Summon: look and feel

Owing to the limited customisation possible in Summon we are planning on creating a landing page with potentially the following;

  • Search box which exclude ‘Newspaper Articles’ by default (to reduce results number)
  • The title ‘Summon’, with a new strap line
  • Explanation of what Summon is/can do
  • Links to common library services such as, A-Z eresource list, A-Z ejournal list, renewals, room booking, relevant news, Ask the Library

As well as creating a specific summon page we also thought about other locations where Summon could be embedded

  • Moodle – as could be useful for staff and students to find resources from within the VLE
  • iCity (Institutional portal)  – Adapt current library widget to include a summon search box as opposed to a library catalogue search box
  • Library website – add a search box to the main library webpage, something many other summon customers have done

    Summon examples


eResource troubleshooting

Inspired by the post eResources “de-tech-tive” work – supporting library staff here is a little about some of the work we are doing in helping library staff answers queries relating to accessing our online resources.

As part of the elibrary team we manage, administer and support e-resources and with the help of Mark and John we wrote a brief guide for staff at our help points. The guide provides the recommended route to our eresources, we advise using our insitutional portal as this also sets the Athens coookie, some basic steps in answering a query (excerpt below) and a list of some common issues.

“Answering e-resource enquiries
1. Establish what the student is trying to access to confirm if this is something we have a subscription to, ie is it on our A-Z e-resource list or journal list and within our holdings.

2. Establish they are a BCU staff and student and have a network ID which allows them access to iCity, Moodle etc.

  • If they have any problems with their network ID or don’t have one they will need to contact the CICT helpdesk.
  • If they are an external borrower with a network ID this will only work on campus with a limited number of resources (those listed on the A-Z e-resource list which say ‘on-campus’)

3. Check whether you can access this resource yourself then determine whether student is on campus or off

  • On campus – If you are able to access it, suggest the student accesses it via the suggested route (accessing e-resources)
  • Off campus – if you can access it, check it is not a resource only available on campus (see notes on A-Z resource list) If it is not restricted to on campus, provide the suggested access route.
  • If they continue to have problems recommend they email with full details for further investigation

4. If you are unable to access it yourself, report to with details of the resource and the borrower if they wish to be notified.”

Some initial feedback from staff is that they would appreciate a shorter guide with bullet points listing key questions they could ask to probe further into the problem, specifically for telephone enquires. They also felt it would be useful to see how the off campus route varies from on campus.

We are also looking at ways of improving information on our current webpages in order that our staff and students can troubleshoot themselves at times where library staff are not available to help. We are going to run some staff training sessions which I hope will be a useful in ensuring staff have the relevant support and that we are aware of the different types of enquiries we are facing.

I think the 2 blog posts over on Laura’s Dark Archive are a good introduction for library staff regarding e-resources.

As our collections far exceed the stock in the buildings we occupy it is important that we are able to provide appropriate support for e-resources.

Scanners and me…

Zeutschel and Nikon scanning equipment...

Welcome to my Blog-spot-thingy. My name is Philip Sidaway and I’m a Digital Library Assistant – hmm…that sounds like a computer program.

Any way enough of that. I started with the University around, erm…7 years ago…I think. I joined the Digital Library (UCEEL) first of all and stayed there for 2 years, then I had a transfer to BIAD for around 2 years. In a strange twist of fate a position came back up at the Digital Library again and I moved back and I’ve been here ever since.

As you may know the Digital Library contains lots of collections from book extracts, journal articles, exam papers, student projects, images; it even has audio and video content on it too.

I am involved in the day-to-day production of the content that goes on to the DL. I use a varied array of equipment and software. The book scanners I use are made by Zeutschel (a german company) and are solid…built like a tank. The larger A1 and A0 scanners can capture a massive 500mb-1gb of RGB data in one pass and are particularly useful for digitising maps, plans and even canvas paintings. The smaller desktop scanners are great for books and journal articles.  We have two Nikon film scanners and a number of flatbed scanners. I digitise book articles and journal articles and images for external projects (DCS clients and outside institutions). I am involved in the post production artwork for these images, which includes enhancement, colour correction and re-touching as well as patching images together too.

Zeutschel os10000 and os10000 TT scanners...

Other aspects of my job include making book articles and journal articles screen readable (OCR). Preparing students projects for upload and uploading them onto the DL, this involves removing potentially copyrighted material and re-formating the documents so that the text flows properly again. I attach search criteria and metadata to the documents and upload them onto the server. I also put exam papers and video content on-line and do file conversion too.

The software I have used includes various flavours of scanning software, FineReader, Photoshop, Avid, DreamWeaver and Illustrator.

Joe and me...

And now for something completely different…back in October 2011 a small Sidaway came onto the planet by the name of Joseph. He’s even smaller than me…yep he’s a micro Sidaway. Any way my wife took this fantastic picture of my son Joseph in the pool with his coach along side (that’s me…hehe). Joe’s in full training for the 2012 Olympics, so move out Phelps cause here comes Joseph…sorry folks couldn’t resist.

Library Systems and Systems Librarians

a data general mini computer tape deck from the 1990's

20th Century tech

Back in the day Libraries generally had one main computer system; this was the Library Management System (LMS) that drove the core back and front end operations and services. In the late 1980’s and early ’90’s ours ran on a computer the size of a fridge freezer that lived in the basement of Kenrick. It was temperamental, fiddly to operate and required a fair amount of care and attention. It took several of the tapes in this photo to back up the data every morning, so someone had to be on hand to remove each tape and load up the next one until the process was finished.

In 2012 we have any number of computer systems running the myriad services that we offer, but we still have an LMS at the centre of things. These days it’s called Alto, and it’s this that the Systems Librarians look after. For the time being it still runs on a computer in the basement of Kenrick (it’s a lot smaller than a fridge freezer), but in our highly connected times it could just as well run on a remote or virtual server anywhere in the world.

As well as Alto Chris & I have responsibility for Prism, the RFID and EM driven self service kiosks, Sentry at Kenrick, and our venerable reading list system.

“Looking after” the LMS essentially means making sure that the systems are all functioning correctly and are available to staff and Library users when and where they are needed. Beside the basic technical stuff of dealing with software updates, managing the day to day running and troubleshooting problems the work is largely based around communication and liaison; we spend a lot of time discussing the ever changing business requirements of Library and Learning Resources with colleagues, then trying to ensure that the systems are configured to support these. We work with our external system suppliers so that they are aware of our business and our development needs, and we liaise very closely with our colleagues in CICT so that they understand what the Library wants to do, and are able to provide the infrastructure that we need to deliver our services.

A key area for us is to develop and improve the integration of our systems into the overall IT infrastructure of the University so over the last few years we’ve seen a Library widget launched in the iCity portal, and we’ve introduced an epayment option for Library fines, based on the University’s online shop. We’ve improved the ways in which we take and use information from the Student Records System, and we will shortly be starting to develop for the first time some links  between Alto and the HR system that will allow us to manage Library records for University staff more effectively.

The eLibrary team covers a lot of ground, and like the rest of the team I regularly get the opportunity to be involved with projects outside the core work that I do. This year I’ll be working alongside colleagues to help ensure that Summon is as good as we can make it when we launch in the Autumn, and I’m representing us on a large project currently underway across the University to deliver an integrated Access Control System for the TEE, the Mary Seacole Building, and for the new building currently going up in the City Centre.

My Role in the eLibrary Team

I’m John Farren, the newest member of the eLibrary team.

Beside eLibrary related work, I also have duties as part of the Lending Services team; generally one or two hours per day on the Library Help Desk, and an hour dedicated to the war against chaos and entropy a.k.a. tidying and reshelving books.

In the eLibrary team my primary role is Athens user support, which I have been doing for several years now, previously from the Academic Support team,

The first thing I do every day is to check the Athens enquiries inbox; the aim is always to respond to queries ASAP.

Query numbers vary quite a lot; always seem to be highest when the final assignments are set after Easter.

As well as email response, there may be Athens related enquiries by phone or for support of students at the Help Desk; average at present seems to be couple of these per day.

Other aspects of eLibrary I am only beginning to learn; among these I am currently learning to use the ABBYY FineReader OCR software. Previously the eLibrary team has used version 7 of this; unfortunately we have found that my new Windows 7 PC and FineReader 7 don’t like to play togeter, so I am trying to learn version 9. And have already learnt the worth of the motto “back up early, back up often” on losing the proofread output at page 96 of a 105 page file.

FineReader seems excellent in terms of OCR, but perhaps less so in editing the output. Today I had a brief experiment of exporting to Word document with the idea editing there before converting to PDF.
Unfortunately the Word import does not seem able to retain the pagination and separated footnote fields of the FineReader batch.

Circulation statistics

Confessions of a Travelling Digital LIbrary Officer by Beth Delwiche


As I approached the UK Border Agent peering down at  the long line of travellers bearing non EU passports ,  I hoped  that I wouldn’t be held up for long.  The journey  from  Nassau, Bahamas to Birmingham was long and tiring.  My annual leave would soon be a thing of the past like warm sunshine, palm trees, and the azure waters of the Carribbean.

It was my turn to come up to the desk to hand over my travel documents  and the landing card filled out with my  name, address, occupation, and other sundry details.  I said a cheerless ”Good morning” to the civil servant  and gave him my card and passport.

Mr. Border Agent replied “How long how you been out of the country?”  “One week” I said.

Mr. Border  Agent nodded his head  like the Churchill advertising dog.  He then asked a second question that I never wouldn’t have anticipated  in a million years.  “ I see you have written on your card, Ms. Delwiche,  that you are a  Digital Library Officer.  Hmm what exactly do you do? “  I wished  all of a sudden that I was a nurse or a fireman as everyone  knows  that they save lives and wouldn’t be asked this question in the first place. But instead, I said, “I’m glad you asked me that” and replied with the following.

“I have been working for the past nine years on the Digital Library, known as UCEEL.   It contains all sorts of interesting collections, namely, book extracts, journal articles, images, audio, video, and exam papers.  These are bespoke materials which means that it isn’t like other commercial electronic resources but people still get confused and think we are part of Athens or another elearning objects repository.”

“When the lecturer sends out the form, I carefully analyse each request and  make sure it complies with the various licences that the university holds such as the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) ,ERA (Educational Recording Agency), or sometimes it can qualify as an exception to the Copyright Act.”

“If the request  exceeds what can been done,  I contact the lecturer or librarian involved and suggest other ways of obtaining the materials either through the purchase of an ebook,  or arranging permissions with publishers directly, or clearing chapters through a copyright  clearing service called HERON. I represent the university on the HERON User Group and attend meetings where I keep up to date on copyright and other relevant intellectual property law developments. “

“Recently, I have begun twittering about copyright on eCopyLite  and working on developing  ways of informing other members of staff about copyright with my line manager, Damyanti, and, my digital library officer colleague, Nikki.  I would like to think that my job is to act as an advisor on these issues”.

“ Nikki, the other digital library officer, and myself are a rare breed, as there are only two of us that have this role. Each day is different (for me that is Wed-Fri).  Not all I do is copyright, I am interested in repositories, developing  workflows, knowledgeable of metadata, user interfaces, and  working on special projects  with other members of the elibrary team.”

Mr. Border Agent’s eyes began to glaze over and then he quickly stamped my passport. As I moved onto the baggage claim, I could swear I heard him say under his breath, “ I hope the next one is a  firefighter.”

Missing Link: Making the connection between information literacy and the student experience

My primary role at the confence was to tweet during the day about the talks I attended, @davidclay kindly created a storify of the day.
It was interesting to attend a conference on information literacy as its been a few years since I’ve done any training with staff & students. The morning started with a couple of case studies, the first was ‘Preparing Health and Social Care students for university – why this approach?’ by Neil Donohue and Monica Casey from Salford University. They described their approach to reviewing & redesigning the pre-induction session to provide a more holistic approach in collaboration with the department. They recognised a shift in focus from IT sessions to sessions on ‘learning’, students wanted to find out more about reading lists & referencing. For many health students the pre-induction session was one of the first in a series of training sessions from the library so was an ideal opportunity for students to become more familiar with the services provided. It was also interesting to hear about how they tied the information literacy sessions in with the Royal College of Nursing’s literacies competences and made me wonder what other professional organisations had such frameworks. This also raised the issue of greater success in some faculties than others with regards to information literacy.

Feedback from the day was collected demonstrating impact and value which is a definately trend I have noticed across HE. The general feedback was positive with request for more information on logins & passwords in order to see the resources’ more information on bursaries etc. They are keen to provide some of the information literacy session information online, not behind the VLE in order that it is more accessible.

The second case study ‘Creating a reusable, online information literacy tutorial for researchers: A collaborative approach by Chris Bark (Coventry University) and Liz Martin (De Montfort University)’ described their approach in designing a module for researchers. The four institutions, within the East Midlands Research Support Group raised funds for the project to allow them to survey a number of researchers and employed staff to help create the content. As with the case study from Salford the key users were consulted and engaged with in designing the module. The presentation highlighted the benefits and challenges of collaboration, with reference to resources, support, friendship, time, politics etc, between 4 different HE making me think about the current climate and the continued trend for shared services. I am looking forward to trying out this module, Dissemination of your Research, which I hope will be a great resource for many.

Next came the parallel sessions and I was sorry not to be able to attend them all.

I went to ‘I did it my way or did I? Developing an interactive information literacy framework’ led by Greta Friggens (University of Portsmouth). She began the session by providing us all with postcards for us to note down our ideas which she will post back to us, this gentle encouragement and inspiration to turn our ideas into reality was a key focus of the talk for me. Greta talked of her own experience in the involvement of the Learning Change programme at her institution which provided an opportunity to build on an idea she had regarding information literacy framework. The outcome of the project was UPLift, Library Information Tips. In reflecting on the project Greta was able to share some valuable lessons, such as being clear about the benefits and values of your idea, tying these with strategic aims in order to get the buy in, being clear about the resource required etc.


Lunch time

After lunch I went to ‘University of Roehampton and Cengage Learning e–Book Project’ by Anne Pietsch and Robert Manderson (Roehampton University). This was related much more to my area and I think is a great start to what I hope will be a very interesting and exciting conversation. We heard about some initial findings from a survey by Roehampton and Cengage on use of ebooks and I am very much looking forward to reading the report when available, hopefully this summer. They noted that key routes of access to ebooks for student was the library catalogue and Moodle. They also asked students to narrate their actions when looking for ebooks, this proved to be a useful exercise in providing feedback to suppliers on the lack of usability for a platform. One of the most interesting points raised was the importance of getting lectures to drive the content for ebooks in particular having the opportunity to test them out to see how they would fit into their learning and curriculum design which in turn re-iterated the importance of librarians being involved in those discussions to help advise on resources. With the trend towards more investment in ebooks this type of research is invaluable in helping identify and exploit both benefits & challenges in ebooks. I am also hopeful in seeing ebook platforms mature in providing more flexibility, customisation & openness.

The day ended with, ‘Collaboration between Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) and Library and Learning Resources to improve the Student Experience by Christiana Titahmboh and Jenny Eland (Birmingham City University). They told their stories about their involvement in the teaching and learning at the university. This session I think was a useful recap of the key theme of the day which is the impact on the student experience of information literacy training. Jenny talked about her role helping build bridges & links between librarians, skills tutors and academic staff to ensure the students have opportunities to equip themselves with all the necessary skills, including employability & information literacy. Christiania talked about the impact of completing the PGCert in Learning & Teaching in providing the confidence to engage with lecturers, deal with student groups and introduced active based and problem based learning. In relating how her sessions have an impact on the students learning outcome & subsequent grades proved a valuable method of engaging with the student.

The Learning & Teaching team organised an interesting and thought provoking day and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to attend. While it was clear that information literacy impacted on the students learning experience I was also encouraged to see the users being key to the design of modules & evidence to illustrate value & impact of these modules/skills being collected.

Newsletter of the Career Development Group West Midlands Division

The spring 2012 issue has just been published including articles on

  • Supporting the Framework of Qualifications: a day of discovery and reflection;
  • CDG National Conference;
  • Committee Profile for our New Professionals’ Support Officer; CDG WM Committee
  • Vacancies

Well worth the read, not only because of the great profile pic of Trudi as the New Professionals’ Support Officer but also for her write up of the CDG National Conference

One Day in the Life of an Electronic Services Librarian

Unlike this, or this, my day usually starts with a coffee, then emails. I don’t have the luxury of email zero, it’s usually just making sure I don’t miss important ones. One of my main areas of work centres on the implementation of Summon,and what’s significant for me about this is that it is a joint Library/CICT project that will hugely impact our access to electronic resources which are currently held in separate places.

Being responsible for ‘Electronic Services’ has up until now meant responsibility  for those platforms where most of our eresources are accessed (eg AtoZ of Electronic ResourcesAtoZ of Electronic Journals, and/or also making sure that the methods of authentication for all of them we have in place (Athens,IP, username and password) work as smoothly as possible. Since last September, we offered a login route to our eresources through iCity that has reduced enquiries solely avia our Athens email box to about 300 over six months, so more common issues now centre around content: have we switched on full-text content to we have actually paid for, etc? Are we giving access to the right people?

Summon isn’t magic: it only ‘knows’ about most of our electronic collections if we tell it what we think those resources are, so today I am trying to work out why the holdings that we have via our subscription agent  don’t match those of the publisher (18% of our initial download from Swets didn’t match up with our Elsevier holdings according to Summon, for example). I contact several publishers eg CUP,Taylor and Francis) to start finding out about metadata for our institutional journal subs. I also begin a template to load third party holdings from Ingenta in to our Summon admin area,but decide to put this on hold for a while. Data problems are a longstanding issue, even with national initiatives like KBART, and especially where we don’t buy that many big ready-made deals.

After some mild twittering with @benelwell from Wolverhampton and then, over lunch, chat with @TheCloudSurfer over a new design for a website for a band I play in, I bump into one of the CICT developers for iCity. He confirms that a recent change he had made to the business rules concerning Athens was now working. Back at my desk,after reading the new Student Access Network Policy,I suggest a rewording to a new message screen for alumni (still to be approved:-).

Working out how all to satisfy both our students expectation & get them through the publisher paywalls as painlessly & legally as possible might be easier once we trial some authentication ‘middleware’ called EZproxy. I am excited about this a) because I asked for this software 5 years ago, and b) I want to stop reduce the numbers of hurdles wherever possible that we throw in front of the student –  hurdles like this damage the student experience.

I’m looking forward to testing EZproxy on my phone, and then I remember the mlibs project from Evidence Base here – if only web platform access was as painless as that via mobile apps : we promoted the EBSCO mobile app here some while back for example, and once students register they get access to our subscribed content on their phones, that can be set to remember their logins. I’m keen to be involved in mobile learning, and without sounding too corny, it is the future.

I manage a central fund for electronic resources,so in the afternoon follows some fund management,checking how to measure spend across financial rather than calendar year, following new procedures I agreed with our Finance Officer. Then it’s more of a mixed bag : reading our Dignity at Work policy for the Line Managers Forum I’m attending tomorrow, trying to establish whether colleagues asked us to renew their subscription to an eresource that has been up on our AtoZ pages for a number of months, signing up for a JISC webinar on their new machinable readable license system which I picked up via a tweet from JISC’s @carenmilloy, posting on our eresource blog about an Index to Theses problem (now resolved).

Luckily today I have not had to think about whether our authentication systems are giving the right people the right permissions to access content: I was involved in the initial Information Architecture Review at BCU some years back, and it is an increasingly uphill and relevant struggle, particularly as the University focusses outward on partnerships with other institutions. Last year I raised a CICT project proposal for OpenAthensLA that is still on the table, as our current version of Athens is no longer being actively developed by Eduserv, it has also free authentication ‘middleware’ (like EZproxy) that comes bundled with the subscription. But first we have to define who those users are, in a way that our systems can understand – there is a long legacy of working in silos across the institution to unpick.

My day finishes by replying to a student who couldn’t get into an electronic journal on Swets, who had logged on fine but maybe had not realised that she was only being offered an abstract or summary rather than the full-text, so in a way I end where I began…..

SMS – a great way to reach students

In May 2008, we started sending out Library SMS Notifications at Birmingham City University. Initially this was just for library material that was 18 days overdue, but has since been extended to include a range of other notifications. The types of notifications which we now send by SMS include:
1. Items 8 days overdue
2. Items 18 days overdue
3. Reserved material ready to be collected
4. Physical Inter Library Loan ready to be collected.

SMS gets through to students

SMS gets through to students

While this service was primarily targeted at students, any borrower with a mobile number in their library record can be sent these notifications.

In February 2009, we started sending SMS notifications for library material which was 8 days overdue. Following this change, we saw a drop in the number of 18 day overdue emails of between 25% and 50%. Library material was getting back into circulation sooner and students were paying less in Library fines. After we started sending out SMS informing borrowers that their reservation was ready to be collected, we found that there were fewer uncollected reservations and reservations were spending less time on the shelf waiting to be collected.

The service has been almost universally popular among students and there have been very few drawbacks to sending SMS. Although, the cost of sending SMS inhibits us using it for sending other reminders, such as sending an SMS reminder on the date that the item is due. Another concern is the accuracy of student mobile phone numbers. Students give mobile numbers at the start of their course or on course application, and they don’t always inform their Faculty when they get a new mobile number.