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

‘Information on the move’: a mobile conference in the city of roundabouts

I must admit Milton Keynes (aka the ‘Roundabout City’) was never on my top list of places to see, as it is not very easy to move around on foot, being designed for the car. But the quality of speakers and workshops at the recent M-Libraries-Conference on mobile technologies in libraries more than made up for taking our life in our hands every time we walked from the hotel to the venue!

‘Hype Cycle’ -Jo’s graph plotting ‘Visibility’ against ‘Time’ for libraries’ mobile services – leaving its mark on an OU whiteboard!

The keynote speeches drew on what became a common theme : where does a library or information service place itself on what our very own Jo Alcock from Evidence Base calls ‘the hype cycle’? Or to put it another way : where we between ‘wow?’ and ‘wow-but-can-we-do-it-now?’

So Steve Vosloo’s summary of what UNESCO ‘s work, (with a statistic echoed by Bob Gann from the NHS : ‘there are more mobile phones in Africa than in USA’ ) showed us some great programmes delivered on phones that some might not consider ‘smart’ –  but they work. You might think retro-fitting technology to a literacy service for boat schools in Bangladesh or using cellphones to run an SMS check on drugs (in countries where 30 percent of medicines are fake and can kill you) is a far cry from introducing mobile tech into a UK library – but these are good examples of working out where you on that hype cycle. 

The lists of possibilities were endless – from QR codes – (we’ve got one already on our Summon posters and our library cards) to the case studies mentioned by JISC m-libraries project – which include Chris Langham’s post on here about using SMS in a successful way to reach students.) Another useful overview was from Ellyssa Kroski from New York in her presentation, Libraries to Go.

 I personally like Bath Library’s idea using QR codes to link to audio tours – (I use SoundCloud as a musician, and using mobile apps as sound-recorders and even mixers certainly is more flexible then what we did ‘in the early days’ by trying to record and edit our library induction on Sony minidisc – remember those?.) As you would expect, there were also some great demos : using Augmented Reality browser to overlay fragments of papyrus with teaching materials from John Rylands University, Manchester ; or the PhoneBooth project from LSE, a digitally mapped overlay of Charles Booth’s London survey that could be accessed on mobiles.

Thomas Cochrane’s closing keynote ended with the powerful statement that mobile technologies can transform existing ways of teaching  – and for libraries in particular that means thinking differently about how we teach students, and thinking about about student-generated content. We want to encourage students to map and document their library space, not just get us librarians to do it for them. He showed us a video by students at Auckland on QR codes – done as a project before the library even started promoting them! . He also ran a live demo of Chirp – a technology that sends digital data such as pictures via sound, that could be used in lectures.

As I began writing this post – a student came to the library help desk struggling to view a MyiLibrary book on her battered-but-still-servicable 8-inch tablet. She was still trying to access the book on our library catalogue, and therefore was struggling to access it in a way that she needn’t have done had she searched Summon. It struck me that by searching what is essentially a repository of physical objects (the library catalogue) for an electronic item, she was doing the equivalent of trying to cross a roundabout meant for cars.
We need to make clearer to the student where they look for ‘analog’ or ‘physical’ content, and where they look for ‘digital’. In the course of crossing that digital divide, lets make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the Milton Keynes planners.

The Library Services Platform; a step change in Library Automation

I was in Sheffield recently for a conference run by MMIT; the CILIP special interest group for Multi Media & IT in Libraries. The theme for the day was “Reduced budgets – increased impact” and the event featured a couple of keynote speakers, a selection of workshops,  a set of 5 minute “fixes”, a Q&A session with the speakers and presenters, and an interactive voting session during which we used some rather slick technology to vote in real-time on thoughts about the future of MMIT. It was a packed day with a lot going on and in this post I’m going to focus on the main keynote presentation, delivered by Marshall Breeding, who recently left his post as Director for Innovative Technology & Research at Vanderbilt University in Nashville to concentrate on writing and speaking.

“Paradigm Shift: a Slate of New Automation Platforms Address Current and Future Library Realities”; was the somewhat daunting title for a fascinating insight into the present and future of Library management systems. It’s now clear that current Library automation products are out of line with current realities because what we are doing in Libraries is changing so rapidly; influenced most notably by the shift from print to electronic formats, and the expectation of Library users for more engaging interfaces to resources and services, delivered via the web to a variety of platforms and devices.

What we currently have is effectively a historical accident; a collection of separate systems that don’t work well together and are inefficient. The current Library Management Systems are good at dealing with tangible assets, but much less so at managing digital resources, so to handle these we need separate Electronic Resource Management systems for our subscription resources, Digital Asset Management systems for our own digital content, Link Resolvers, Discovery Layers and so on. What’s really needed now is a new, more flexible model to provide comprehensive resource management.

Marshall has coined the term “Library Services Platform” to describe the systems currently under development that will automate the Library’s internal operations, manage collections, fulfill requests and deliver services. Marshall predicts that they will be subscription based, hosted and managed remotely by the vendors and delivered to us as Software as a Service. SaaS enables the idea of Data as a Service, so these systems will be based around what Marshall called a “knowledgebase architecture”; a highly scaleable globally shared model through which we can use our combined efforts to build large scale systems around collaborative knowledge bases. They will support new and existing metadata structures, and, crucially, have open APIs that we will be able to exploit to do more with our data.

Marshall suggested that we are now in the early phase of a 10 year cycle that will see our existing legacy products gradually being replaced by these emerging Library Services Platforms. There are already early examples available now, or due to be launched shortly; look out for Worldshare from OCLC, Alma from ExLibris, Intota from Serials Solutions, and Sierra from Innovative. The Open Source version to keep an eye on is Kuali from Kuali OLE.

Hitting a moving target : ejournals, subscription agents and holdings

In light of the recent posting by Mitchell Dunkley at DMU, I thought it might be useful to share some of our recent experiences about trying to track down ejournal content. We share what seems to be a similar problem : that of actually finding out what holdings we have – and particularly for ejournals, there are different issues than with ebooks.

Stormtrooper plays human target for kids. Image credit : PopCultureGeek.com

Our main point of contact for ejournals data (as opposed to journal titles in databases) has been our subscription agent Swets, and following a recent account meeting with them we flagged several inconsistencies between content available Swetswise Online Content (SWOC) and content available via some publisher’s sites. Swets are still looking into this for us but uncovering some of these problems has raised several issues that I think are generic and the examples below apply across the board. (I have used screen shots from http://screencast-o-matic.com to amplify some of these points – in this the small set of journals happen to be from Oxford Journals.)

1) Differences in holdings between subscription agent and publisher. There seemed to be often a wide variety of conflicting data depending where we looked: for example we found 37 OUP titles on SWOC but only 29 listed on Oxford Journals site. I found downloading information from SWOC problematic and unfriendly – we had to break up a download into several spreadsheets and couldn’t download one spreadsheet for all our holdings.(see this screenshot : http://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/clf0XPCns). We have no idea of how often our subscription agent and the publisher update each other – these conflicts may be a simple mistake, or a reporting error that has lasted for years. Again OUP was only one example, we know of at least two other publishers where this is happening.

2) Publishers approach the problem of ejournal data in different ways. If we turn to the publisher, the Oxford site in this case seems to be structured around a  volume issue-based system – which is great for an individual user but access entitlements are shown as being an long HTML through which we had to scroll down http://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/clf0IlCel. It was difficult to work out our holdings start and enddate from this, and as far as I can see an Excel list of holdings was only available on request from Oxford’s help desk.

Not all publisher administrative sites are the same – and in fact access to ejournal holdings may be reported differently depending on whether the publisher is showing holdings via our subscription agents entitlements or via a different account.The package under which a group of titles is accessed or set up may also efffect access – for example we also get Oxford titles through Oxford University Press Archive via JISC http://www.jisc-collections.ac.uk/Catalogue/Overview/Index/1171. Bundles of titles tend to be reported better than individual ongoing ejournal subscriptions.

3) Technical reasons :any discrepancies about content entitlement are often compunded by technical confusion – because of an IP-check the publisher’s site  will often say the user is recognised as belonging to the University but then is prompted to login : see http://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/clf022Cek (incidently this is a article we can currently access via SWOC but not via OUP ).This is often compounded when the user logs in off-campus – we have licenses with other publishers where off-campus accesss has not been made available.

4) Every institution has a different subscription history  : ‘retrospective’ entitlements to content may be complicated by insititutions not maintaining a print run in the past –  broken runs or cancellations can lead to an interruption in electronic access. This similar to the problem that has been mapped by the KB+ project  : http://knowledgebaseplus.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/historical_entitlements/ ; and the reality is (like in most things) there is no single source of truth. 

Country pursuits : Image Credit neilrickards

5) Free access – is often used by publishers as a marketing tool, which leads to difference between what content the library says is available and what the publisher is actually offering. There is usually no clear statement on how long the offer is for. Publishers vary in how they signal it.

The national work being carried out at KB+ (a JISC project led by @liamearney) is relevant here, but the key question for us is that of scale. When these issues are scaled up per publisher, the inaccuracies can be too resource-intensive to deal with en masse, especially in the light of implementation of a resource discovery system such as Summon. This adds another layer of dependency into the the mix : for example our Elsevier Freedom collection titles also appear in SWOC and we initially found that  there are around 390 titles (about 18%) in Summon’s KnowledgeWorks’ definition of the Freedom Collection that don’t appear in our Swets holdings.

It may be that in implementing a resource-discovery system we have to review where we get the data from, and who best to trust. And also be preprared to be flexible. There’s no guarantee. Put up the best that we have, when we have it then take it down later. Journal holdings, like clay pidgeons, never stay still.

WOWslider – Cool way of displaying images on a webpage

Have you ever seen a webpage which contained a banner or a picture which either scrolls or slides from one side to the other and thought to yourself ‘how cool is that’? Well me too. So having been asked to include a few photos of the recent The Missing Link conference, I thought to myself “let’s see if I can do something similar” or dare I say it even better. Surely not… better….. I hear you say.

Well after spending three whole time consuming minutes on Google using the term “sliders”,  I stumbled across a free (well for non-commercial use anyway) program called WOWslider from a company surprising called WOWSlider.com – pretty lucky that the company has the same name as the product! What are the chances of that happening?

The software was downloaded from their website and surprising installed onto my PC – without the aid of CICT assistance – previously I had ADMIN privileges but since having a new PC that luxury had been long withdrawn and I dreaded the prospect of having to enlist the help of our IT professionals to simply evaluate whether the software would fulfil my self-imposed brief. I need not have feared the worst as for some strange reason I had managed to get round any such restriction and without sounding smug the installation was successful. Little did I know the fun was about to begin…or the nightmare to commence! 

On opening the program you are faced with a rather amateur looking control panel:

Having said that the lack of options at the top ensure that the user has less to worry about rather than having numerous button/options which would only confuse users perhaps.

While the program supports ‘Drag & Drop’ functionality I preferred to use the + button and merely browsed to the folder in which the images were stored and selected them from there. Once loaded in the program the control panel looked like this:

You can add a title and description if need be. By adding this information you can display it on the actual image (see bottom left below) while it is being shown – however I decided against this as I didn’t have enough descriptions to place upon each image.

Once the images are loaded by clicking on the spanner icon you can decide on a number of display options (auto play once loaded, descriptions to appear, thumbnail images to appear, navigational buttons to appear). All fairly straightforward by clicking in boxes to select the feature concerned.

The images icon is where all the magic takes place. Or were you can get your hands dirty and get “under the bonnet” so to speak. There are various effects too numerous to mention. Every individual will like different effects so you can let your creative juices run wild….well within the constraints of the options that is. I adopted a more conservative approach and selected a simple slide in and out effect. But I was tempted to incorporate an effect called “Kenburns” – slow zoom in while slight movement to one side.  Very arty I think.

The final part of this process is to create the finished WOWslider and where to store it. To do this the aptly named Publish icon is chosen:

The above panel is displayed and by selecting the ‘Publish to folder’ option you can browse to a location on your PC and insert a name of the file.

You can even create a WordPress friendly version which will sit on our blog – however when I went to do this our WordPress interface didn’t show the option to select a “Plug-in” and hence I have been unable to produce this. 

Here is a link to the one I created and you never know it may see the light of day again in a different disguise on one of our webpages.

While the creation is the first part, the real challenge starts when you try to recreate the same path structure on the web server so the feature will actual run and display all the chosen images once selected. Not a mean task as that structure has to be retained precisely. The creation of new directories on the webserver took place and once all relevant files had been uploaded to the correct location I was ready to enjoy the fruits of my labour…..not.  However nothing worked first time of testing. After a sleepless night and much hair pulling (that explains a lack of my hair coverage then) the feature worked.

The joys of formatting  the page was undertaken to ensure the feature would display properly (Alignment issues. Thanks to Lee for the testing) and I included a border round it to help make it easier on the eye. Hooray it worked and after a long three days of blood, sweat and tears…..not to mention less hair, the first WOWslider had been delivered to a proud father. Yes it was a difficult birth and the initial parenting experience with me trying to coax it to run first time was stressful to say the least. However those first few moments when it took its first tentative steps in the HTML world I had tears in my eye….or was that my bad eye watering again.

Since then I can report that father and WOWslider are doing well. Now is that a ‘twinkle’ in the eye of father again….stay tuned for further ‘off-spring’ from the daddy of the eLibrary Team.

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.

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.

Social media group: update

The Social media group was set up last year to explore how this could be used to engage with students and promote Library and Learning Resources (LLR). The library already has it’s own twitter account @BCUlibrary and the elibrary team have this blog and the eresources blog, but what else could we be doing?

After seeking advice from the university’s Social Media Officer it was decided that rather than create a specific Facebook page for LLR to make use of the Corporate Facebook page, which already has a fanbase of nearly 7000 and grows daily, and have a LLR post each Friday.

Picture of BCU Facebook page

An area on SharePoint has been created to keep track of the services that have been promoted but also forthcoming slots. Our first post on the university’s Facebook went up in February and so far we have covered My Assignment Planner, Science Direct Freedom Collection and Meebo to name a few. If there is anything you want promoted such as a new service or collection, to celebrate success within LLR contact your team’s rep.

P.S. The elibrary team rep’s spot is also up for grabs whilst I’m on maternity leave, let me or Damyanti know if you’re interested.