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In 2022 we celebrated ten years of the Library Student Panel which is the longest running at the OU.
Membership for the Library Student Panel is recruited twice each year from the whole OU student population. We have around 500 students who have volunteered to help us with improving and developing our services and resources. Including the student perspective is a core aspect of our approach to continuous improvement and the panel is an important part of this, giving us direct access to engaged students from across the OU and with a variety of experiences to share.
This past year, students on our panel have been involved in research on online library training, online digital skill building activities, have commented on policy documents and help pages on the website and participated in testing new features in Library Search, the online tool that helps you search across the vast majority of our online resources.
We recently surveyed our members to learn more about what they get out of being on the panel. Their responses show that being part of the Library Student Panel is one that benefits them and contributes to a positive student experience.
All respondents reported using or developing multiple skills by participating in research activities. All students chose more than one, indicating that panel participation gives them a chance to develop multiple skills such as self-reflection, digital literacy, problem solving and communication. These skills are sought after by employers and students' participation in the panel can provide examples of how they use these skills.
The student experience was positive. Students reported that they enjoyed the research activities and felt good about giving back and improving services for themselves and others. For example:
"Being on the library student panel has proved helpful in developing my own skills, i.e. streamlining my search queries and how to use the library databases for research. It has also been helpful to see how the library is working to help more students develop their skills and make more use of the resources on offer. The activities have been easy and quite quick to complete and the library staff most helpful when encountering problems."
In the survey's open comments, students talked about how participating in the panel increased their feeling of belonging at the OU, increased their awareness of how we value and use student voice to improve services and increased engagement with the library, creating a group of students who can act as library ambassadors to others.
"It helped me feel a part of the OU in an even more tangible way."
"It is very fun and interesting to be able to give your opinion and hear others, and the fact that what people say can affect how the OU changes in the future is really cool."
We know from our research that library skill development leads to greater confidence in use of library resources and that higher engagement with library resources and training correlates to better attainment results. By being part of the panel, students have a chance to enhance skills that will benefit their work and studies. We are happy to learn that their experience is a positive one and that participation helps them just as they are helping us improve the student experience for all.