That’s how to run a library
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Conferences

Finding that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

Rainbow over John Ryland University Library, image courtesy of @bethanarI was invited to give a talk on Thursday 25th November, at the UKSG one day conference, Usercentric: new strategies for scholarly communication. I was very flattered to be asked and it was a great opportunity. Although on the day I was very nervouse and rattled through my talk at break neck speed it was a really good experience and I met some really interesting folk. So what did I talk about, well my slides don’t give the full picture so thought a blog post would be better, slightly amended so a lot less wordy.

The conclusion I drew was that we need to communicate and engage with our stakeholders, publishers and users,  much more in order to get a better picture and thereby provide more effective services & show real value for money from our investments.  (save reading the whole post)

The aim of my talk was to look at some of the challenges that I saw facing HE libraries, particlulary from an operational point of view and then look to some potential solutions.  A key challenge is the current economic climate, its uncertainty and also that proposed rised in students fees. This rise in fees I think leads directly to a greater focus on student satisfaction which in turn leads to the rising challenge of managing student expectation/satisfaction.

The findings from the annual National Student Satisfaction survey have been key drivers to investigating why the library is failing certain cohorts of students and implementing action plans.

What I have also noticed is a trend towards more student engagement in terms of help improve issue and resolve problems. For example ebook subscription models allowing access to a greater coverage and purchasing based on demand, ie number of downloads, thereby directly involving users in collection management.  I also mentioned the Student Academic Partnership scheme run by Birmingham City University (which has just won the Times Higher Award for supporting students) where students worked directly with departments. We had a student working with the library to help expolit our rare books collection, which helped provide a great focus and one outcome was a flickr site of some images from the collection.

Flora Londinensis (William Curtis, 1777)

Another challenge I talked about was the strategic aim of making more of our resources available online and some of the issues this raises. Getting value for money with our resources is key. With regards to our ebook collection, while coverage has expanded and collections are growing there is still some resistance of use, owing to poor usability of platforms, limited ability to share content with peers etc. From a collection point of view there were still titles being published online many months after the print edition, so I was really pleased to hear that Palgrave Macmillan were getting to the point of releasing print and online nearly simultaneously (via @bookstothesky) I am also interested in seeing how subscription models would deal with ebook readers, it was dispiriting to hear of the Publisher Association to limit downloading of ebooks to the physical library and limiting to one user at a time, as this really takes away the many advantages and reasons why we would want to invest in ebooks, especially at a time when we must get the best value for our money.

I talked about some of the challenges that arose as we reviewed our serials collection with the aim of moving more titles online to benfit from widening access and availabilty, however we still faced some instances of titles requiring seperate user name and password, on campus access only etc.

As our collections move more online it is leading to a much greater reliance on 3rd party provision which in turn bring about issues of access and usability as well as more complex levels of management & administration. We have to contend with frequent interface changes as publishers are keen to integrate and introduce new features, however sometimes the timing is problematic, this year at least 3 publishers changed thier interface just at the start of term leading to an unfamiliartiy with with the services as students are being introduced to it. We are constantly supporting students who struggle with navigating different interfaces and encountering different issues when access resources on and then off campus. I highlighted how access was a key stumbling block for our students via a word cloud of a months email enquiries regarding e-resources. While appreciating the need to provide access to content via the correct subscription it would be helpful if there was a greater consistency across the various resources and publishers.

wordcloud of a month of email regarding e-resource queries

Another key development is the increase in collaborations, I talked about a number of examples at the university of working with business’s, FE colleges, overseas etc. Operationally the challenge was how to provide access to content where licenses allow. Our experience of trying to negotiate seperate licenses for a few resources for a specific collaboration  showed it was very resource intensive and not meeting student expectation. Clearly renegotiating licenses at each occasion, especially when in some cases the collaborations only effect a handful of students, is not the most effective way to proceed.

As collaboration increase as does the need to suppot an increasing diverse range of staff and students alongside with a change in culture, an expectation of ‘always on’ access to whatever you need whenever you need.

My experience of using online services, while genearally positive I find when there are problems I am often left with only an FAQ or discussion forum to help resolve my problem which is not always effective. While we provide 24/7 access to our online resources, staff and students outside of core staffed hours, are  left with the option of sending in an email or refering to the information we provide online.

We have also seen an increase in demand for access not only to resources but also the physical building, a recent article in Times Higher quotes a quarter of HE libraries provide some form of 24/7 opening hours. This again raises the issue of how to support this level of increased access, however the provision of easy to use tools such as self service to borrow & return items could help provide one method of ensuring acess to core resource and allows staff & students to exploit these services more effectively.24hrs opening 2010 Kenrick Library Poster

Having raised some challenges, the proposed solutions I look at was the need to market libraries more effectively in gathering different types of evidence to show the value and impact the library service can provide. I used examples of the great work done by public library campaings, including Voices for the Library in highlighting what impact libraries have had on people, the use of twitter by Warwick University library in showing what staff and students value about the library and the findings by Huddersfield library on the pattern between library use and end qualification.

I wanted to highlight what a wealth of data was available and if exploited effectively could be really insightful and helpful. I also wanted to hightlight that in engaging with our students allows us more opportunities of getting a better understanding of what our students want and also benefit from their experience and ideas.

In a climate of reduced resources I think its important that we continue to make the most efficient use of our services and explore the potential of working together more, de-duplicatign work efforts, investigating shared services. An example of a shared service I am looking forward to seeing develop and see what opportunites are provided to both sectors is the Worcester Library and History Centre, a shared public and academic library. I think for collaborations to work effectively communication is key in ensuring all stakeholders have had the opportunity to input ideas and practices.

I also belive its important to continue to embrace and exploit new technology in libraries although we do need to ensure solutions are implement correctly and managed effeciently. One of the challenges I raised earlier was a growth in online resources, books, journals etc and a solution to the problems of navigation, access etc could be resource discovery or discovery to delivery products such as Summon, Ebsco Discovery, Primo etc. These products provide a single place to search and as the data is  centrally indexed its provides quick results.  I do however believer there is an issue of content and while it seems more and more publishers are allowing these services to index their content there are still some gaps, making it difficult for libraries who need to support a diverse range and get value for money.  As someone in the audience pointed out, those not intergrated in these services will see usage drop and this will make them vunerable to cancellation.

RFID is also providing opportunities for libraries to improve and enhance services, allowing staff and students to do more for themselves and thereby freeing up resources which could help support other aims. The successful exploitation of new technology however does lead to development of new skills or a move in focus for areas within the library.

In conclusion, while I think we are facing challening times I also believe librares are well equipped to adapt and provide the flexible services that staff and students require. We do however need to ensure we keep on engaging with our users, our publishers, suppliers, vendors etc in order that we can work effectively together and be realistic in the aims we wish to achieve.

November 29, 2010   No Comments

Valuing Public Libraries

Birmingham Public LibraryI attended a debate last night run jointly by the Birmingham Salon and CILIP West Midlands about ‘What Libraries are for’. It was an interesting evening and I really enjoyed hearing peoples views on libraries, whether they should be a quiet sanctuary, hired space for communities, running vegetable contests, space to inspire learning etc.

It also got me thinking about what public libraries mean to me and in particular it’s the aspect of social inclusion that really appeals.

During the debate there were numerous mentions of ebooks and ebook readers & their impact on the library. Personally I am not sure how much of a driver this is to re-invent the library, while these are available they are still not accessible to everyone unlike a public library. I do use my phone for reading but that hasn’t replaced all my print books and I don’t imagine it will do for some time. Someone raised the point of ‘are libraries just a warehouse of books or a space to inspire learning’. As the book industry evolves and new technologies arise I think it offers libraries more opportunities to evolve services and continue to provide access to information.

Another  key point that was raised during the debate was the about the library being a service not a building. This made me wonder whether success is still being measured through footfall of the physical space as libraries continue widen access further and deliver services out to communities as well as providing the information to your desktop.

From a personal point of view I have always been a keen user of public libraries, they have & continue to provide me with information, resources, the space etc. As a child libraries gave me the opportunity to indulge in my love of reading which in turn led me to aspire to learn more, become educated, go to university, find a profession. Libraries helped me level the playing field providing me with the same opportunities as others.

Looking back I have been regularly using public libraries at least once a month over the last 20 years and really appreciate the chance to discover new authors, new recipes to try, indulge in my aspiration to be creative through numerous self help and guide books.  I have enjoyed seeing collections evolve, introduction of multi-media, e-resources, PCs, integration of local services etc. In many cases some have been more successful than others but I have always appreciated the efforts to keep the marvellous public service alive in times of clear under investment and resource.

I now have a little boy who we’ve taken to the library since he was a week old. While we are fortunate to be able to provide him with a collection of books at home, we could never match what is available in the library. Its great to see his evolving use of the library, from crawling to the box to throw books out to beginning to look through and choose himself and now even tentatively foray into the non-fiction. He loves having the choice to try things out, see if its interests him find out about what he likes and dislikes.

A key word that continues to keep coming back to me with public libraries is the opportunities they provide to help people fill their potential

September 23, 2010   7 Comments

Chips and Mash

Chips and Mash badges

I was fortunate enought to attend another exciting, challenging and inspiring mashed library event  Chips and Mash at University of Huddersfield . One of the main topics of the day was RFID. Having recently been involved in implementing self service at one of our libraries, I really appreciated the opportunity to see RFID from a different perspective. Two talks I enjoyed were Andrew Wilson from Blink and Julian Cheal from UKOLN.

Andrew described RFID as technology for telling a story and described some of the projects he has been involved with, including a snakes & ladders game where people could play an online game of snakes & ladders by touching physical RFID readers around the building and thereby encouraging more circulation throughout the building. It was fascinating seeing use of RFID aside from simply issuing and returning library items.

Julian started his talk by confessing to having tagged his own personal book collection and showed how it was possible to send targetted messages to people via their smart phones as their entrance into the building is registered. Taking the interaction with a user away from a self service kiosk to a method of their choice provides much more flexibitliy and  highlights the extent of this type of technology.

Both Andrew and Julian inspired me to think about RFID outside the library context, which is what I needed having recently been distracted by the difficulties in finding an effective solution to tagging multimedia stock, just dont ask.

All the talks during the day were very interesting which as always diverted my attention from actually sitting down and trying to develop any of the ideas whizzing round my mind. It was good to have an update on the Jerome project run at University of Lincoln.  Lincoln are working on improving access to resources, improving search speed,  utilsing the data more effectively to provide a better search experience. Matt from Talis sped through their work on JUICE which is also working to enhance the search experience in enriching the information found on library catalogues. There seems a real need to provide relevant appropiate information speedily to users  alongside a desire to augment the information provided. I think its interesting to see how as the information libraries provide access to becomes larger, richer and complex the methods of discovery however need to become simpler and faster.

It was an enjoyable day with the advantage of many badger related paraphanalia for distraction, I recomend Laura’s Dark Archive for a great summary of the day and an explanation of how ‘badgers are the official mascot for mash up events’

Over 30 ideas were generated throughout the day which hopefully will be added to those on the mashed library wiki, all in all an inspiring day and many thanks to the organisers and speakers.badgers

August 9, 2010   2 Comments

JISC digitisation conference

Cotswold Water Park

Cotswold Water Park

A few weeks ago I attended the JISC digitisation conference at the lovely cotswold water park. The conference was streamed, blogged, tweeted etc so please check out the blog posts and videos for a good summary (I would definitely recommend watching the talks by Nick Poole and Robert Miller, inspiring stuff)
It was an enjoyable conference and JISC had put together a fantastic line up of talks. It was a good mixture of people from all aspects of the digitisation world highlighting the importance of collaboration and the value it adds to the collections. While there is now lots of access to some amazing resources the volume of use, ease of integration into teaching and research, questions of copyright and IPR, ease of search and discover were all issues raised during the 2 days.
I found it hard to select which talks to attend in the 4 different streams (and was often distracted by twitter as to what was going on in the sessions I couldn’t attend) There were plenty of useful case studies and resources which I wanted to go away and look at in more detail (unfortunately still not made the time for that). I particularly enjoyed a (too brief) talk by Dave Flanders touching upon wire frames to map out potential ideas and thinking about services from the point of view of a model user, it made me appreciate how it is possible to realise some of those ideas that occasionally pop into my head.

During the conference I really enjoyed tweeting and it really helped me consider some of the sessions in more depth during the time. I am however now  wondering if perhaps blogging some of the sessions would have been more useful with regards to being able to look back and reflect.

What I hope to take away from the conference is to;

  • discover more digitisation projects
  • appreciate the amount of available resources to researchers, students and teachers
  • appreciate how enriched media resources can be used to engage students
  • gain a better understanding of the reasons behind digitising collections
  • realise the need to secure resources that maybe lost via digitisation
  • understand the importance of copyright and IPR and not to view it as a block
  • creating these resources does not guarantee use
  • appreciate the need to add value to digital collections, enhance the data with other services
  • appreciate the need to promote them further
  • investigate better search platforms to this data
  • better intergration of resources into teaching, and understand how they can be part of the workflow
  • freeing the raw data, allowing innovative and greater use
  • the importance of collaboration with partners nationally and internationally

July 23, 2009   No Comments

Research Conference at Birmingham City University RESCON09

Twickenham Farmers' Market

On Monday June 22nd I atteded RESCON09 at Birmingham City University, this was the first research conference of its kind and was a really good day.

I had the opportunity to hear about the new research strategy which seems very ambitious and aspirational in moving towards being a ‘research engaged’ university. I also attended a number of presentations on various research projects across the university.

I found it a very useful day, I really appreciated hearing about the wonderful and varied research taking place and was a great introduction to the university. Sitting in the audience it was interesting to see the potential synergies between research groups, how technologically engaged many of the projects were and the real value of national and international collaborations. It depicted a picture of a vibrant, engaged and creative institution which I look forward to working for.

There are clearly some big challenges ahead for the university including co-ordinating these projects and building the infrastructure to support the growth of research across the insitution. From a library perspective this strategy raises many questions/issues regarding its impact to the resources and services we offer but there is also some real potential to provide expertise especially for example with regards to capturing research output. It will also be interesting to see how they build a research community and if web 2.0 tools could be used.

There is more detail available at research at Birmingham City University
and a couple of projects which particularly interested me were

June 25, 2009   No Comments