The library building, while needing some updating and improving, is a great place and is always busy with students.  One of the best things about it is it’s location on campus amid beautiful gardens and grounds.


Semester 1 so far

We’re now at the end of October and at the end of week 7.   The time goes incredibly quickly without a chance to think about what is happening.

The beginning of semester went well especially with the opening of our Learning Commons.  This is a space in the main part of the university that is being managed by Information Services and staffed on a daily basis by the Customer Services Team.  It is part of the library but at a separate location – no books but study spaces of various types including group areas and rooms. It looks really great and is popular.

We’re there from 11.00am – 4.00pm to answer enquiries in the same way as we do at the Library Service Desk.


The new Library Management System is working well although, as expected,we have had lots of configuration tweaks to make after going live and also on-going training for staff.  It’s a matter of everyone getting used to it and using new procedures (not trying to replicate previous practices!).  The evening and weekend staff have had to do a lot of learning on the job but we’re all getting there.



Manic Monday…

Monday, a packed day of meetings and things to sort out

  • Weekly catch up meeting with Service Desk Supervisors including rotas and procedures for the new Learning Commons
  • Meeting with the security firm who provide coverage in the library building during 24/7 opening which starts from the beginning of semester through to mid-December
  • Discussion regarding Alma (Library Management Platform training) for Customer Services Team and related teams before the beginning of semester
  • Meeting regarding communication of developments with the Library Management platform – relevant and timely communication for users, staff and students, and also for Information Services staff
  • Meeting of operational board of Learning Commons
  • Pre-handover meeting for project board of Library Management Platform
  • And then…after 5 o’clock, catch up with Evening Librarian Supervisors and shortlisting for Customer Services Team vacancies
  • 8 o’clock – library closed and home time 🙂

Monday – no meetings…

A Monday and no meetings so a chance to catch up on tasks
1. Social media – quick check of twitter feed and Facebook page.  I do have alerts for them set up so shouldn’t miss anything but I don’t post to them over weekends.  Added some quick posts and checked for anything interesting.  Scheduled some posts about the power hour sessions that are coming up this week (Information Services training sessions).
2. Sent emails to various people in my team to suggest some training opportunities that are available and signed up for a couple of sessions myself
3. Checked up on the IT Helpdesk temp that we have working for us at the moment – had a chat with him to make sure he is ok with everything and knows who to ask if he needs support.  Chased up a few outstanding requests.  Sorted forms.
4. Authorised holidays and checked the HR system for sickness and absence records
5. Emails…
6. Wrote up the notes from the Service Improvement Group meeting that I chaired last week.  Had a think about how we are going to tackle the next stage of the changes that need to be implemented. Circulated notes, actions and suggested next steps.  Need to put a date through for a meeting.
7.  Talked to the Information Assistants about the tasks and activities they are up to and the tasks that I would like them to do.  Asked them about shelving and how we are keeping a record of work flow.
8.  Confirmed details of a visit to Uni of Edinburgh library for some of the Library Assistants
9. Wrote up some PDRs from last week with review statements and confirmed objectives for forward job plans
10.  Liaised with Subject Librarian and Resource Manager about a user enquiry that was taking up lots of resource and time
11. Helped on the Library IT Helpdesk as there was a queue as I was passing – mainly password issues and also staff wanting to change email set-up on mobile devices due to change to O365
12. Emails…
13. Talked to evening staff as they began their evening shift as Evening librarian not here and updated them on things that have happened during the day

The good thing about days when I don’t have meetings is that I can make a bit of time to talk to staff and just generally be about the place to see what’s happening.  It works well for me on a Monday as it gives me a chance to sort problems out at the beginning of the week and set tasks and get feedback.

Time and space – LMP, enquiries, documentation, PDRs and other projects

We’re already into the 3rd week of semester (4th week back in the new year) which means that tasks and activities are already being packed into the available time and space.
We’re now into the second phase of our Library Management Platform project which is implementation.  The procurement framework was created successfully and we now have a supplier. The kick-off meeting for the project board was Thursday and we are now looking at the project timeline to identify key dates and training opportunities.  It is the typical mixture of thinking that this is really exciting / interesting and on the other hand wondering how we are ever going to get everything done before August.
Students have been getting settled in again and usage of the library is steadily increasing.  This time of year is quite good for Universities like ours that have exams at end of December as you have a relatively calm period in January.  The footfall into the library has been steady and increasing and there is a different feel to the beginning of semester than in September.  Less frenetic and more focused.  A little busier than last year on individual days with highs of 1850+ daily footfall but less busy for the month as a whole.  24/7 opening is now run of the mill for semester time and has gone without any hitches so far.
Enquiries have been within the usual categories with the most usual being password changes, WiFi/eduroam, catalogue searches, room bookings, inter-library loans, software, printers and email.
We’ve been working on our help guides and documentation to simplify the formats of any printed materials and to make sure the content matches the information in online guides and the website.
This is to make it easier for students to get help from anyone at the Service Desk and improve consistency.
Performance Reviews have started and are being greeted with a mixture of enthusiasm and inevitability but are important and are an opportunity to put forward views and ideas.  They usually go quite well actually and I’ve started planning visits and training based on suggestions.
Other projects that are starting up include the stock reconfiguration project and the customer services team are involved in the weeding and sorting of items.  We’re reviewing the changes we made to the 3hr loan collection during the summer when we rationalised the collection and made it accessible by self-service.  We need to look at how effective this has been and whether it has improved the service which I think it has.
We have had a chance to look at some of the study spaces and tables and even got an extra study booth which is popular.  There is more demand for group space at the moment which is a change from December when it is individual, quiet space that is at a premium.
Nearly the end of January and after some very rainy weather I’m hoping for an improved outlook.  It brightened up for about 15 minutes today which is just enough time for a quick walk round the library and garden.

New Year – back to work

First day back at work in the new year 2016 – not quite first day of semester as that doesn’t officially start until next Monday.  A new year resolution to write a blog post here everyday even if it is very brief otherwise it is difficult and time consuming to remember what has been happening.
It’s good to have a few days before the students come back in order to regroup and try and plan for the next few weeks.  The library is open 9-5 this week and then next week 24/7 all the way through until the end of May.
Today, in no particular order, I sorted out the staffing for the IT Helpdesk as we had one person off sick and checked on the working hours of the Information Assistants for this week.  They work evenings and weekends sometimes but have to fit in with when the library is open this week.  One of our IT specialists is going to be helping out with User Services/Desktop Support for a few weeks so we need some temporary cover and have some people coming in tomorrow for an informal interview.  I put together some questions to ask them and a skills/scenario test. Then checked the rota for other Service Desk staff in the library and delegated some tasks that needed doing which were mainly collating some stats from last semester and summarising usage of the space during exam time.
We are getting a new study booth tomorrow so, with a couple of others, I moved some study tables around to make space and we moved some of the catalogue/OPAC PCs to a more accessible spot.
More staffing issues which I emailed HR about and confirmed arrangements for next week when evening and weekend staff start back again.
Then the usual emails and some planning of workflows and events for the next few weeks – hopefully will be able to get more people interested in doing things and going places.  Caught up with team members about what they’ve been doing and progress on tasks including the monitoring of the short loan collection over the last semester since we changed it in September to make it open access and self service.
All in all a relatively straightforward day and good to finish on time at 5pm.  Tomorrow’s another day.

Week by week – Semester 1, Library Management Platform, Staffing, Study Spaces

Another week by week monthly summary as this semester has continued to be packed with things going on and reflection is out there somewhere on the horizon…
The end of October and beginning of November continued with Library Management Platform supplier demonstrations and scoring and subsequent consensus scoring.  The process has now completed and we are just waiting to get some technicalities finalised before proceeding with the successful supplier.  There will also be work to do on the SCURL framework and the dissemination of this to other interested parties.
A lot of time has been spent on staffing issues and developments over the last couple of months and this will continue into the new year.  We have some vacant evening/weekend library assistant posts so there has been some juggling of people to provide effective cover.  It always becomes more difficult into the winter months with sickness and travel.
As far as students are concerned we are now into our busiest time of the year especially with study spaces in the library.  The last day of teaching was 4th December and now we have 2 weeks of exams.  This means the library is full for at least 4 hours of the day and very busy for a further 8 hours a day and in use for the other 12.  It creates problems, the same ones experienced by a lot of other university libraries, of noise, shortage of space, food and drink, unattended items etc.  However despite this we do provide a good learning and study space and for the thousands of students using the library each day, it works.  We are averaging a footfall of 3000+ per day with a peak occupancy of nearly 600. 
We do have a programme of monitoring the study space in the library on a regular basis and this helps to keep a balance between all the different users and the demands on the space.
We’ve had a few ups and downs with services including an unscheduled installation of applications and systems, a Microsoft downtime of O365 and then today problems with jisc JANET service.  This means that communications have to be carefully managed in order to get the correct information out in the correct format and try to keep everyone in the loop.
Our social media accounts accounts are developing and I’m trying to train up more staff to use them and take responsibility for posting to them.  It’s difficult to fit training into the busy schedule during November and December but we’ll pick this up in January.

I have managed to get out to a few events including SALCTG, CSGUK and ELISA.
The CSGUK conference went well in November at Kings College and I enjoyed organising and facilitating the workshop sessions.  Still writing up the data and feedback that we received.
The ELISA winter networking event is Wednesday 9th December at the National Library of Scotland so looking forward to that.  

View from my office window

Week by week – Semester 1, LMP, IT Help, loans and reservations…

The day by day weekly summary has become, temporarily, a week by week monthly summary as time to reflect during the first few weeks of semester is scarce.
Added to the usual frenetic activity has been continuing work on the process of procuring a new Library Management Platform (LMP).  During September there was scoring and evaluating of tenders and then recently there have been demonstrations by suppliers which again need scoring and consensus scoring. It has been a lot of work with working groups, internal and external groups and meetings and a lot of concentration. But it has been very interesting especially the involvement with other institutions and universities as part of SCURL to create a framework for using in the future. The process around tendering has been interesting too and it is good experience.
Anyhow, back to the beginning of Semester which went well.  We had the usual situation when some changes and improvements especially to do with the building were only ready at the last minute but everything was ready.  We had a stock relegation programme in place over the summer which involved clearing a lot of unused paper journals and this has created extra study spaces.  We’ve also gained another room for silent study so increased our study space by approx 70 seats.
Our new Principal visited the library on Monday 7th September along with other invited staff and everything went according to plan – a successful afternoon and it was a great opportunity to show off all the good work and the good service we provide.
Semester began on 14th September and we were busy with enquiries right from the start.  We get a lot of IT related enquiries in the first couple of weeks mainly about passwords, WiFi and email. Basically students want to get set up to access the university system as quickly as possible preferably on numerous devices.  All the information is online but many still prefer to come to the library IT help desk for face to face help, advice and assistance so it is good that we provide online self help, telephone, email and personal help.
Library related changes have involved the short term loans (3hr loans) and reserved books.  There has been a major change with these in that they used to be kept behind the Service Desk and issued by staff but we now have them on open shelving near the self issue kiosks and students can access them themselves at anytime 24/7.  We are monitoring the situation as we go along but we haven’t had any major problems so far (despite concerns by some staff).  The system is not perfect but can be modified if need be once we have reviewed it at the end of the semester.  I’m confident that it is going to work…
24/7 opening of the library started at the beginning of semester and will continue up until 18th December. It is now established that we are open 24/7 for all of semester time and revert to 9-5 during holidays.
Other things:
Lapsafe lockers for students to charge their laptops
New rota for Service Desk staff in order to get a better insight into use of staff resource
Room booking software for study rooms still going well and can be accessed from OPAC machines so easier for students to use.
Change Advisory Board is still proving useful for keeping up to date with communicating changes.
We had a good visit from Edinburgh City Libraries showcasing their ebooks, emagazines etc. and lots of students signed up so that was interesting and a great collaboration.
Social media updates continuing and I’ve been doing stuff for ELISA and CSGUK but that’s another story.

Day by day – VLE staff training, staffing, IT Helpdesk, resources and reports…

Tuesday 11th
Academic and Learner Services Team meeting – catching up on what’s happening after being off for a few days

Customer Services Team training – we have a summer training programme for our team with a variety of topics including:
Eduroam/wifi – configuring devices
MFDs – basic trouble shooting and maintenance
Inter Library loans – general overview
Basic kayako (IT Helpdesk system)
Creating google forms for statistics and surveys
Basic spreadsheets
Vision – general overview
Emails and text messages – procedures for replying on behalf of Service Desk
Social media – overview and demo of IS Twitter and Facebook and how to post
Group study rooms and tables – equipment / screens – how to use and help students
The sessions are delivered by me or members of our team who are specialists in any of the above.  They are usually face to face sessions but increasingly this proves difficult as we have a wide range of staff working different hours and we have to repeat sessions when the semester only staff return.  So this year for the first time, I’m creating an online course in Vision (Blackboard) so that staff can do the training at different times.
Today’s session was on Vision (Blackboard) as some library assistants have not used it before very much and not as a student so they found it useful to be enrolled onto a course and work through the training materials.  I have also created a test at the end of each topic.  This means they can consolidate what they have learned and also I have a record of who has completed which training.  

Wednesday 12th
Staffing issues and planning 

Thursday 13th
IT help-desk day – catching up on issues over the last week including which groups of students can have access to which software depending on their location and campus.
Discussion with our Helpdesk system developer on issues that need resolving and developments.  At the moment these are mainly around refining the processes needed for the most common requests from staff users outwith Information Services which are: Requests for new staff to be added to existing teams/departments within the system

Requests for new departments to be set up and accessed by either existing team members or new team members

Setting up auto direct of emails to create tickets
As more departments across the University use the IT Helpdesk system, it becomes more challenging to keep protocols and procedures universal and we have to be flexible depending on what users require.

Friday 14th 
Last minute report for ISLT
Meeting with Resources staff about procedures for processing book orders more efficiently.  Also implications from acquisitions point of view of the short loan collection being rationalised and reduced.  

Student views about using the library and IT help #libraries #IThelp #feedback

At the UCISA SS15 conference, one of the sessions was a presentation by a student, Emma Anderson, from the University of Leeds.  The presentation was entitled ‘It’s not just Facebook and Twitter.  How students use technology in their everyday lives’.  It was an insightful account of the student experience and interesting from our point of view, as ‘providers’ of the service as to how it is interpreted and used which is not always how we anticipate that it is going to be accessed.
I blogged about the presentation here 
As providers and developers of the service whether it be a IT helpdesk service or library service or any student facing service in a university, we aim to maintain a complete and coherent physical and online facility that serves all parts of the student journey and experience.  From a students perspective, they want to dip in and out and take what they need, where and when they need it – to take the parts that are relevant to them whether it be a online resource or a study space.
The interesting areas to look at further are concerned with number of devices, what different devices are used for, that a variety of devices are needed, that study spaces need power and space and that social media is a small part of studying but a large part of life.
I drafted a survey which was based on these areas and tested it out on three students (not from Heriot-Watt University but 2nd/3rd year UG students).  I asked them a series of questions based on Library and IT Help Services and facilities.  I asked them to answer for the particular institution they had attended but it was not intended as a reflection of a particular University, rather their experience of university life. It was carried out in a fairly informal setting and included some ad hoc answers and information.

Q1 Do you know how to contact the IT Helpdesk at your University e.g. if your email wasn’t working or a password needed changing
A1. No, would go to library service desk
A2  Looked up information online
A3 Yes, have office at back of library.  Also can search website for email or telephone contact

Q2 – In the Library building – what are the 3 most important things that the library provides?
A1. PCs, books, study space
A2. Study space, PC, printing
A3.  PC, printing, cafe/food area

Q3 – What sort of study space do you prefer to use or that you would like to see available?
A1. PC desk space, comfy chair, be able to whisper to the person next to me.  Also group space.
A2. Reading room, books, lots of desks, sit with friends but lots of space so don’t feel crammed in and not people moving in and out of the room all the time.
A3. Sometimes PC, sometimes space with no computer but a power socket.  Silent space e.g. alcove with partitions.  Not enough group space to practice presentations.

The following question they just answered together in general
Q4 – How many devices do you use?
Have phone, ipad, laptop plus use PC
Sometimes if using PC for work then use iPad to look stuff up at same time i.e. research for essay
Don’t often take laptop into Uni so need PC at Uni
Wouldn’t use laptop and PC at same time but use either of these plus ipad or phone
Study spaces away from PCs need plug sockets for ipad
Sometimes print out lecture slides beforehand and annotate during lecture as this is easier than making notes and matching up afterwards

Q5 – What do you use the Library Service Desk for?  What would you go and ask about?
A1.  If can’t find a book.  Pay off fines.
A2  If can’t find a book.
A3 To hand in lost property.  Haven’t had to ask about books as bought text books and look online.

Q6 – What about using Self Service issuing and return for books in library?
A1. Good as quicker and don’t have to talk to library staff! Also said good in case the book is a reference book and so you wouldn’t feel daft if the machine displays a message saying reference only rather than being told.
A2 Good as same system as at another library so knew how to use.  Good as gives a receipt showing date of return.
A3 Quick and simple.  Good for out of hours.  Good for short loans.

Q7 – Communication – what do you think about receiving emails from the university?
A1 Just skim read.  Has to be relevant to studies.  Don’t read if about general university wide matters.
A2 Has to be quick and urgent with a relevant subject line.

Q8 – Communication  – using the portal for communication
They were all both positive about this and gave explanations of how it worked and what the interface looked like.  They had a good understanding of how it worked and how to access their respective VLEs.  They seemed to consider a VLE as perfectly acceptable and didn’t want anything more sophisticated or snazzy.  The main reason for using the portal was to access the VLE and to receive notifications.

Q9 – Should the university use Facebook for communicating with students?
No to Facebook – although there should be a university Facebook page and a Library one – so I think what they meant was they would like to be able to view a University Facebook but don’t want to interact with staff or lecturers.
They used Facebook groups for collaboration with other students
e.g. Revision group
e.g. Group work – could use a Moodle forum but would have to log in so Facebook group easier and useful for chatting and making changes to presentations.  Use with other students but not lecturers.

It was an interesting discussion and does reflect quite accurately some of the results we have had from quick surveys at Heriot-Watt Uni about the purpose of visiting the library and what facilities are the most important.  It has given me some good ideas about surveys that can be carried out next semester especially with new students starting in September and also as part of customer service excellence.