Sunday, 3 April 2011

Learning from Manchester University Library

Manchester University Library

Existing as one unit as part of the big system of libraries that is Oxford University and its constituent colleges, I'm aware how easy it is become focused on the way we do things here.  To counteract this, I planned to attend a CILIP event to be shown round Manchester University Library, and used the event to reflect on what they were offering:

  • Food friendliness.
  • Twenty-four hour opening.
  • 'Customer service' points.
  • Emphasis on customer service.
  • Self-service.
Looking at this list, our College library ticks all of the bullet points except we don't call our always-staffed library desk and always-open library office 'customer service' points and twenty-four hour opening hours.

But I can sense more traditional library services would be resistant to some of these ideas, and coming back into the library world of Oxford made me read up on what public libraries might need to offer as they move forward into the future.
College library by night
Reflecting on the ideas in this Guardian article, I felt our library (left) does look the epitome of the traditional Oxford college library, yet we have proved it is possible to have a food-friendly policy, a customer-focused attitude, late evening opening hours, and self-service item issue.

Also, how relevant is public library policy to academic libraries?

I think the answer is 'quite a lot' in that students are also members of the public and what services they find in the public sphere they will increasingly expect to find in the academic world, especially as they are going to see themselves as 'customers' paying (dearly) for their education.

Twenty-four hour opening is an issue which comes up year after year on the want list of our students, and although the library staff support the idea, the governing body decided against it.

However other colleges such as Corpus Christi, and some Oxford University libraries, do open 24/7 and I regret we are not there at the forefront as we are in so many other ways.

Access hours which fit in with our clientele’s needs and can be accommodated by staffing will come.

It will have to.

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