News from member libraries

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University of Gloucestershire

LIS (learning and information Services) staff finished the 2008–09 academic year celebrating several departmental successes.

Support for research week’ at the beginning of June 2009 was the first major initiative to be co-ordinated and promoted by the newly formed LIS marketing group, part of whose remit is to review how and why students use our learning centres. We used the tagline ‘Flying high with the learning centres’ and gave humorous titles to a variety of user-education sessions to reflect this upward-and-outward-looking concept, such as ‘Around the world in statistical resources’, ‘Travels in ebooks’ and ‘Notes from a big database’. Over 84 sessions across all five campuses were offered, all bookable online and advertised via our university’s ‘staff news’ pages. In addition, invitations were sent by e-mail to all research students and staff. Finally, a blog was set up which, having been ‘seeded’ with a welcome from Ann Mathie, head of LIS, was updated by LIS staff in a chatty and relaxed manner after every session. The week went well, with very positive responses from those attending, and we are currently in the process of collating the feedback we requested after each session had been run. We intend to use the valuable experience we gained in running the week to inform how we target our users in the future.

A more detailed report of how we implemented this initiative is available on request from Jane Nicholls (

At the end of June and after the end of term, LIS ran our second staff conference. Permission was granted to close all of our local learning centres so that as many staff as possible could attend. Building on the experience gained in organising the first such event last year – on the theme of ‘active learning’ – this year’s event focused on ‘information literacy’ and ‘making libraries interesting and inspiring places’. The day’s activities took place in our university’s well-equipped CeAL (centre for Active learning) building.

Sessions included one by Sarah Kennedy, learning centre manager at our Francis Close Hall (FCH) campus, who was fresh off the plane from jointly presenting (with colleague Allison Davis) a paper at the ‘Information: interactions and impact international (i3)’ conference at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Sarah gave a presentation on the joint research project currently being carried out by CeAL and the academic and practice unit at the University of Worcester. This is entitled ‘Formal learning in an informal setting: the student learning journey’ and is investigating students’ information-seeking behaviour through a mixture of questionnaires and focus groups. Sarah also updated the conference on the progress of the draft UoG information literacy framework, which has been well received in our institution.

Johanna Anderson, information adviser at FCH, had us all enthralled with an account of her trip to Malawi in the autumn of 2008, where she investigated the role libraries and information literacy play in the life of a primary school in a third world country. Sobering and uplifting by turns, her analysis of how the students and staff cope with the limited resources supplied principally by another culture gave us much food for thought. Johanna is now incorporating this material into her dissertation for her MSc in information and library management at the University of the West of England.

In the afternoon, we had a change of topic and activity as Ann Mathie, head of LIS, challenged us to look at our learning centres through different eyes. Adopting the ‘visual scan’ methodology pioneered by Aaron Cohen Associates, presented at the CILIP executive briefing ‘Library as place’ in October 2008, Ann led us through the four space-quality definitions. Following this we went off into our FCH learning centre in groups to look critically at its different types of space and how they impact on the student experience. Delegates were enthusiastic about this exercise and produced lists of suggestions for consideration. The plan is for staff to visit each other’s campuses and provide feedback for their colleagues.

Feedback on the day was overwhelmingly positive and, encouraged by both the head of LIS and our vice-chancellor, we are now planning to make this an annual event. SCONUL colleagues who would like an opportunity to talk to a friendly and receptive audience about topics of mutual interest are welcome to contact us!

Finally, Oxstalls learning centre staff in Gloucester were delighted to be nominated by our academic colleagues in the department of health and social care for an internal university ‘excellence’ award in the category of ‘Enhancing the student experience’. These awards are presented annually at the university’s staff conference. The citation highlighted the helpfulness of the learning centre staff: ‘… they provide a service that supports students that is second to none’. Although the eventual winners from the total of 40 nominations came from another department, the Oxstalls LC team were thrilled to have their work publicly acknowledged in such a positive way.

Carole Wrightson


Imperial College London


RIBA Award for Imperial College London - Central Library

The design of the level 1 refurbishment of the Central Library has been recognised by the Royal Institute of British Architects. A-EM Studios Ltd. received a regional award for their innovative design, creating a truly modern library space. Debby Shorley, Director of Library Services, attended the awards ceremony on 21 May.
Since the refurbished floor reopened in July last year, the library has enjoyed a significant increase in student usage.  The library team has also enjoyed welcoming a large number of library colleagues (nationally and internationally) from across the sector for tours, talks and visits.

Angus S. Brown



Leeds Metropolitan University

Archives and Special Collections

Our Civic Quarter library now has a designated university’s special collections room, complementary to the university archive at Headingley library. These collections include historical materials from within the university, past course materials donated by alumni and several external collections, on deposit with the university. The collections cluster primarily into art and design – including books from the Leeds School of Art and West Yorkshire Society of Architects collections -– and social policy, such as items from the National Cooperative collection. Materials are now organised and stored in more appropriate conditions, making it easier to exploit their potential for teaching and research. With the appointment of Keith Rowntree as principal information assistant (archives), the priority is to provide an electronic description of the individual collections and their constituent items, to promote knowledge of their existence and encourage usage. Enquiries concerning the collections or potential new additions may be directed to Keith Rowntree ( or Claire Williams ( Keith also maintains a blog at where he picks up on items of interest regarding the archive and special collections, ranging from observations about their maintenance, the content and other ideas thrown up by working with our holdings.

Reading & Writing Festival

Libraries and learning innovation co-ordinated the university’s second Reading & Writing Festival (23 April – 1 May 2009). The launch took the form of a ‘Living library’ event (, with Leeds Met staff and students acting as ‘books’ that could be ‘borrowed’ and sharing their personal stories such as living with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), growing up in care, international volunteering and working as a vicar. Library staff also enjoyed running a different sort of library with its own rules for ‘borrowers’ who had to:

return the ‘book’ in the same mental and physical condition as when borrowed

not damage the ‘book’, such as bend the spine or spill food and drink over it

not take the ‘book’ away from the ‘library’, and under no circumstances borrow the ‘book’ overnight

not lend the ‘book’ to anyone else

respect copyright law and not photocopy the ‘book’ or plagiarise from it

not write on the ‘book’, unless in pencil – and ensure any notes were erased before the ‘book’ was returned.

As part of the festival, staff from the library, joined by a student from the university’s MSc information management course and librarians from local further education colleges, took part in a two-day creative writing workshop led by poet, playwright and parliamentary writer in residence Rommi Smith. The intended outcome is a book on working in academic libraries. Academic librarians Catherine Parkin and Kirsty Carver also took part in the festival’s finale, ‘May Day conversations’, discussing their favourite books and the importance of reading, which was broadcast on the city’s BBC Big Screen.


Academic librarian Liz Lanfear has been appointed a university teacher fellow. The teacher fellow network brings together individuals from across the institution who have been identified for their excellent practice in assessment, learning and teaching. Liz is also undertaking research into information literacy and investigating the needs of researchers – she can be contacted on for more information.

Another of our academic librarians, Stuart Smith, is taking part in the university’s ‘Talents to the full’ secondment scheme and is spending six months working within the Leeds business school. One of his projects is working with academic colleagues on ‘resource enhanced learning’ (REL) – reviewing the resources students are encouraged to use in their learning activities. The aim is to see if these traditional reading lists might be better delivered to increase their take-up and use. REL seeks to enhance the user-friendliness, attractiveness and quality of the ways in which we inform students about resources to support their studies. Stuart can be contacted on

Meanwhile, cataloguers David Baron and Kate Bunting have been teaching on the university’s masters course in information management, passing on their expertise by leading the ‘Organisation and retrieval of information’ module.


Leeds Met library is now on Twitter! – follow us


Helen Loughran


University of Liverpool

Building developments

2008/9 has seen the conclusion of a number of important library building and refurbishment projects at Liverpool. We completed the final phase of the extension of the Sydney Jones library (arts and humanities) with the absorption of the former departmental libraries in law, music, archaeology and civic design. We also completed work in the basement area of the new wing, largely to hold compact shelving. The official opening of the newly extended and refurbished library was held in 2009. The ceremony was performed by Liverpool poets Roger McGough and Brian Patten, whose archives we had recently acquired (see below). The poets drew maximum comic potential from the fact that our staff had just discovered £450 in forgotten notes in Roger’s archive!

The period also saw the completion of work, funded largely by the Wolfson Foundation, on the Harold Cohen library (science and medicine). The work enabled us to refurbish the three reading rooms on the upper floor of the library and the large landing that connects them. This allowed the creation of a subject area for medicine, with adjacent subject-specialist staff offices and the development of a suitable space for informal and group learning. All three reading rooms are now visible through large glass panels from the central landing, bringing out the scale and grandeur of the space for the first time. Though most of the work was about modernisation, work on the largest reading room was concentrated on reinforcing its identity as a traditional space for quiet reading, for example by providing task lighting at each study desk (thus, fittingly, reverting to the way in which the room was lit when the building opened in 1938).

All our building improvements seem to have been favourably received by our users, as reflected in our score in the 2009 national student survey, which saw us among the top four positions in the Russell group and in the top three in the Times Higher Education and ‘International Student Barometer’ surveys.


Turnover of staff was greater than usual, partly owing to the introduction of an early retirement/voluntary redundancy scheme to allow us to cope with the financial pressures the university is currently experiencing and the much sharper pressures the whole sector is likely to experience after the next general election. We said goodbye to Wendy Spalton, law librarian, who had been with us in various capacities since 1978; Joyce Raynor, architecture librarian, who joined the library in 1981; and Margaret Johnson, user services librarian in the Harold Cohen library, who came to us in 1995. Among those who retired, the longest serving member of staff was Adrian Allan, university archivist, whose career in the university spanned a total of 39 years.

New arrivals included Paul Catherall, our new e-learning support librarian, replacing Stephanie Allen, who has moved to the University of Worcester.

University developments

There have been very significant changes within the university, not least the departure of our vice-chancellor, Sir Drummond Bone. Sir Drummond has been a staunch supporter of the library and much of the revival of our financial fortunes has been down to him. Our new vice-chancellor, Sir Howard Newby, brings with him a strong strategic focus and library staff have been closely involved in the implementation and development of the new strategic plan. Carol Kay project-managed the work on the restructuring of the university’s academic departments and has recently been seconded to become project manager for the professional services review and business process improvement within the university. Laura Dunn was seconded to project-manage the development of the ‘internationalisation’ dimension of the new strategy, building upon the major and continuing role she has in the development of library provision in the new Xian Jiaotong Liverpool University in China.

Electronic developments

Over the past year we have been involved in the ‘ArticleReach’ project, in which we work co-operatively with other research libraries around the world to meet each other’s inter-library loan requirements. The project has been very successful, and suggests a model for wider future application. In the first six months of the project the overall number of inter-library loan requests we have supplied to our users has doubled, as they took advantage of the simple automatic-request process feeding from our URL linker, fast delivery or response from ‘ArticleReach’ and a good success rate at a cost that is comparable with other services.

We are working with Serial Solutions to beta-test a new product called ‘Summon’. If it fulfils its present promise ‘Summon’ could be the holy grail of library searching: something that operates with Google-like rapidity but leads to good-quality library resources, and which searches our book and journal holdings at the same time. It is able to search rapidly because it pre-harvests data from major aggregators, no longer relying on searching the databases themselves in response to each query. It thus avoids the flaw that bedevils first-generation federated search engines of returning data from library catalogues rapidly but delivering results from remote journal indexes at a slower rate than the Google generation finds acceptable.

Among our more notable electronic acquisitions this year have been the following: Guardian/Observer Archive; Goldsmiths-Kress Library of Economic Literature, 1450–1850; the Springer complete 2009 collection; the Oxford Scholarship Online – Law collection; and the complete Royal Society of Chemistry e-book collection.


The library has completed a number of special projects in the period covered by this report, including successful participation in phase 1 of UK Research Reserve and the successful delivery of the ticTOCs project ( Together with other RLUK (Research Libraries UK) partners, we completed the ‘19th Century British Pamphlets’ online project – – which concluded with a highly enjoyable launch event here at Liverpool. This incidentally provided an opportunity for our guests to see our newly refurbished special collections and archives accommodation. This was a part of the Sydney Jones project, for which supplementary funding was provided by the Wolfson Foundation, allowing us to provide a new reading room, staff area, display facilities and teaching room.

Our special collections and archives staff are in the process of cataloguing the Liverpool poets’ archive. We have held the archive of Adrian Henri for a number of years, but with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other donors we were able to add to this the archives of Brian Patten and Roger McGough. An exhibition celebrating the work of all three poets, ‘The Mersey Sound’, features material from the archives and is on display at the university’s newly opened Victoria Galley and Museum (see

One of the most exciting projects of the year was the generation of a set of video introductions to different dimensions of library provision for use via YouTube. A group of our library assistant staff wrote, directed and produced these under the direction of subject librarian Linda Crane. They also acted in them, animated them and even wrote and performed the music. All the videos are suitable for viewing on PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) and mobile phones. They show the remarkable creativity of our staff and how the exuberant and anarchic comic talent that abounds in Liverpool can be harnessed to strategic ends! If you go to you will realise why we are so proud of their work.

Service developments

We introduced a number of enhancements to our services this year. Self-return of books was provided to complement the existing self-issue facility. We moved from a bypass book security system, under which books have to be passed around the barrier on exit, to ‘full-circulating’ security in which triggers are desensitised on issue. We also introduced coin payment of fines through self-issue terminals (allowing readers to remove blocks from their records during unstaffed opening, for example). The existing ‘walk-in access’ to electronic journals and databases provided at our Harold Cohen library was extended to the Sydney Jones library.

Phil Sykes


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