I started my career in the Irish Navy (yes we actually do have a Navy) in 1981. Just over two years later I transferred to the Military College in the Irish Defence Forces Training Centre where I spent the best part of a very interesting and adventurous military career spanning over twenty years. This journey brought me from the Glens of Wicklow to the Wadies of South Lebanon and a few places in-between.
At some point, I decided to hand in my musket and to end the more active part of my military career to become a professional librarian in the Defence Forces Library. I earned an honours degree in Library and Information Studies after graduating from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
I enjoyed a fantastic and interesting career in the Military Library until I retired in 2002 when I started working as Deputy Librarian in the Institute of Technology Tallaght located in South County Dublin. I only spent one year in that role before I took up the position of Institute Librarian, in the Limerick Institute of Technology.
I am currently Head of the Library and I am part of the senior management team for over fourteen years. I also lead a number of multi-country European Union funded projects which requires intensive change management and project management skills and experience.
My work involves, strategic planning, financial management, human resource management and planning staff development and training.
At present I oversee thirty information professionals, on four library sites, who are enthusiastic, creative and work as a team with a common focus. Together we deliver our services to take advantage of technological and digital advancements to ensure resources of all types are available when our patrons require them. We strive to be creative and bring innovation to our services while maintaining our core principles as librarians.
My professional interests are the constant desire to create new opportunities, lead my teams by example, mentor and coach staff through change initiatives and delivering new and exciting developments.
As mentioned above, I hold a degree in Information and Library Studies from the University of Wales. I also received a post graduate degree in e-learning and an honours Master’s Degree in Learning Technologies, both from the National College of Ireland. In addition, I completed an honours Master’s Degree in Education Planning and Management with the International Institute for Educational Planning, UNESCO Paris. This MA course was focused on improving education systems in developing countries, and was very valuable to me personally and professionally. The knowledge and expertise I gained from this study has assisted me in my current role both in Ireland and overseas in providing high end, state of the art information and library services to staff and students and other stakeholders.
Following on from my experience in Paris, I became involved in European Union (EU) Tempus and Erasmus+ Capacity Building in the Field of Higher Education (CBHE) projects. Working on these projects has enlightened me to many things, in many countries and many places. To date I have been involved in nine projects, in counties such as Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Laos, Ukraine, and Vietnam. I’m also involved in a number of other EU Erasmus + International Credit Mobility projects in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. So I have been around a bit, and I love this quote from Hans Christian Andersen, in The Fairy Tale of My Life,
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.”
The projects which I’m involved with are varied and concentrated on delivering change and enhancing best practice to help improve current conditions. Projects range in subject matter from information literacy, to training for doctoral research students to university vocational teaching methodology’s. Other projects focus on modernising libraries through staff development and reforming libraries and promoting access to society for people with individual requirements and disabilities (more detailed descriptions of each project can be seen here: https://blogs.city.ac.uk/jeraldcavanagh/eu-projects).
For my research I hope to draw on my experience of Erasmus + Capacity Building projects, both as a project leader and as part of the EU project partnership teams. What I want to examine, explore and evaluate are the different mechanisms currently (if any, what types, how are they used, are they the most effective etc.) used to evaluate European Union Erasmus + Capacity Building Projects. I will be reviewing similarities and differences between methods used throughout sectors of the EU with a view to deriving a universal evaluation tool which can be used to measure the impact of EU projects.
I also want to examine collaboration and synergies between past and present projects in similar subject areas and within regions. The research will establish the level of awareness of these projects from a project partner or project leader perspective and explore how these effect or impact on capacity building in their regions. The EU spends tens of millions of euros on educational projects each year. Erasmus + Capacity Building projects are a large part of this spend. Throughout my time working on projects, I have always got a sense that more could be done to measure the effects of projects, to measure the impact and to examine what if anything has changed as a result of a particular project being undertaken. Establishing proof of impact of projects can be a challenging task. Measuring the impact of projects can be hampered by ambiguity and claims of the success of projects or otherwise often go unsubstantiated, because they focus mainly on outcomes, deliverables and budget spend over the duration of the projects. Little attention is given to measuring the impact of projects during their life cycle, nor to the short to medium term duration after a project has concluded. Key stakeholder input is essential to measure this so as to establish a more accurate picture of the true impact of projects. It is not my intention to look at the long term effects of projects such as this. However, it is intended that this research will aid future research in the area which may be used by upcoming researchers and students.
My journey in this research I imagine will be quite challenging and may at times be a bit like trying to pick up mercury with a fork. However, with some hard work, guidance from my supervisor Dr. Lyn Robinson and perseverance I hope to come up with an effective universal evaluation tool which can be used to measure the quality, effect and impact of Erasmus + Capacity Building projects.