Collaborate to Innovate: library assistants work with librarians to plan for a safer library

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.

Ensuring Staff Safety – Ashley Choudry

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.

#ESOL Stories

#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.

Student reaction

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 results…

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.