Sunday, 2 January 2011

New Year...a time for reflection?

In the strange limboland between Christmas and New Year, normal life is suspended and there is time to reflect on what's been done, what lies ahead. Last limboland I resolved to register for chartership and begin the process in earnest, with a mentor. This I'm now doing, and as part of this process, I'm looking at what you, the readers, are telling me.

Why do some groups of students use the library more than others? I asked one historically hard to reach group. In the past they've been conspicuous by their absence, and from college life in general.

I emailed this small select group, along with another small select group who use the Library much more.

Some of it is a 'centre of gravity' issue: students who don't live in college and spend most of their time at their department will find it easier to use the departmental library. So they do.

And one said they intended to use the facilities of a completely different university to do their dissertation in:

'as everything is in one location, they have multiple copies of all the key texts, the organisation is simple, and the layout clear, and the system simply tells you where the book is, and if it is available you can get it straightaway yourself, it isn't hidden in a stack somewhere students cannot go, nor is it in a library which you cannot get it out of, or even drink water in!!'

The comments were aimed at the Bodleian Libraries, rather than our small, food-friendly, and accessible library, but nevertheless ranks as pithy comment on What Students Want.

The student likes our library, but commented as it's not huge, it understandably doesn't have a lot of the core texts.

And this after extensive publicising of the fact that our library will obtain any texts students need for their work...sigh.

Other students cited our library's 'homely' atmosphere and their intention to work in it more. Time will tell.

One student says: 'The book selection for my subject is excellent, and the few we don't have you are happy to get for us, so I couldn't wish for anything more'.

Someone for whom we're getting the balance right and who feels comfortable using what we have to offer.

What am I learning from this?
  • That a student's 'centre of gravity' will often dictate what libraries they use, no matter how good another library's service provision is;
  • That some students prefer the ease of books already being there, rather than asking us to order them in...but perhaps it's simply that they have never done this, and don't realise how quicky and easy (normally) it is.

What action am I going to take:

My feeling is still that the groups I have targeted are making more use of the Library than a identical subject group did last year. How do I prove this? Loan stats?
  • Dissertation coming up for some of them: can I offer them literature search help/emphasise the fact we will get any text they need?
  • A trip to the departmental library in question is already booked - despite my suspicion that 'centre of gravity' is the telling factor here, I still want to see what I can learn from what they are doing that perhaps we could learn from.


  1. It reminds me of the accident which happened at freshers week the last year. You were at freshers fair so I was in charge of processing the new books. One morning, new PPE students ordered some economy books. Sue bought them immediately at Blackwell's and brought them to the Library. I labeled them and left for lunch, leaving the books at your desk without being properly catalogued. And during the lunch time, the students took most of the books, thinking that they're already prepared for them;)

  2. Thanks Pavlina - pesky students! (Love 'em really.) We must whip them into submission (only joking).

  3. Actually, poor, hard-working, and too studious freshers! Their teacher told them not to look for the books, as there weren't enough of them in the Library and as they didn't need them for the moment:D