Squaring the Circle: Increasing demand decreasing budgets

PastriesJust a quick round up of a great conference I attended yesterday organised by the talented collection mangement team here within the Library at BCU, the conference was titled Squaring the Circle: Increasing demand and decreasing budgets. Managing library provision in times of financial constraints.

There was a good mix of speakers providing varied perspectives and sharing really useful insights which I think could be put to practical use. In the morning we heard about a range of projects, KB+, JUSP and the Library Impact Data project all of which spoke about the benefits and added value of providing shared services and building communities. KB+ and JUSP are currently available for institutions to sign up to (and please do) while the work from the library impact data project could continue to be developed to provide a shared service. It was great to hear how collaboration between librarians, suppliers and publishers are helping build such useful services and tools which will in turn improve the services libraries provide.

We were then challenged by Professor Martin Fautley from Birmingham City University in his presentation Research and the Library: Doing and teaching research in education, where he talked about what life is like for an academic, about his priorities and his expectations from the library. I was particularly interested see the journal industry from his perspective as an author and editor. Throughout the presentation he raised a number of questions such as, how does an academic know their field and how does the library help with that? What makes a ‘quality’ library? Is there a category error mistaking knowledge for information?. Plenty of food for thought

The afternoon was focused on ebooks including a case study by Jill Talyor-Roe on their expeiences of Patron Driven Acquisitons with ebooks at Newcastle University. Having experimented early on she was able to provide some interesting statistics on usage and trends over the last few years and was a great introduction for any institution considering trying this model. I was also pleased to hear her advice of ‘not being afraid to fail’ which I think is important especially if we want to continue to innovate and experiment. Jennifer Rowley followed talking about the marketing and promotion of ebooks and mentioned looking to services such as Amazon for inspiration. On listening to this presentation I began to question the value of marketing a type of format and in the Q&A with the panel that followed Graham Stone noted that at Huddersfield their strategic approach to marketing resources was to do it in in the context of ‘Discovery’ rather than the product. Liam Earney suggested that improvements to the user experience were key to encourage use, making me rethink my approach to promotion of resources.

I personally found this an uplifting conference and encouraging to hear about the values of collaboration, sharing and working together. Throughout my experience in the library profession I have always been grateful for the support and helpful advice I have received from colleagues at different institutions and I hope that national services such as KB+ will thrive on this type of approach.

It was also lovely to catch up with some familiar faces and meet new people. One of the themes from this morning was how some projects were sharing ideas with each other, for example there are developments planned for further integration between JUSP and KB+ (am hoping someone is going to do me an infographic on how all the different Jisc projects interlink) and I look forward to seeing how some of the ideas shared at this conference are taken back to institutions.

Thanks again to colleagues for such an interesting day and ensuring our sugar levels were topped up throughout the day with pastries, biscuits and mince pies.

A Dose of (Augmented) Reality: Exploring possible uses within a library setting

Guest post by Anthony Humphries (Learning Resource Coordinator)

Of the many emerging mobile technologies that libraries are looking at one that has always appealed to me is augmented reality (AR).  Compared to other technologies that are discussed AR has:

  • fewer introductory barriers to overcome
  • is virtually cost-free
  • does not require specialised technical staff
  • the general public will increasingly have some familiarity with it.
  • can also be a lot of fun. 

So I committed myself to turning some of these ideas into practical demonstrations for a group of interested colleagues.

I used the Aurasma platform as it’s free, straightforward to use, and has considerable market penetration.  It works by having a pre-prepared image – a trigger – uploaded to their servers.  Then when a device using the Aurasma browser focuses on one of these triggers information in the form of images and movies are overlaid onto the image in a predetermined way.  Digital information is ‘superimposed’ onto what you are seeing through the devices camera.  The big advantage of this optical approach compared to location based AR is that you can be precise with the location and it can be used over multiple floors without interference.  There was a steep learning curve initially, learning what worked well (formats, sizes, scales) as a trigger and overlay, but after some trial and error using the software is actually quick and easy.  Development forums provided some useful advice but a thorough introductory ‘best practice’ guide would have been welcome.

I came up with 9 possible categories of uses for AR and put together a demonstration for each of these.  The focus was on provoking ideas rather than fleshed-out practical application:

  1. Video demonstration Pointing mobile device at the screen of the self-service issue machines automatically plays a video guiding the user on how the machine operates.  There is also a button beneath this video saying ‘Need PIN?’ – when tapped this takes the user to a website with information on this.
  2. Enhanced publicity/directional map Pointing a mobile device at a floor plan map (either on a plinth at the library entrance or in hand-held form) overlays a re-coloured map indicating areas that can be tapped.  When they are at a photo of that location there is a pop up giving users a ‘virtual tour’ and more information on that area.
  3. AR summon helpHelp on a screen-based service Pointing a mobile device at the Summon discovery tool overlays guidance arrows and notes onto the screen– pointing out the where to enter the search, where to refine filters & then view results
  4. AR virtual bay endVirtual bay-ends Pointing mobile device at a particular image (perhaps located near catalogue PCs) overlays directional arrows to where resources are located – giving users an initial idea of where to find what they are looking for.
  5. AR enhance instructional guideEnhanced instructional guide Pointing a mobile device at a leaflet about accessing our online resources automatically plays a video with screenshots showing the stages that they need to go through.  To the right are buttons that could be tapped to directly call, email and complete a form if further help was needed.
  6. Induction/Treasure Hunt Students could scan a ‘frame’ placed in an area of the library.  Once scanned a video would play introducing them to that area and how to use it – alongside the video a new question would appear that would guide them to another area to continue the ‘game’.
  7. Enhanced publicity material Pointing a mobile device at our main library introduction guide which is enhanced with pictures, videos and extra information beyond what could be included on a physical copy.  Also all telephone numbers, email addresses and hyperlinks are made into tappable live links.
  8. AR Staff assistanceStaff assistance/reminder.  Pointing a mobile device at the borrower registration screen of the LMS that we use overlaid with extra information to show the various fields that need completing.  It is designed as a quick check for staff to ensure that it is completed accurately.
  9. ‘Book Locator’/directional video Using a mobile device to scan an image near to a catalogue PC to bring up a virtual table containing dewey ranges, i.e. 000 – 070.  Tapping one of these would make a simple video pop-up directing the user from that location to the approximate shelving run.  Technically this does not use AR at all, but was an interesting use of the software.

The demonstrations went well and generated some interesting debate amongst my library colleagues.  Some brief thoughts after the demonstrations:

  • Point of need content – The way that triggers work allows them to be highly context specific, you are essentially just ‘looking’ at the thing that you want help with, i.e. a room, a screen or leaflet.  Could there be a future where users just get used to pointing their device at things and getting assistance and extended content?
  • AR vs QR codes – The AR feels a lot more immediate than QR codes.  Whereas scanning a code sometimes feels like an additional step and takes you away from what you are doing the extra information from AR is more integrated into your activity.  Aurasma allows extra functionality too.
  • Getting library users onboard – Is an issue whenever something new is introduced.  Some level of training would be required. People have to download the app, subscribe to a particular channel and then know where to scan.  Technological improvements may mitigate some of this – for example Aurasma allow the possibility of integrating their software into an existing app, meaning that users will not need anything new or have to subscribe to channels.
  • Ease of development – As described above, the platform is not as intuitive as it might be initially but after a brief explanation I could see colleagues from across the service creating content, all it takes is some very basic image manipulation.  I was creating these rough demos in about 15 minutes.  The technical barrier is very low.
  • Range of devices – The demos all worked equally well on iOS and Android smartphones that I tested.  They looked great on larger tablet devices.

What can we learn from LibraryThing?

There are a number of online services where you can create your own personal catalogue of books you own, have read, want to read etc. These lists can then be enriched with tags and book reviews all of which can lead to providing you with book recommendations or the ability to see which of your friends have the same taste in books and other great services.

When our lovely colleague Trudi left for maternity leave, the team complied a list of childhood favourite reads. I used this list of 32 books to create a collection in LibraryThing, Shelfari and goodreads with the hope to explore these services further.

I particularly like the visual display of the book covers across all the services and could see how this could be a great way to marketing our own book stock, especially new books, ebooks etc. Its was interesting to note that the recent change to the MyiLibrary site echoed this trend.

As well as providing a nice visual display the services allowed you to embed these on webpapges and blogs, which would then be automatically updated when new content was added. This made me wonder about the value of a reading list which students could embed in their own online study environment. I know of some work done by the Telstar project which looks at integrating references into a learning environment, more details available on the Telstar project page.

All of the services provided a range of book covers to choose from which I enjoyed from a nostalgic view point in terms of choosing the covers that I remembered from my childhood. It did however make me wonder if there was a value in a service that allowed students to select the correct cover for the books they have got out on loan in order they have a visual check when trying to track that book if they misplaced it on their shelves or elsewhere.

In creating this small collection each of the services was able to augment the data and quickly provide alternative views, for example Library Thing were able to provide an author gallery, in Goodreads I was instantly directed to reviews about the books. The services also provide recommendations for further reading. Libraries could also augment the data in their catalogues with activity data which can potentially lead  to providing a recommender service. The University of Huddersfield is a great example of a library catalgoue providing a number of enriched services such as virtual shelf browser, people who borrowed this book borrowed this etc. Dave Pattern has written about this extensively and recomend taking a look at his blog, Self-Plagiarism is Style.

 

Personally the real value in these online book services is they are built by the community of users and this is where I think there is potential for libraries. I think greater engagement between the library and its borrowers, further collaboration between the two and more of an understanding of how library materials are used and collected could provide the library with opportunites for developing its services further

Summon: Posters

Its been a few weeks since we went live with Summon, which is now available to our students from the university portal and our library home page.

We mentioned Summon in as many communication channels that we thought appropriate including twitter, the university facebook site, inductions etc. We have also distributed posters across campus and the libraries – so the word is well and truly out.

Feedback has been generally positive and we are seeing healthy usage.

We look forward to reviewing and developing the service over the next year – have no fear plenty more Summon blog posts yet to come.

Summon: out in the wild

Today is the day the summon search box appears on our intranet, iCity and is available to our staff and students. (we will be making this available publicly via our library website soon)

We haven’t announced this with a bang as term hasn’t started across all the university yet.

Hopefully our previous Summon blog posts gives some indication of how we got here, for today to happen I was keen for the following;

User guides

I wanted to ensure we had information for our staff and students, this includes a guide to searching Summon (created by one of our librarians, inspired by guides from other summon customers) and an FAQ  (available only on our intranet).

Summon FAQ in iCity

For our library staff we provided a guide for Librarians which covers how Summon works and some common issues. We are also providing training sessions for our frontline staff to ensure they know what resources are available to help students use Summon and when would be appropriate to recommend using Summon as opposed to the library catalogue.

Authentication

We wanted to be confident that we could provide the same or preferably improved authentication, and am pleased that there will be improvement in the approach we’ve taken. We will be providing a mixed economy of EZproxy & Athens authentication to ensure we have as much content as possible easily accessible.

Content

The content issue is probably the most complex with regards to continually changing nature of the product combined with our original approach. In the beginning we naively talked about summon perhaps being a one stop shop with a few exceptions however we are now much clearer that it will be a key resource for the discovery of our full text content & not a replacement for a database search. This did mean a shift in focus from trying to work out was indexed and not indexed in Summon and focus instead on what was available.

This however has helped us understand how we will need to use this upcoming year to gather as much feedback as possible from our staff and students to help focus on the content areas that need our attention.

We are starting quietly but am hopeful a big bang will follow once students discover the discovery tool.

Summon: Training the trainer

Over a month ago Rebecca Price from Proquest delivered some training for our librarians entitled ‘train the trainer’ which was a useful overview on how Summon works and how to introduce it to students.

Unfortunately not all our librarians were able to attend this session so I have been delivering this session to a few groups of librarian adapting the content to reflect our own experience and instance of summon. (see below for presentation slides)

From meetings and discussions it was clear that having an overview on how Summon worked gave more confidence in the system and helped discussion on its use and potential issues, in hindsight I think it would have been useful to have this training very early on in the implementation process.

It has also been interesting to see how many changes and improvements have been made to Summon in the last year, with increased content, improved auto-complete etc. I am encouraged by this pace of change and am looking forward to see how summon develops and meets expectations.

Train the trainer

I start with an overview of why we have Summon and a key driver is to improve student experience, at the moment all we provide our students with is lists of databases and therefore they need to have a good idea about what it is they want and which database would contain that information before they even start their search.

I then talk about how Summon indexes a multitude of information, from ejournals, newspapers, ebooks etc. I think its important to highlight the range & variety of sources as this in turn effects the results list. Its also helpful to explain the record they see in the results list is the summon master record which is crafted from duplicate resources.

Talking of what Summon covers always leads to the inevitable question about what it doesn’t cover. While the majority of our full text online journals, ebooks and records from our library catalogue are covered we do have a number of A&I databases, directories, industry standard resources which are not covered, a list of which we will be making available to staff & students. We are also discovering that in some cases not the full breadth of the database is covered or we are not able to link directly to article level.

I follow with doing a search on summon, reminding staff that boolean operators will work if typed into the search box. On seeing the vast number of results I can then talk about the importance of using the refine features in the left hand column to narrow down results. I think this is a useful opportunity to show the one of the 7 lenses in information literacy, evaluate. I often choose to refine by Subject Terms in order to highlight the include and exclude option, which add in the NOT and OR operators. I also like to remind people that some of those refine options are dynamic and depend on the results retrieved.

I round up the presentation noting issues that have been raised over the last few months as we have been working with system and highlighting what we can do to resolve or accommodate these issues.

I think Summon is not the answer to everything and the key is using it in the correct context, we are retaining all our current routes therefore if someone is looking for a specific book from our library, they can continue to use the catalogue. It is clear that dependant on the subject area and the faculty it may be useful starting point for 1st years while for others it may make more use to introduce it at a later point in their studies. Summon is a valuable first step in the research process, a useful starting point.

We are now much clearer about what is not covered by Summon & therefore in some subject areas we may stick to our current routes and continue to direct staff and students to specific databases, for example with Law.

We are still working on the authentication and look to be running a mixed economy of EZproxy and AthensDA which is not our ideal as there is still opportunity for our staff and students to encounter a log in challenge.

I think this year will be extremely useful in understanding more about Summon and more about the expectations from our staff and students all of which will help in our development and presentation of the service. While working towards the implementation date of next month it is also clear that this is only the start of the process, this is not a conversation that will be ending any time soon

Summon: reading up on discovery

I recently asked our newest member of the elibrary team, currently filling in as Serials Librarian (Maternity Cover), to have a play with Summon. Being a conscientious information profession she did a little research and hightlighted the following sources as most helpful in giving her a better understanding of resource discovery.

I remember finding the following 2 diagrams from proquest (in the summon user guide on the client centre) particularly helpful in understanding how summon works

So what resources helped you to understand how Summon/resource discovery works?

Summer Conference – Professional staff


It was the Professionals Summer Conference yesterday and in the morning we had an external speaker, Peter Sylvester, come along to talk to us about communication & networking, in the afternoon we heard about the STAARS project & worked in groups looking at more local communication issues.

We did a number of activities in the morning which helped us consider how we communicate, the first was to talk about Who, What, How & Why we did what we did. This highlighted the need to start with the information most relevant to the person you are talking with & therefore ‘Why’ we do what we do was the most useful starting point as opposed to who we are. A recurrent theme was that at a fundamental level working in a university means the work we do enables skilled graduates to enrich society.

Hearing teams describe what they do highlighted the amount of overlap & inter-dependencies we have within L&LR supporting the need for effective communication.

We also completed a personality test based on DISC (Moutlton Marston) behaviours identifying our own behaviour style. I have a dominate style meaning I have a  tendancy to be task driven & quick to make decisions. The group was then divided by their styles & we were tasked with discussing how best to communicate with the different groups.

I find it helpful to acknowledge that we all have different styles & approaches and therefore need to adapt our communication appropriately to get a message across effectively, although admittedly in real life other pressures & drivers sometimes means I am not as successful as I would like to be.

In the afternoon we had the opportunity to hear from the Centre of Academic Success on the STAARS project which involves working directly with students to identify whether the services they offered were relevant & how best to market them.  Wal (CAS) & a student delivered an interesting presentation on the process they went through and the value of having student input into the service.

We were also given the opportunity to think about the challenges currently facing HE and then in particular BCU and it’s staff and students. This was an useful excersise in highlighting how much the environment has changed & priorities shifted. Some of the challenges we discussed was value for money and trying to do more for less, although appreciated there would be a breaking point and also speed of change especially in technology. I found it useful food for thought with regards to the mornings discussion on the value of working in a university in terms of being part of the process of enriching society.

The day ended with us working in groups looking at a couple of scenario’s and discussing how to resolve any issues and who to communicate with which provided the opportunity to focus on how we communicate internally.

These are my thoughts of the day, anyone want to share how they found it?