Thursday, 24 May 2012

London Dawson Day 2012 - Success through synergy

Yesterday I spent a very enjoyable day at this year's London Dawson Day run by Dawson Books and, this year, held at the very impressive headquarters of the Institution of Civil Engineers. The theme of the day was Success through synergy and the presentations highlighted the successful collaboration between Dawson and Bertrams and academic institutions.

After the initial sign in, tea and coffee and networking, the day began with a presentation by Jason Cherrington, Sales Director for the Bertram Group. He gave us a business update outlining the benefits of Dawson joining with Bertrams and re-assured us of Dawson's strong performance in the market. Following Jason were Karen Carden, Bibliographic Services Manager at the University of the Arts, and Heather Sherman, Head of Technical Sales at Dawson. In their presentation Karen spoke about the reasons for and process of centralising their bibliographic services across the six Colleges that make up the University and, also, how they have developed the centres to be self-service orientated - they hit 90% self-service in November! Heather talked about how Dawson helped them with the centralisation and streamlining some of their processes further. She also highlighted how Dawson can work with other suppliers, for example 3M in this instance to collaborate with RFID.

Before lunch Hugh Ferguson, Former Deputy Director General of the Institution, gave an overview of the history of the Institution and its location at One Great George Street. Having a passion for social history I very much enjoyed his presentation. Little did I know as well that the Great Hall, where I began the day, had been used as the setting for the Law Council dinner in the film Bridget Jones 2: the edge of reason! Back in the Great Hall we had a very nice lunch - I had salmon - although there wasn't really enough places to sit or perch at! For the remainder of lunch I went round the exhibitions from publishers, and Heritage (the LMS), with a couple who work at The National Archives. In our programme was a 'treasure hunt' so we went round the stands finding out the answers to the questions. Sadly we didn't win the grand prize of an iPad 3!

At 1.30pm we were back in the Telford Theatre for the last two presentations. Chris Foreman, Collections Development Manager at the University of Roehampton, and Jude Norris, Marketing and Technology Director for Dawson, kicked off the afternoon. Chris and Jude told us about the collaboration between the University and Dawson to manage the implementation and development of patron-drive acquisitions (PDA) for e-books. I am interested in PDA so it was good to hear how it works and the pitfalls and successes they've had along the way. The second presentation was from Keynote Speaker Ed Fay. Ed is the Digital Library Manger at the London School of Economics and he spoke about the Digital Library there and its role in preserving digital material.

A 2.30pm we had a final opportunity to visit the exhibitions and do a bit of networking - with the help of some very nice cookies! - before the prize draw for the iPad3 and raffle. I came away with £20 of John Lewis vouchers! I would recommend attending. It's a great chance to network, establish links with publishers, learn about developments and what others are doing and meet the Dawson team who are both very friendly and enthusiastic about how they can help you. A very enjoyable day all round!

Monday, 14 May 2012

From CoFHE and UC&R to ARLG: the past, present and future

I attended this event on Wednesday 9th May which was held at CILIP for London and South East members of the newly formed Academic and Research Libraries Group (ARLG). The group has been created by merging two of CILIP’s existing special interest groups – Colleges of Further and Higher Education (CoFHE) and University, College and Research (UC&R) – and is the first within CILIP to be created in this way.

The two main speakers were Anne Rowlands (co-Chair of the national ARLG committee) and Annie Mauger (Chief Executive of CILIP). Both spoke about the background to the merger – Anne from the CoFHE/UC&R view and Annie from the CILIP view.

Anne spoke of the increasing overlap between the work of the two groups, especially now that Colleges are being given the opportunity to offer their own foundation degrees. Anne also highlighted the process that has been involved in creating the merger and the next stages that are required in consolidating the committee and regional groups. Alongside this she highlighted some of the current concerns with members. The national ARLG committee is split with an equal representation from FE and HE. My concern is how this translates into the regional committees and whether there will be any monitoring to ensure equal representation at local level. Anne also introduced the group’s mission: To engage with “professional” issues of interest to information professionals working in Further Education, Higher Education and Research Libraries and to shape all levels of academic libraries of the future. I have a slight problem with the end of the statement when it refers to all levels as this implies some form of influence over school libraries as well.

Annie spoke about the background of the merger in the context of the changes CILIP is going through. She praised both CoFHE and UC&R for taking the leap and being the ‘pilot’ on what she hopes will be a series of changes to the special interest groups to ensure that they are up to date and relevant.

The remainder of the evening consisted of two lightning talks highlighting examples of success stories from both the FE and HE sector. Genevieve Clarke from The Reading Agency and Stephen Wickens from Westminster Kingsway College began by showcasing the success of The Reading Agency’s Six Book Challenge with a group of the College’s ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students. We have run the Challenge in the past with ESOL students and a group with learning differences. Both have been very successful with the students enthusiastically engaging with the Challenge – it’s something we hope to run again. Genevieve and Stephen were followed by Ella Mitchell from the University of East London (UEL). Ella presented the award winning Info Skills site at UEL which supports undergraduates through identifying, finding, evaluating and referencing information. I think it’s an excellent site, not only visually, but also the way in which they support differing learning preferences by providing guides, videos, demonstrations and quizzes.

Overall I was a little disappointed by the first half of the event as I seemed to have different expectations to the actual purpose of the meeting. I was hoping to find out more about how the London and South East area of ARLG would be going forward but it seems that there still needs some work done on a national level before we can see what will be happening locally. I was also surprised by the low number of attendees. 17 attendees were listed and only 7 of them (myself included) weren’t a speaker or already involved on the ARLG London and South East Committee. It may have been the start time (5.30 may have been an awkward time for some), or lack of communication (although it was advertised on mailing lists), or simply lack of interest which would be sad.

I used to be a fairly regular attendee of the CoFHE LASEC (London and South East Circle) in 2008/2009 but for various reasons stopped going. With the merger I see a good opportunity to get involved again and look forward to seeing how ARLG develops in this region.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Was it worth buying?

In November last year I posted a comment on The Practical Librarian's blog about measuring circulation. The blog post discusses the limitations of using circulation statistics alone as a method of measuring library performance. In my comment I spoke about how I planned to measure the usage of items purchased following tutor requests in the hope of obtaining a better picture of the impact of our stock management. I was curious to see whether usage reflected the demand perceived by tutors.

Six months later and I've just taken a look to see what the statistics can tell me. Unfortunately, there are so many variables affecting the usage that I've found the exercise to be almost pointless! Since September we have ordered 79 titles following a request from a tutor. First I want to discuss those that have been borrowed.

The level of usage cannot give an accurate picture of the demand as there are several factors that can give the illusion of genuine issues and some factors that mean not all use if reflected in the statistics:
  • transit between LRC sites - we have reader records set up for each location and issue any items in transit to them so that we can track where they are
  • mis-use of self-issue - we have seen several instances in the usage information where a student has managed to issue, return and then issue a book to themselves in quick succession!
  • display browsing - from January I have put all new stock on display. It is impossible to tell whether borrowing from the display is as a result of browsing or whether the book was particularly sought for. I've watched with interest over several days as one particular students 'borrows' the BTEC textbook for sport from the display whilst he works on a computer and puts it back when he's finished!
Out of the 79 titles 30 have not been borrowed but, again, I can't make any assumptions about why this might be:
  • tutors may not be recommending the titles to students, or they may be but the students just aren't bothered!
  • by the time the book is shelf-ready the topic has passed and it won't really be needed again until the same time the following year
  • the title might be the course textbook so the tutors simply feel we 'ought' to have it in the LRC
This exercise, although not a success, is a great example at demonstrating how we cannot rely on statistics alone and that if we are going to use them we must carefully consider whether there are any other factors that can significantly distort the image they give.

In terms of what I was trying to achieve I've had to accept some truths:
  • in a tutor's eyes every title they request is deemed important
  • we must trust that they are passing these recommendations on to their students
On the other hand, there are also some truths that reinforce the role of the librarian in collections management:
  • the librarian is best placed to judge how many copies should be bought (tutors often want several, particularly of the core textbooks) through local knowledge of use, demand and student behaviour
  • relevant titles should be promoted to students through their course areas in Moodle - we can't expect them to be enthusiastic or expert searchers.James Clay expands this point further in his blog post on adding resources to VLEs.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

2012 Collections Project - Books, books and more books!

Well we are now two months into our collections project and I thought I'd better write an update and reflect on how it's going.

The LRC has been given a budget which we have been able to allocate to a collections project. Back in February our Director of Learning Resources had the first of his meetings with Heads of Faculties and Schools. In these meetings he outlined the scope and purpose of the project: an opportunity to update and refresh the LRC collection; ensure that the collection reflects current and emerging curriculum requirements; move the collection towards e-books if appropriate and; establish effective approaches to curriculum liaison. The Heads were given a form to complete with any resource requests from tutors within their areas. The form asked for specific details such as course, number of students on course, whether essential or recommended, priority and whether an e-book would be appropriate if available. By the middle of April we had received forms from most of the schools within each faculty.

My first job was, within the space of a week, to go through each form, check whether the requested title was in stock and, if not, check e-book availability and purchase costs through our supplier. We have three faculties: ACE (Art, design and media; Care; Engineering), HBAS (Humanities, Business And Science) and PALS (Professional And Leisure Studies). Each school within the faculties returned the information slightly differently. Some combined several tutors' requests onto one form, some returned one form for each tutor - I received 37 forms from ACE, 5 from HBAS and 8 from PALS. Some didn't even use the form so I've had to transcribe the details from their email. Even though some forms were very short and only contained a few titles the largest number of requests has come from the ACE faculty and, in particular, the two schools of Art, design and media and Care. One of the other problems I encountered was that some tutors hadn't given all the required information on the form so we are chasing these now.

On Monday I had a meeting with the Director of Learning Resources and the Student Support Manager to plan how we would proceed. It came to light very quickly that our lack of acquisition guidelines (in terms of how many copies should we purchase) is a big hindrance. In the past we have been very cautious when ordering as our budget has been low. However, we were all agreed that if a title was only  'recommended' reading, as opposed to 'essential', we would only buy 1 copy initially. Of course more copies can be ordered if there is demand but this is a good starting point. Another hindrance involves e-books. Before purchasing e-books we want to make sure that tutors understand that if an e-book is available for their print request we will likely purchase the e-book plus one print copy and that they understand how e-books work. By the end of the meeting, however, I had my next objective: go through the lists and identify any title that is 'recommended' and where there is only a print copy available. We can then place these as our initial order.

Yesterday I finished going through the forms identifying the appropriate titles. I have also compiled a list of queries, e.g. where more information is needed on the form; should we order the accompanying CD?; this was published more than 5 years ago - is the tutor aware of this and happy with it? Once these are clarified we can place the first order! The next step will then be to update the tutors on the progress, plan how many copies to buy of 'essential titles' and look at ordering the e-books.

I'm really enjoying this project. I believe I've found my niche now in acquisitions so its great to have something like this to work on :)