During the many months of lockdown, we always kept one eye on our return to work. At each virtual library get-together, we’d swap stories of our experiences in shops and supermarkets, things we’d read about other libraries, how we were supporting students, what we thought about coming back to college, how a covid-safe library service would look.
During these early discussions, a plan began to form. Firstly, how would we capture all the information and ideas that were sharing? We wanted to keep track of the guidance from government and our professional organisations such as CILIP and Libraries Connected. We took part in webinars, discussion lists and training sessions. We talked to lecturers, managers, and other librarians.
And secondly, how would we turn all the knowledge gained while sitting in front of our computers, into practical guidance for our return to work? Our first step was to set up a Padlet that everyone could access, add ideas or links, comment on other posts, link ideas together.
We then asked each of our library assistants, working closely with a ‘project sponsor’ – a member of the Library Management Team – to design and deliver a project focusing on a particular aspect of the return to work. Each library assistant identified an area of interest to them, produced a project initiation document which outlined their aims and what they hoped to deliver. They then researched independently, meeting regularly with their project sponsor to discuss their findings. Projects were: how to ensure staff safety at the information desk, setting up a ‘triage’ service and creating a guide to the ‘reference interview’, handling acquisitions, marketing our new click&collect service, and how to arrange the physical library.
Some of the library assistants have kindly offered to write for this blog about these projects and how they were able to plan from a distance. I’m sure many of their ideas will be useful to other library staff in similar situations.
In my Library Project, I set out to find appropriate ways of protection from Covid-19 for the library assistants when working throughout the Library and dealing with students and other staff. To complete my project, I conducted research on the methods of protection used by various libraries in colleges and universities throughout the world, looking at three main methods: perspex screens at the desk; 72-hour book quarantine; and separate collections of equipment for use by each staff member. I looked on their websites specifically for protection methods, whilst also looking at the overall UK protection guidelines that libraries needed to follow to be allowed to open once again.
In my research I found that many libraries had decided to use perspex screens to protect library staff at help desks from students and other staff. The majority had also implemented a 72- hour book quarantine to ensure any traces of the Covid-19 virus would have disappeared from recently returned books before they could be shelved again.However, I could not find much information on the use of equipment throughout other libraries and protection against Covid-19 when using it.
At the conclusion of my research and when presenting my findings to my colleagues, I recommended that we continued with the 72-hour quarantine while marking out a specific area to hold the books (there hadn’t been one before) and making collections of equipment for each individual library assistant with name labels on each piece. The perspex screens had already been added to the help desk, however I did recommend we add a couple more to cover all computer stations.
I enjoyed doing this project as it gave me not only an insight into how other libraries operate but also a chance to have a vital say in the protection for my colleague’s and my own roles in this uncertain time, overall making me feel more satisfied and safer to be back in work.
#ESOLStories has been one of my favourite collaborations between the library service and the ESOL department.
National Storytelling Week
A lecturer from ESOL, Seima, approached the library with some ideas around National Storytelling Week for the 16-18 students, and I was keen to promote the Graded Readers collection. We pooled all our thoughts together… I’d go to the classes taking a selection of readers to inspire the students by discussing genres, beginnings and endings, characters, book jackets and blurbs. ESOL tutors then asked their classes to create various pieces around storytelling including online storyboards, reviews, stories and poems. Some students had a set of images to play around with and create a plot. We would display the reviews and storyboards in the library, on display stands and noticeboards. Even better, all the stories and poems would be collated into a book which would be ‘published’ by the library and added to the collection for future students to read and be inspired by.
Using LibGuides as online publisher
It all got a bit more interesting when my colleague overheard our discussion.
David’s idea to use LibGuides as an online publisher for all the stories and poems gave them a much wider audience, and enabled us to run a competition for the best story. Voting could take place online, in class or from home using phones or laptops, and students could also showcase their work to friends and family who could also take part in the voting.
We decided not to tell the students about the website until all the work was submitted. Four classes took part in the competition – two from Entry 2, one from Entry 3 and one Level 1 group.
I quietly created a LibGuide site called #ESOLStories where I put up details of the competition and then uploaded each story to the site, converting the word documents to PDF. I also changed the name of each file to the story title. I added a Google Forms ballot which would be easy for students to use, and give me a real time overview of how many votes were coming in.
I was then invited back to the classes. We were looking forward to telling the students about the competition, the prizes, and reveal the website. We knew they would be excited about being published online, but we also needed to get each student’s permission allowing their story to be displayed on the public site. I think I can safely say that they were all pretty happy with the result!
Students were then given about 6 weeks to read the stories, vote, and promote the competition. Seima was interviewed by the college marketing team, while the library promoted the competition via Twitter, Instagram, and our Library Online site. Some of the student comments were really lovely.
It was impressive. A page like that need a lot of time to make and I’m sure she put a lot offer in to it so well done.
It was fantastic and the Bradford college is helped us also published the stories for us. I was very excited to see my story on the website. Bradford College is excellent also the page the made for our stories was amazing.
The page was really nice designed I didn’t expect is from her, I thought is from some guys designers. I read my story and I laughed again.
Student comments May 2020
The site received nearly 600 votes and well over a thousand hits. We are so pleased with the results, and hope to do something similar next year. Once we received all the votes, I published the winners on the #ESOLStories site.
One unforeseen event was the lockdown following the spread of covid-19. Some of the voting, and the announcement of the results, has had to happen remotely. We are sad not to present the prizes to the students in person, but it is great to know that our students can access their work at any time through this online resource.
Libraries have always created physical displays of their collections, to promote resources and engage users. Bradford College Library uses book displays, noticeboards, signs and posters to encourage library users to pick up a book, flick through a magazine or try a new database.
Since the development of web technologies, we have also created virtual displays -curating galleries of book jackets on the library catalogue, tweeting photos and grouping together online databases to support national and local events and celebrations. More recently, our library has been encouraging users to contribute. Student reviews are displayed along with the books; we tie in our displays to student activities such as the climate change protests; and library users are encouraged to post pictures of themselves with the different collections onto our Instagram pages.
ESOL Students under lockdown
The ESOL classes in Bradford College are creative places. Enter any classroom and students are busy writing poems, creating Animoto videos, discussing current topics, reading stories, acting out plays. They organise talent shows, bake cakes for charities, go on trips, attend concerts. Students are encouraged to use the library – particularly the Graded Readers collection, but also textbooks, workbooks and dictionaries. Students take part in reading campaigns such as the Big Read, write reviews, and book discussions. Under lockdown, teaching staff wanted to maintain this energy while asking students to explore their own experience during this strange time. As Seima, a lecturer in ESOL, explained:
“During these difficult times, we as ESOL lecturers realise the importance of continuing with our online teaching and learning, using a variety of remote learning tools. It is vital to engage and challenge our ESOL learners in their work; empower them to become autonomous learners; foster remote learning skills; harness the skills of all learners; and keep them motivated during lockdown“.
Capturing authentic voices
ESOL tutors asked their students to continue writing, reading and using IT. Students contributed to blogs, padlets, prezis. Some students created professional looking recipes using free applications, or wrote their own newsletter – learning skills such as report writing and design. However, the students were also going for walks, cooking, taking photos, drawing, recording videos, and making crafts. We wanted to capture all these activities to gain an authentic picture of how each student was experiencing lockdown. Seima and I discussed how to bring everything together into one place, to showcase not only the different experiences of each student, but also the variety of media that they had chosen to use to tell their stories.
LibGuides is a content management system designed specifically for libraries to organise and make accessible relevant resources for a subject or course. LibGuides can be easily created and updated, and URLs can be renamed to make them memorable. For example, our ESOL libguide is called library.bradfordcollege.ac.uk/esolhelp. Librarians use LibGuides to guide students in using library resources, which can include contact details, images, video, links, search boxes, galleries of book covers with direct links to the catalogue, helpguides and so on. However, we have started to realise the potential of LibGuides to act as a showcase for student work – not only collaborating with teaching staff, but also with students.
Creating a virtual exhibition space
The Inspired By ESOL showcase we have created is as exciting as any exhibition that could have been displayed in the library. LibGuides allows us to create moving galleries of images and recipe cards, embed the blog, Padlet and Prezi into the page, listen to mp4s and read diaries saved as PDFs. Students feel proud to have their work on display publicly – the pages are open to anyone who wants to view them. The page is vibrant, colourful, interesting and interactive. Galleries of images move on a carousel, and you can scroll down through the padlets or flick through the prezis without leaving the page. The project is already catching people’s attention. It’s been reported in the college news , will be shortly mentioned in the NATECLA newsletter, and is soon to be discussed in a JISC podcast.
The ESOL team and the Library have already collaborated on a number of projects . This use of LibGuides opens up a lot more possibilities!
In November the library launched its special collection to support our Independent Living and Skills for Employment students.
For the past 3 years the Library has been situated next to their classrooms but most students never thought of borrowing anything – and some thought they were not even allowed to. Realising this was quite disheartening, so we have been trying to make the library more inclusive to students from this area for a few years.
Students didn’t think there were any resources for them, so Julia Sherrington (our Academic Liaison Librarian) has been conducting introductions to the library with tours, talks and showing them how to borrow items.
We show students which books and subjects might be interesting to them, and any that relate to what they study in the classroom, e.g. health, nutrition, cooking and gardening. We showed the journals in the library and asked what magazines they would like to see. As result of this we ordered a few magazines such as BBC Easy Cook.
Following observations from tutors in this area, they felt that having a separate section for their students would help as being in the library might be stressful. We have had to move shelving and study spaces around quite a bit during the past few years so not all subject areas remain the same so this can cause confusion.
It was decided that having a few shelves of stock against the wall near to their classrooms would be a good idea. Having their own collection would also create a sense of ownership. Placing this collection between the Reading Collection and Graded Readers would mean that students could venture a little further and look at these other collections to help improve their comprehension. As with the rest of our collections, this area isn’t exclusive to Independent Living/Skills for Employment students, anyone is welcome to borrow from it; just as these students are welcome to borrow anything in the Library.
In order to differentiate their books and DVDs from other areas we coded them with “IL” in front of their shelf-mark, this appears on the spine of the item and on the Library Management System. “IL” of course standing for “Independent Living”. Some of the stock was transferred from the main collection and some DVDs have been donated by the dept. In addition to that, we have been ordering new stock. One difficulty is in finding appropriate level books for adults with learning difficulties. Many books for are for children rather than adults, so in some cases we have had to order some material aimed at children, but we are trying to avoid that whenever possible.
We have had some recent comments about students now asking their parents or carers to take them to their public library. This is wonderful as it shows that this is adding to their independent skills and interest. The library has suffered quite a bit of disruption with stock moves and the lighting in this area is quite low. We have asked our Estates to increase lighting to make the area less “gloomy” and more navigable. We will monitor how well this collection is used in the next year to see whether it is still useful and whether it is on the right location. So, watch this space – quite literally!
The quality and quantity of research sources appears to impact on dissertation marks.
Julia Sherrington, Academic Liaison Librarian for Art, recently undertook some investigations into the types of sources being used in dissertations within the School of Arts. She looked at the bibliographies in 43 dissertations from the 2017/18 cohort and mapped them against their dissertation mark.
What it showed was that students, gaining a mark of 60 and above, evidenced the use of more sources on average.
The range of sources mostly included books, journal articles, websites, research papers, and video.
The quality of sources also showed a correlation between marks. The average use of scholarly books and journals was higher with those gaining higher marks. A total of 273 scholarly books and 83 scholarly journals were referenced.
Whilst this was a small study, it does hint at a relationship between the two. It would be useful to undertake a more extensive study and widen this out for more meaningful results.
She also wanted to look at any impact the College Library may have on dissertation marks. The starting point, was to look at the print books used to see if any were borrowed from the library; with journal articles it was whether the article was in stock in print in the library or available to view online through our electronic resources.
Out of all the sources in quoted 43 dissertations, 150 print books were borrowed from the library and 107 were scholarly in nature – although if we looked at journal articles the picture was less promising. Out of 151 articles that could be found via the library only 35 were scholarly. So what does this tell us? Two things… that our students are finding and using a lot of lot of non-scholarly material though the library and that they are finding open access material to support their research.
What else can we take from this? Are our students using the library electronic resources effectively, do they know how to evaluate the quality of source, and in some cases are they using google and finding scholarly articles that have paywalls and viewing the abstract rather than the whole article?
Another interesting fact is that our requests for Inter-library Loans from the British Library had reduced drastically over the last 5 years. There will be many books and journal articles that could be available and very relevant to students doing their research. Why do students not want to request Inter Library loans anymore? This is a question that we should be asking both ourselves and students; and if students will rely more and more on Open Access research, how to they easily find it?
The findings from this study have been forwarded to the relevant academic staff within Arts for further discussion. One thing we have learned is that the library has an important role to play in helping students find the right scholarly sources. We want to give students the best chance of success whether it is research for dissertations or essays.
To Renew or Auto-Renew… our Librarians give a paper at the Koha User Group, November 2018
In 2016/2017, the Library undertook a major review of our Library Management System with the result that we moved all our data and systems over to an open source LMS called Koha. The review gave us the opportunity to look at our existing practices and procedures and, following extensive discussion, consultation and research, we introduced auto-renewals in September 2018. In November 2018, two of the Librarians responsible for managing Koha, Simon Lyes and Haydn Clark, gave a short presentation of our experiences at the Koha User Group.
The talk looked at 3 main areas: Why auto-renewals, Obstacles, and What we learnt.
Simon and Haydn explained the reasons why we decided to introduce auto-renewals. In their talk they identified the key reasons as simplification, fairness, efficiency, peer pressure and popularity. As with many academic libraries, we had a complex system of loans and renewals aiming to satisfy different student needs. One title may have some copies for long loan, others on week loan, reference only or short loan (3 hours). Each loan had different levels of fines attached, and different renewal rules. Students would have to remember to renew their books or risk a fine, even when the books weren’t required by other library users. Auto-renewals meant that we were able to simplify all our loans (other than the Teacher Training Collection) to just 2 weeks each, with just one fine system. Students who borrowed books that weren’t required by other students would be able to keep them for up to 6 months. We expected a reduction in staff time used in labeling books, explaining different loan types, and reminding students to renew. And we hoped for a reduction in fines as only students who didn’t return books in demand would be penalised.
There were some obstacles that we resolved through compromise and a great deal of promotion. Some colleagues felt auto-renewals would be difficult to explain to some students, particularly those with English as a second language. We were also concerned that it might be easier to forget about loans without the regular need to renew. Auto-renewals do depend on borrowers checking their college email, so we heavily promoted student email information in our inductions, at the library counter and to teaching staff. We also hoped that with the introduction of Office 365 for students and staff, use of college email would become standard. There was a concern that books may be kept out longer, leaving fewer copies on the shelves to browse. Again, the solution was to educate students on using the library catalogue for discovery and reservations. In terms of staff workload, there was the major job of removing loan stickers from thousands of books that had the week loan status. Simon and Haydn also also talked about the technical problems in switching item types for over 70,000 items from 3- and 1-week to the 2-week loan type, and how PTFS had helped by running the switch for us. We had to return and reissue everything that was on loan so that these would auto-renew going forward. We also made sure that we consulted with students and staff, through the policy approval process, in student course committees, and by liaising with the student union.
We learnt a number of lessons that we were happy to pass on. Firstly, anyone thinking of introducing this service must be sure that they are on the right version of Koha. This is because there was a bug on the version of Koha that we were on, that caused significant problems with calculation of fines for items where auto-renewal was not possible. This bug was eliminated in the subsequent version of Koha. Our second piece of advice was to Read the manual. We had problems with the set-up of how the email notices worked, and what information could be sent for each email. There was some confusion with the first emails as they didn’t contain the expected information. Finally, Consult other Koha users. Simon and Haydn used this as an opportunity to thank other teams in the room that had given us input from their experience of auto renewals.
Our conclusion was that overall the service has so far been successful. Fewer fines were being collected from students, and feedback has been positive. We like the simpler loan system, and we are seeing students take control of their library records and check their emails. We have reached our 6-month mark and have not seen any problems in recovering books. As for the talk, Simon and Haydn enjoyed their day. The talk was received well, with a surprising number of questions asked, given that they were the last presentation of the day and people had trains to catch!