ARCLIB / ARLIS joint Teachmeet in Manchester


The first ARLIS and ARCLIB joint event took place at Manchester Metropolitan University Library (MMU) on a crisp Monday afternoon in early March. Gathered in one the Library’s many teaching spaces, the event got off to a thought-provoking start with participants sharing teaching ideas, techniques and tools. 


Sally Bell

Faculty Librarian, University of Strathclyde

The ‘Lego Referencing’ classes aim to support students bamboozled by bibliographies and confused by citations! Facilitated by Librarians, the classes were developed using Lego serious play techniques. Each session hosts up to 15 students, often from BA or MBA courses. The workshops are organised on request from academic staff and students can sign up online. Positive feedback has been received from staff and students alike.

Workshop structure (2 hours): 

  • Introduction to Lego play
  • Ice breaker activity: students draw out and make a duck using allocated colour blocks.
  • Students invited to assemble their own Lego creation using the jumbled colour blocks stored in a set of identical storage boxes.
  • Once created, the Librarian asks students which storage box they took their various Lego blocks from. At the same time, previously hidden labels on each storage box are revealed, the labels showing information sources such as journal, book and website. The activity reveals the difficulty in identifying sources retrospectively and underlines the importance of keeping a record as your research progresses.  Throughout the activity, the various stages are likened to the essay writing process: planning, drafting, constructing. 
  • The varying referencing styles are then discussed and students are signposted to available guidance for their school’s preferred style.

Laura Williams 

Subject Librarian, University of Huddersfield

To improve retention and promote excitement for their studies, the University have recently introduced an intensive 2-week induction programme entitled ‘Flying start’. This academic year, Laura adjusted the Library and Academic Skills workshops for the Fashion design cohort, which consisted of X2 groups of 30. The workshops aimed to introduce students to searching and browsing the library, reading lists and referencing. Rather than simply showing students the catalogue and inviting them to retrieve books from the shelves, Laura produced a series of colour cards, each with a unique instruction. All books retrieved by students were from their reading list and on returning to the teaching room, students worked in twos to add bibliographic details to a collaborative Padlet. The Padlet remained available after the workshop.

Taking away the pressure of producing their own search terms allowed students the time to discuss and further their understanding of the library collections using set examples.

David Buri

Academic Liaison Librarian, Glasgow School of Art

Following a second devastating fire this summer, the School needed to relocate many staff and students to temporary accommodation across the city. To address retention concerns and ensure business continuity, the library acquired funding for x4 new Architecture e-resources this year. These are Detail Inspiration, Bloomsbury Architecture Library, Building Types Online and AJ online. 

David collaborated with a colleague to showcase the new e-resources to students through a series of workshops. David’s colleague is a former Architecture student at the School with practitioner experience and David described their participation as central in meeting student needs more effectively. It was felt that all students are now confident web users and rather than a standard ‘how to’ guide, the workshops focused on the less obvious benefits of using these e-resources:  

  • First year

Promoted how the e-resources can help develop the basic skills needed to become an architect, for example, the ability to interpret architectural drawing conventions. In addition, when compared with inferior resources such as Pinterest, Detail Inspiration can reveal how a building has been constructed through architectural drawings that are available alongside photographs of exterior facades.

  • Second and third year

David’s colleague discussed how the e-resources can be used to help students develop a personal architectural style, by providing information on a range of materials and building examples. Visual content can be downloaded and added to a student’s personal reference library to inform their own portfolio, and to give them solid evidence to present at tutorials.

  • Fourth and fifth year

Workshops focused on how the resources can be used to boost employability and directed students to the job section on AJ Online. Access to information on buildings and architects allows students to research the practice they are applying for and this enables them to talk about their work with some degree of authority at an interview.

Sarah Shenton

Subject Librarian (Arts and Humanities), Manchester Metropolitan University

Library workshops at MMU are embedded and often delivered in a large lecture theatre to 150+ students. To stimulate interest, Sarah recommended keeping the content simple and easy to follow, visual and relatable to studio practice, i.e. using terms such as “sketching out ideas” when planning an essay.

Generic sessions include tips and tools for effective searching, going beyond library search, 

developing keywords and examples of refining search results. Bespoke sessions focus on current assignments and have visualised a search journey round the library to demonstrate the rich information and cornucopia of inspiration available outside of Google. For instance, researching tea cosies led Sarah through knitting and around yarn bombing to arrive at a journal article about an activist artist who wears these outmoded household objects on her head!

Sessions often check understanding and reiterate guidance through a Kahoot quiz towards the end.

Another workshop held at MMU is ‘Speed Databasing’ where students are given 5 minutes to become acquainted with and rate each e-resource. Sarah also holds a ‘Library in the Café’ drop-in programme that has proven to be popular.

Elaine Cooke

Deputy Library Services Manager, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Like Sarah, Elaine often presents to upwards of 150 students in a large lecture theatre for approximately 50 mins. Her subject area is Architecture and similarly she uses very visual presentations that include bespoke mind maps and examples of combining keywords using Boolean. Presentations are saved to a shared drive, allowing librarians in the team to share good practice. Diagrams visualise the visible and invisible web, whilst practical activities in smaller sessions include finding articles in bound volumes of journals to familiarise students with the library shelves.  Elaine promotes the subject guides (LibGuides) and leads a live demonstration of databases (dependent on timings), emphasising Avery and CIS, Lexis, BOB.

Sessions also check understanding and reiterate guidance through x2 Kahoot quizs. Students are made aware at the beginning to encourage them to pay attention in preparation!


Dr Richard Brook joined the group to lead a curator tour of the ‘Drawing the Modern’ exhibition at MMU. This fascinating exhibition presents drawings and photographs from the archive of Gordon Hodkinson (1928 – 2018) for the first time. Hodkinson was a student at Manchester Municipal School of Art and went on to become an Architect for H.T Seward during the post-war period. Hodkinson designed many noteworthy modernist buildings in Manchester and Dr Richard Brook took the group on a walking tour following the exhibition. More information about the exhibition can be found online. See Dr Richard Brook’s Mainstream Modernism resource here.

Contributed by Rebecca Daniels, Online Services Librarian, Victoria & Albert Museum