Reflections from the Outgoing MSDG Chair

Sarah Pittaway (University of Worcester)

As she departs for pastures and challenges new, the outgoing Mercian Staff Development Group Chair, shares some of her perspectives and experiences in the role.

Looking back, I realise I’ve been working with the Mercian Staff Development Group (MSDG) for the last 6 years, most recently as Chair (since 2020) but with stints prior to that as Vice Chair and Evaluations Officer. As I come to the end of my time with the group, and indeed with the collaboration as a whole, and handover to the new Chair, Annmarie Lee, I’ve been asked to offer a few reflections on my experiences.

The MSDG is an incredibly active group, made up of institutional representatives from each of the Mercian Collaboration’s members. We have regularly met three times a year to plan, deliver and evaluate a programme of development events for the Collaboration, as well as acting as a useful means to share best practice in between. Any time a rep is looking for information on how others handle a particular issue or service, the rest of the group are always ready to share tips and advice from their own wealth of experience. It’s been an incredibly helpful community of which to be part.

As an operational group, we’ve always worked really hard to deliver a programme of events which meets the needs of staff working at all levels and in all service areas within member libraries. There should always be something for everyone! We’ve run sessions as diverse as: managing student behaviour, trans awareness, decolonising academic libraries, and plenty more besides. Our events have also always been notable for their focus on networking and best practice sharing, bringing together colleagues with common interests. Our event feedback has consistently told us how colleagues really value this approach. That about a quarter of attendees stay in touch with people they meet at events really speaks to the success of our efforts too.

My time as group chair has, of course, coincided with the pandemic but the committee rose to the challenge with aplomb. Existing events were pivoted online swiftly and, in fact, our first online event had the highest engagement of any event in the last three years. Perhaps the greatest challenge has been the temporary pause in our popular All the Same But Different visits to other Collaboration member libraries which despite our best efforts we haven’t been able to replicate yet in an online format. Although, never say never in this respect?

So what next for MSDG? I know I’m leaving new chair Annmarie and the rest of the group in safe hands as they navigate this new era of post-Covid restrictions and plan next year’s programme. I suspect it will evolve once more, most probably into a blend of online and in-person events drawing on the lessons of the last couple of years. Moreover, they will also be relaunching the group’s buddying scheme.

If you’d like to know more about the MSDG and its work, why not talk to your local institutional representative and see what else the group could do for you!


For more on the MSDG, their plans, programme and activities visit their section of the website, contact their new group chair Annmarie Lee ( or the Executive Officer.