Monique Schoutsen on staff training in Norway
Read colleague Monique Schoutsen's (collection specialist History and Classical languages University Library) story about her personal experience with staff mobility below.
‘Scandinavia is far ahead in the area of education: for me that was the perfect reason to take a look at what our colleagues up north are doing’, says Monique Schoutsen, an information specialist at the university library of Radboud University Nijmegen. With the help of an Erasmus+ grant, she had the opportunity to travel to Helsinki four years ago. At the beginning of this year she visited the city of Tromsø in Norway.
‘Thanks to our repeated conference trips, my fellow information specialist at the University of Amsterdam library and I know a lot of people at the University of Tromsø. We were all on the same page and had heard a great deal about each other's libraries and work. We decided to set up a project together: “Open data in teaching”, with the aim of promoting open science in general within the university and open data in particular. Through the project we learned more about each other's approach to providing education through the use of open data’, Schoutsen says.
Erasable ink and Tinder
The information specialists frequently used Skype during the project, which allowed them to get to know each other even better. The next step was a cross-border exchange. An Erasmus+ grant was requested to fund the trip to Tromsø. ‘Four years ago I went to Helsinki for an organised staff exchange. When it comes to education, Helsinki is the ultimate destination: they have a fantastic university library and I got really inspired there. I visited the faculty of mathematics, for example, where they have reduced paper use to a minimum by using tables on which students can write out their formulas with markers that have erasable ink. There are also students in special vests walking all around the campus who help other students and earn credits in return. Another thing I thought was unique: they have a sort of university version of Tinder to find fellow students with similar interests! You can tell from my enthusiastic story that getting an insider's look at a university abroad is incredibly inspiring.’
From this first trip to Helsinki, Schoutsen already knew that applying for the grant would take some time and attention. ‘It involves a lot of paperwork that you really have to put serious effort into, but still: it's worth it. I would recommend this kind of experience abroad to everyone.’ Her second trip abroad, four years later, also went well. ‘I travelled to Tromsø together with an information specialist from Amsterdam and my colleague from Radboud University. It was fascinating to visit this place in the winter: it was dark all day long, we saw the northern lights and there was a lot of snow, of course!’
For Schoutsen, the University of Tromsø was well worth a visit. ‘Scandinavia seems to be way ahead in the area of education, but the same is true with regard to the use of open source software. At the University of Tromsø, for example, they don't have telephones on campus any more: they do everything via Skype. My Norwegian colleague could have told me that, of course, but it's a completely different experience to walk around on campus and see these principles in action first-hand. I saw how great it worked to always have video contact. This way you even have personal contact with people at other locations on campus.’
Schoutsen says she embarked on the trip with an open mind. ‘I didn't prepare very much in advance; I mostly wanted to experience it in practice. At conferences and in papers you often read about how other universities do things, but it only really sinks in when you see it for yourself. By coming back and sharing my experiences extensively, including in a blog, I can spark enthusiasm in others. The people who take part in these mobility programmes are generally very open-minded and internationally oriented. It also gives your English a huge boost!’