subjects, as well as the International Baccalaureate Diploma. The library is well stocked and managed, and although we were only there for half a day, there was a lot to process and learn about. I felt the best thing about the visit was having an insight in to nearly every aspect of the library, from the LMS and Moodle, to displays and periodicals – so it was a real broad range of topics.

The morning included:

Tour of the Library

Periodicals and Displays

Book Orders and Overdue Procedures

AutoLib and Discovery


A couple of things struck me about the way the library works, firstly the resourcefulness of the library staff. I think quite often we find ourselves working with software and systems that aren’t perfect, technology has advanced in leaps and bounds over the past few decades but there are still glitches to work around. I was intrigued to find out about the way they catalogue the periodicals to make the resources more accessible, and also the work that has gone in to the new Discovery system – which has taken a year to implement and get right for the students. We had a good discussion at the end of our tour and introduction to the different areas of the library work, during which we discussed some of these issues. It reminded me that working in libraries often throws up a lot of practical challenges and you have to be equipped to think creatively about how to solve those problems and help library users access what they need.

Another thing I found was that as they were asking questions about ASL, it made me realise the things that I have learnt about and the areas that I’m less sure of. For example when we were discussing overdue procedures I could rattle off all the different charges, the length of borrowing and the reasons for not charging overdues (the library policy has changed quite a bit in the past couple of years). I surprised myself, but think this may be due in part to having worked in libraries for a couple of years, so I have a bit more context for these procedures. However when we were discussing the implementation of their new search tool Discovery and how that integrates with their LMS, I was less sure of the answers – and a bit wooly on some of the terms. However, having to explain our systems to someone else was a good learning exercise, in a similar way I find writing these blogs a useful learning tool- as it makes me reflect on what I’ve learnt.

All in all I think it was a really interesting and useful visit. It’s always nice to meet other people working in the library profession, and particularly when we’re in the same area too. We’re hoping that they’ll come and visit us here at the ASL – I better get reading up on our ILS, LMS, VLE and OPAC (in case you hadn’t noticed – librarians love a good acronym).



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