The Interview UK
Anglia Ruskin University
Director of Student & Library Services

Libby Homer

Having a space at the centre of campus that promotes equality and inclusivity and combines academic courses with positive student experiences is absolutely essential in today’s university life.  Industry professionals across the globe are coming up with new ways of doing this, with many exceptional results.

GoodCourse Community Engagement Lead Kira Matthews spoke to Libby Homer, Director of Student & Library Services at Anglia Ruskin University, to discuss the incredible results she and her team have seen from combining library and student services, as well as some of the incredible initiatives they have undertaken.

Libby’s Journey

Kira: Let’s start with an introduction to your current role and institution.

My current role is looking after both library and student services across our sites, including counselling, student well-being, academic and disability support, information and guidance, money advice, chaplaincy and more.

Kira: What brought you to your current role in student support?

I’m qualified as a librarian, but I’ve always been interested in the student experience, of which I believe library services to be at the heart. I was the university librarian, but I was also offered to lead student services which I have really enjoyed.  At our core, all of us in student library services have student services at the forefront of what we want to do.

Kira: What are some initiatives you've led within library services to promote inclusion?

We’re constantly developing our spaces based on student feedback which we do by accumulating feedback on graffiti walls, speaking to students informally, and hiring students into the library and student services to gain their input.  Some of the key things have been catering for blended learning, which includes online learning alongside face-to-face learning.  For example, we’ve introduced more group study pods so that students can listen to lectures with other students without being in a lecture hall.  We've also created a well-being space which we know students need, as well as holding events at some of our shared spaces to promote well-being as well as studying.

Kira: I know for Wonkhe you've written about the challenges of digitising library resources. What have some of those challenges been?

Over the pandemic, we saw publishers making content available for free to make it more accessible, but now we are in a situation where our circumstances are unprecedented. The cost of living has continued to rise, so inclusivity goes down, and students don't have the same access to material as they did before. For us, it's about levelling the playing field, and therefore some of the work we've done is about making content more available.  I'm also about to lead a task force for e-textbooks and campaign for getting better deals on those because there’s a real issue with gaining access to resources. 

Kira: How have you worked to create a sense of belonging on campus through initiatives?

We work closely with the Students Union and have a great relationship with them, including a ‘refreshers’ week in week two and week seven, as we're aware that students might not be able to take everything in on the first week, so we give the information the time it needs.  This helps in terms of belonging, too, for students who missed things to feel like they’ve been included.

Now we have more students back we’re able to do a lot more on campus; for example, my employability team just ran a Futures event which encompassed tens of events over the course of two weeks. We use our students to create belonging, like our peer well-being mentors.  These are students who come up with activities themselves and promote them before delivering them to students.  We also have race equality advocates doing the same thing, trying to engage with students through collaborative activities and events that promote belonging.

Kira: Can you share some of the work you are doing in supporting minority students and helping them to feel welcome?

Around eighteen months ago, we launched our race equality strategy for the university, which included diversifying human resources and ensuring students can report microaggressions safely. We’re on track to deliver the objectives for that. On a faculty level, we also have a race equality lead in each faculty — these are bespoke to each faculty.

We have also launched several unlearning sessions, which begin with a lightbulb session that challenges colleagues to think about race and then a contextualised session followed by a session that our race equality advocates lead and design too. 

Kira: Is there an initiative that you are most proud of?

I have to give my team a lot of credit for initiating the work we’ve done. I’m very proud of the race equality work we’ve been doing because of the knock-on effect it has had across the university.  We’ve got a domestic violence policy too, which makes us one of the only Higher Education (HE) institutions in the UK to have this kind of piece, and that’s amazing too. Alongside this are our new sexual harassment policies that are more victim-focused. 

3 Quick-fire Questions

Kira: What is your most important advice for anyone getting into the HE space right now?

You’ve got to be in it to win it.  You might not win it, but you can’t do something if you don't put yourself up for it.  Getting into HE means you might see a lot of different possibilities. It can take you on so many interesting routes.

Kira: Who do you admire the most in the HE or EDI space?

Our Head of Diversity and Cultural Change, Katie Potts, has been so dedicated for years to that space, and through here, I’ve been introduced to Jason Arday, who has come in to speak to our staff in an engaging and thought-provoking way.  I'd like also to name a library colleague: Nick Lewis is the director of library services at the University of East Anglia. He's always looking to break the status quo and shake things up.

Kira: What is the most important book you have read?

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt. It’s a book that makes you consider the world around you and stop taking things for granted.  It resonated with me about appreciating what I've got.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Kira Matthews
Community Engagement Lead
Kira leads our community outreach team working hand-in-hand with changemakers on both sides of the pond. If you want to join the next series of The Interview, or just learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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