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History, Learning Resources and the National Student Survey (NSS) (31 July 2013)

Posted by JackieHanes on 1 August, 2013

I was invited to attend a roundtable discussion at De Montfort University – also in attendance were librarians from universities of Loughborough, Nottingham, Northampton and Warwick. The invitation was timely, because our National Student Survey score for learning resources in history fell considerably in 2012.  In the last academic year, I have been working with the School of History to improve library resources and student satisfaction. 

The Higher Education Authority (Carrigan 2010) found that history students were dissatisfied with Learning Resources (NSS questions 16 (library) and 17 (IT)).  This was an experience shared by all (but one) of the librarians at the roundtable.  It was heartening (but also saddening), to find that I am not alone, and that our experience is ‘normal’. 

The roundtable started with presentations from Chris Powis (Head of Library and Learning Services at the University of Northampton), and Neil Skinner (Assistant Librarian and History PhD Student at De Montfort University).  Chris outlined the problems and solutions of history and learning resources; and Neil described his current research project into history and learning resources.  We then began our discussions, which I have attempted to summarise by theme.

Problems with history and learning resources

  • Length of reading lists (500+ items per module)
  • Lack of differentiation on reading lists (essential/background)
  • Preference for monographs on reading lists (over journal articles)
  • Availability of items on reading lists (out of print, print only, no ebooks)
  • Focus on directed reading (reading lists do not encourage independent research)
  • Theft and vandalism of the library’s history books
  • History students seek help from academics (not from librarians)
  • Attitude of (some) history academics towards the library

Solutions to history and learning resources

  • Liaison librarian (increased liaison with history department)
  • Liaison librarian (increased contact with history students)
  • Library recovery plan for departments with low NSS scores
  • Use evidence (statistics) to support case for change

Research project on history and learning resources

  • Review of available literature
  • Survey (online questionnaire) of history students
  • Interview with history academics
  • Roundtable discussion with history librarians

NSS Question 16

In the NSS, the library is evaluated by a single question:- “the library resources and services are good enough for my needs”.  The question is rather simplistic, and open to different interpretations.  The question relates to library resources and services, not to facilities or the environment.  Yet student comments often relate to opening hours, study spaces, and noise.  A library refurbishment often leads to an increased NSS score.  This may have increased our NSS scores in 2010 and 2011, with the 2012 cohort returning to pre-refurbishment levels.  It was noted that the library tends to perform better in other surveys.  However, we can not change the NSS question, and it is our key performance indicator.


Our School of History offers a large number of modules, including special subjects in second and third year, which reflect their academics research interests.  Core modules  have large student numbers, but optional/special modules have comparatively small student numbers, yet the library must resource all modules, and each module comes with a lengthy reading list (see below).  Also, staff changes means that new academics bring new research interests and develop new modules of study, which again need to be resourced by the library.  It takes time to develop a collection of library resources. 

Reading Lists

Is the history reading list part of the problem, and not the solution?  What is the purpose of a reading list?  Should it provide students with key introductory readings to a subject, or should it be a complete body of knowledge on a subject?  The history reading list is a work of wonder – perhaps more accurately described as a bibliography.  Students (rightly) expect all items on their reading list to be available in their university library.  However, financial constraints mean that the library struggles to provide one copy of each item on a history reading list, let alone providing multiple copies to cope with high student demand.  

All of the universities had an electronic reading list system (either proprietary or in-house), but were at various stages of implementation, with some university’s mandating it’s use, and others using in on a voluntary basis.  There is a reluctance to use electronic reading list systems from academics with long reading lists.  While the electronic reading list system gives the library access to reading lists; it does not appear to resolve problems regarding resourcing reading lists.  All universities experienced problems purchasing adequate resources – regardless of the generosity of their library budget. 

Skinner found that history academics want their library to provide a broad range of resources (multiple titles not copies), and they are generally pleased with their library’s collection.  However, the history students’ most common complaint is that the library “does not have enough books” (multiple copies of a single title).  Academics want their students to become independent learners and researchers, and to go beyond their reading list.  Yet they continue to provide long reading lists for modules, including recommended reading for essay titles, which does not encourage their students to conduct independent research, and use other library resources. 

To what extent can librarians advise academics on best practice in teaching?

eBooks and Short Loans

Electronic books (particularly multi-user licenses) can be useful in making high demand titles more widely available (replacing the need to purchase multiple copies).  New titles are often published in both print and electronic formats, yet history reading lists often include old and out-of-print titles, which are not available electronically.  Where e-books are available, the format may not be popular with students.  In my focus group with history students in 2012, I was surprised to find that students preferred short loan print books to e-books. 

Traditionally, high demand titles were placed in the library’s short loan collection.  For history, this often meant that the only copy was placed in the short collection.  Short loan collections are unpopular (hard to find, short loan period, and high overdue fines), but perhaps a necessary evil if we want to circulate resources effectively.  One university had interfiled their short and normal loan collections (to the horror of their history department) – but had found that use of resources increased. 

Library Inductions

All librarians had some contact time with first year students, however this varied from 15 minutes, to 1 hour to 8 hours (as part of an academic skills module).  Follow-up sessions tended to come in the second year, as students prepared for dissertations.  Outside library inductions, librarians had little contact with history students, who appear to be quite self-sufficient.  Yet, the students do not communicate dissatisfaction with library resources or services during their course, just in the NSS survey at the end of their degree programme.  Perhaps we can improve our liaison and marketing with history students as well as history departments and academics?

Primary Resources

We briefly touched on student access to primary historical resources.  Do we expect our undergraduate students (to travel) to use archives and special collections at other libraries?  Along with the Russell Group universities, we are fortunate to have a good special collections department, and to have purchased digital collections of primary resources.  Others are less fortunate, and do struggle to provide adequate primary resources to support study and research.


The roundtable discussion was very interesting, and has left me with more questions than answers.  The afternoon passed very quickly, and we could have talked all day.  We can not change the NSS question, the reading lists or our library budgets.  Perhaps we can change the attitudes and expectations of history academics and students?  I will be very interested to read Neil Skinner’s final research report.



Carrigan, B (2010) History Departments and the National Student Survey (Coventry: Higher Education Academy)

National Student Survey (2013)

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Digimap Training (19 June 2013)

Posted by JackieHanes on 24 June, 2013

I attended a 1 day Digimap Collections training course run by EDINA and hosted by Birmingham City University at their Millennium Point campus in Birmingham.  I resisted the urge to spend a day in the Think Tank (Birmingham Science Museum), and headed on inside learn about Digimap with a section of geography and built environment librarians and academics. 

Our Digimap subscription includes the Ordnance Survey, Historic and Geology collections.  As liaison librarian for archaeology and history, I deal mostly in Historic Digimap enquiries.  EDINA is launching an Environment Digimap, which will be free to current subscribers, although we have to apply to JISC to activate. 

Ordnance Survey is the current (up-to-date) map collection.  It includes maps from very small scale road atlas size (metropolitan view), through small scale Landranger (city view), medium scale Explorer (street view), and large scale Mastermap (plan view).  It is easy to search by place name, postcode or grid reference using Digimap Roam.  The zoom functions allow you to switch between maps of different scale.

Useful tools on the Task Menu include Map Information which displays map product, date, coordinates and print scale information; and Map Content Control which allows you to swap between Raster maps and Vector maps, and select different map Themes (views).  Raster maps are essentially map images; whereas Vector maps include layers of data, and are customisable (add/remove specific map features).  You can also save maps using My Maps.

Once at your desired map, you can use the Annotation and Measurement Tools to mark up features and distances.  For example you can add point, lines, shapes and labels. Annotations are a bit fiddly, especially when you go wrong, and try to undo your mistakes, but they can look very effective. Annotations can also be saved.

Historic Digimap includes Town Plans from 1848 to 1939, and County Series maps from 1846 to 1996.  It works in a similar way: search for a map by place, postcode or grid reference, zoom in and out to find maps of different scale, and view maps from different periods of time.  If the map is blurred, you may be looking at an overlapping map (one location was surveyed by two or more maps – especially as county boundaries), and select a single map view. My second favourite feature in Digimap is the ability to view two maps from different historical periods on screen using the 2 Up View icon. 

My favourite Digimap feature, is the interoperability of Annotations between Ordnance Survey and Historic Digimap.  For example, in Ordnance Survey you can search for your postcode, mark your house, and save annotations; and then go Historic Digimap and open your annotations to view the location of your house across time. 

All maps can be printed, and you can select the area and  print scale.  You can print maps as image or PDF files.  The maps include a copyright statement that allows use for educatonal (non commercial) purposes.  You can also export data to use in GIS (Geographical information Systems) software.  We had a go at exporting data for use in ArcGIS – although this is a little out of my comfort area! 

The Digimap Resource Centre includes a variety of guides and tutorials (from quick reference to technical data downloads) that can be used by liaison librarians with students. We also learned about a new open access Fieldtrip GB mobile map app for iPhone and Android.  This may be useful for students collecting data on archaeology and geography field trips.     

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BIALL Conference 2013 (Glasgow)

Posted by JackieHanes on 24 June, 2013


‘Highlights’ for non law librarians are second day sessions on the Flipped Classroom and Open Access …

Originally posted on eLegal Librarian:

I attended the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) annual study conference held on 13-15 June 2013 at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow.  The theme of this year’s conference was “The Business of Law”, including “Business for Managers” on the final day.  The BIALL conference is the annual gathering of law librarians from all sectors across the UK, Ireland and beyond.

The conference began with a game of ‘spot the law librarian’ at Glasgow’s airports, train stations and hotel receptions on Wednesday afternoon.  I attended Justis Publishing’s legendary pre-conference social event on Wednesday evening.  This year’s theme was “100 Years of Bollywood”, and it was held at the Kama Sutra restaurant on Sauchiehall Street.  The dinner, drinks and entertainment (our unique take on bollywood dancing and gangnam style) were fabulous – photographic evidence is available.


The conference was formally opened by James Mullan (BIALL President) on Thursday morning. …

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Meeting with Lexis Library / Nexis Rep

Posted by JackieHanes on 20 May, 2013

Sheree and I met with Caralyn Duignan – our Lexis Library and Nexis Account Manager. 

We were updated on Lexis Library enhancements over the last 12 months:- there has been a particular focus on journal content, including the acquisition of 50 new full-text journals, including many OUP and CUP titles.

We looked at database usage statistics – there was a clear spike in October / November during induction period. Also the (new to us) employment law module is already one of our most highly used resources. 

We discussed problems bookmarking Lexis Library in Talis Aspire.  The problems are now being raised by academic law librarians across the UK.  I was assured that Tom Laidlaw (Head Academic Development at Lexis) was working with Talis Aspire. I will also be raising this in the Academic Forum at the BIALL Conference next month.

We were informed of a new platform – Lexis Advance – coming to the UK in Summer 2015!  It is expected to work with federated search engines – so looks promising for Summon.  It is currently released in the US and Australia, so some students with experience in large global firms may come across this database before we do.

We were asked if we were taking the ICLR Online 1 year free trial to The Law Reports etc on ICLR’s own platform.  Lexis (and Westlaw) are currently licensed to provide the content, but are concerned that ICLR may pull this at next contract renewal.  (ICLR tried this a few years ago – Lloyds were the other big name to pull content).  Something to watch out for … 

As regards Nexis, we were informed that their license to provide the Financial Times had been renegotiated, and there would be a 30 day embargo on all newspaper articles from 1st September (currently 24 hour embargo).  Obviously, are pushing their own database!

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EMLIP Meeting (Friday 12 April)

Posted by JackieHanes on 12 April, 2013

I attended the quarterly East Midlands Legal Information Professionals (EMLIP) meeting at Shoosmiths in Nottingham.  We had invited Simon Watson and Dexter Smith from JustCite to give an update and demonstration of their products.  I am a huge fan of JustCite, we are subscribers, and I have their API embedded in my law subject page, so I was not expecting to learn much from the demo.  How wrong was I …?!

JustCite have made a few useful innovations:- a ‘golden arrow’ highlights the most authoritative law report, and an ‘information icon’ links directly to the Cardiff Index. Also, citations are shown in context, displaying the relevant paragraph from the law report.  Dexter also explained that JustCite have a team of legal editors, who add all citation links by hand.  They are more selective than automated citation services, and only add those of legal significance.  

Justis (a full-text product we do not subscribe to) has acquired the full-text reported and unreported judgments of the civil (1951-) and criminal (1963-) divisions of the Court of Appeal.  Justis enables better keyword searching, and users with personal logins can create current awareness alerts.

Simon finished the talk by showing an early prototype of ‘JustCite for Word’, a legal citation checking service (similar to Lexis Check).  The service allows you to check the authority of cases, to standardise citation formats, and create tables of authority.  I think it would be a useful tool for academics updating teaching materials. Given the technology, I asked if JustCite would be able to develop their product to enable export of citation information from JustCite to RefWorks and EndNote (a subject dear to my heart).  Fingers crossed!

After the demonstration, the main business of the meeting was a discussion about training opportunities for law librarians.  I found myself talking about increased student contact time, innovative teaching methods in lectures, and massive open online courses (MOOCs).  There was also discussion about the use of technology to deliver training at a distance.

JustCite were kind enough to treat us to lunch at the Living Room, and what a treat it was!  Teriyaki chicken skewers with satay sauce, and steak frites with salad, all washed down with a chilled glass of white wine.  We were joined for lunch by the legend that is Mr Brian Marshall – who managed to fit us in between games of golf …! 

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LILAC 2013

Posted by sarahw9 on 26 March, 2013

I was lucky enough to attend this years LILAC (Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference) this Monday.  Here is my summary of the sesssions I attended. 

Location of LILAC 2013

Creating time for learning: strategies for flipping your library classroom.
Erin Davis and Kacy Lundstrom (Utah State University).

Erin Davis and Kacy Lundstrom described their experience with experimenting with this teaching model.  Students are sent instructional videos prior to the teaching session so that the teachers don’t spend their time demonstrating.  The teaching time is spent with the students working on researching their own projects. 

The session was run partly as an introduction to the idea of the flipped classroom and partly as a workshop to enable participants to begin on designing their own session. 

There was discussion on how to ensure the students have done the homework in advance (for example making completing the videos monitored in the VLE).  At Utah the videos are created so that the students have to click in the relevant part of the screen to continue the demonstration, mimicking the effect of doing the search live. 

One interesting suggestion from the floor was to ask students to bring in their own examples of what they have done and showing others.  This is beneficial as they nearly always haven’t all done the same thing, and might learn from seeing each others alternative approaches. 

The bulk of the teaching I do with the medics, biological sciences and psychology runs along similar lines, although we do both parts in the classroom.   At the moment we give students instructions to follow themselves rather than videos, partly because making the videos was perceived as too time consuming.  Whether that is the case is certainly worth revisiting though, especially if we are going to use them for many sessions. 

It seems that in Utah a lot of the teaching done that would be done by learning development (for instance writing and synthesis of information) was being done by the librarians in their teaching sessions.  I have been thinking about how we could work more alongside our colleagues in learning development as there is so much overlap in the skills.  Perhaps there is scope for asking them to participate in some of our teaching?


The Keynote Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth)

This was one of those zeitgiesty ‘where things are going’ talks done by a speaker who is good at this.  As it was full of soundbites and intended to be controversial I’ve listed some of the statements and ideas that stood out to me:
• Einstein quote ‘I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn’. This applies to teaching but also the function of libraries more widely. 

• Do we like books or do we like reading? Just because students don’t read books doesn’t mean they don’t read. 

• Any library that could be replaced by a computer should be…Libraries are more than storage house of books = content, services, space, skills

• The future is user generated content.  In education this allows students to participate in culture.

• Transliteracy defined as the ability to communicate equally well whatever the platform and information literacy is a part of this.

• Students still need to understand how to check if something is true.   Darwikianism – survival of the fittest online. Wikipedia = breadth.  Peer reviewed content = depth.  Students need to know both and cross reference between them.

I particularly like the idea of getting the students to check if something is true as a teaching activity, especially as an opening task to get students attention.  It integrates the aspects of where to look as well as evaluation, so I’ll be looking into this. 


Embedding digital literacy at Leeds Metropolitan University
Erin Nephin & Wendy Luker

Digital literacy as a graduate attribute for employability was launched institution wide at Leeds Met last year.  The graduate attributes at Leeds met are:  having a global outlook, being enterprising, and digital literacy.  Every module at the University had to be reviewed to ensure that these graduate attributes are embedded and this enormous task was supported from the top of the institution. 

The librarians wrote a learning and teaching guide for digital literacy for academics and also ibook which explains the process and stakeholders for instance learning and teaching or learning technologists. 

The whole process has resulted in very positive results for the library and information literacy as awareness raising with academics and also staff in other roles such as learning technologists and administrators. 

The library also ran training on topics such as ‘Using OERs to support your module’, ‘Current awareness tools and searching’, ‘Finding business and company info for employment’, and  ‘Managing your profile online’. 

I don’t’ know of many institutions that have moved this far with digital literacy and employability.  I liked the training session ideas, there is alot of scope for development.


Supporting information literacy and study skills with Open Educational Resources (OER)
Vivien Sieber and Miriam Tarron,

This workshop was in practice a session in exploring the Jorum website and resources and considering the copyright and practical implications if we wanted to use them.  

The fact that producing good elearning is expensive was given as a reason to use OERs.  Whilst that might be true, it isn’t a good reason to use either poor OERs, or use good ones in the wrong way, which will be counterproductive and ultimately more costly.   I admit I was surprised to learn that powerpoints and word documents are actually OERs, I expected more ‘dynamic’ content.  Likewise I was surprised to hear from those sitting around me that the copyright on some of the resources said  they could only be linked to rather than repurposed; I had been under the impression that repurposing was a crucial feature of OERs. 

I have to confess in the past I’ve looked at this website and not seen much I would really want to repurpose.  When I looked again I realised that I could probably make use of things there, in particular quizzes that could be used in teaching or short animations to illustrate a point or put into our own elearning.   A resource such as this is much needed.  It should continue to grow so I would recommend returning to it to see whats there. 


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Reflections on “Communicating your research as a comic strip workshop”

Posted by selinalock on 24 January, 2013

prezi_screenshotInspired by some of the initiatives by PhD Comics and the rise of factual graphic novels I offered to run a workshop for PhD students at the University of Leicester on communicating your research as a comic strip. This allowed me to combine my job role (Research Information Advisor in the Library Research Services Team) with my love and experience of comics as a small press comic writer, editor and publisher.

The structure of the session:

  • Introduction to factual comics and graphic novels. I took along some graphic novels from my own collection.
  • Read and comment on some online factual comic strips using wallwisher followed by a group discussion. (You can view the comments on the wallwisher).
  • How I might turn research into a comic strip – using some example pages from Lady of the Skies (written by me, illustrated by David O’Connell, published in Ink+Paper #1) A biography strip about Lady Grace Drummond Hay and her voyage on the round the world zeppelin trip.
  • Summarising your research – the attendees got into pairs to discuss their research and how it might work as a comic strip.
  • Language of comics – the elements that make up a comic page and how a comic script is written.
  • Exercise – attendees had a go at writing or thumbnailing a comic based on their research.
  • But I can’t draw! – suggestions on how to find an artist & comic creation software available.

You can view my Communicating your research as a comic strip prezi online.

What worked…

  • The session went well overall – 2 attendees rated it as excellent, 9 as good, 1 as satisfactory and 1 as poor.
  • Wallwisher was a good way of sharing the online comic strips and allowing people to comment.
  • Feedback said the students liked seeing the examples of the comics (online & in print), found the content interesting and some were very enthusiastic about the whole idea.
  • Most of the participants didn’t generally read comics, but found them a clear way of presenting information and ideas.

Issues & things to improve…

  • My intention with the workshop was to give people another way of thinking about how to communicate their research using words and pictures. I thought this could then be applied as a whole comic strip, as one of two cartoon illustrations or to how they prepared posters/presentations BUT I didn’t state this clearly enough.
  • Even if they did a comic strip, where would they publish it? We ended-up having a discussion about this, as academic publishers aren’t likely to want you to submit a comic strip instead of a journal article! We thought possible uses might be in poster presentations, conference presentations, online to the general public, in internal publications or meetings, or to explain research when recruiting participants.
  • Presenting your research in comic strip format might be a risky move, especially for an early career researcher, as it’s not an accepted form of publication – so the workshop could be seen as a waste of time and irrelevant to their studies.
  • Participants said it would have been nice to feedback to the group after they discussed their research in pairs – to see what ideas people had come up with.
  • Biggest barrier to actually creating a comic strip – cost of an artist. PhD students do not have the resources to pay for an artist and all those who attended this workshop were not artists.
  • Perhaps I need to find some kind of interested community of artists to work with? Look at setting up some kind of network?
  • So, although most of the attendees found the session interesting it might be very hard for them to apply the knowledge and create a comic strip…

We had several people who wanted to attend but couldn’t, so we’ll probably be running the session again after Easter, and I’ll be tweaking it based on the feedback.

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cpd25: Support for researchers (7 December 2012)

Posted by Helen on 2 January, 2013

Senate House

Senate House
Shared via CC BY-SA 2.0 licence

Towards the end of last term I attended the ‘Support for researchers’ event hosted by the M25 Consortium.

It was very nice to be in Senate House and to meet lots of new colleagues. The discussion sessions clearly showed that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to research support. Longer time in the discussion groups would have been useful but unfortunately it was only a half day event.  I have summarised the three speakers below and included some questions raised in discussion.

Miggie Pickton & Nick Dimmock (University of Northampton) started the event by talking about collaboration between the Library, Graduate School and the Research Office at Northampton. The Research Support Hub is a joint initiative between the three teams. It is a WordPress hosted blog, designed to be a one-stop shop for researchers needing information about funding and training. Nick described how there had previously been a very scattered presence and no single place for researchers to find information. The site has only been live since October 1st but has had a good response. There are eight regular contributors and categories/tags are used to maximise discoverability. There is also a section which links to other University blogs and a FAQ page to avoid repetition and aid enquiries.

The repository (NECTAR) is a mutual interest between the Research Office and the Library. The Research Office provides the administrative support; the Library covers the technical issues, metadata and IPR. NECTAR is the main source of data for the REF. In terms of disseminating research, the team are involved in an annual poster competition, annual research conference, and measuring impact.

Benefits of collaboration were increased visibility and increased perceived value of Library services.

Miggie concluded with some tips for making collaboration work:

  • Share common goals and common interests.
  • Actively look for opportunities to collaborate internally
  • Communicate frequently and share knowledge and expertise
  • Present a shared point of view at formal committees.

Jenny Evans (Imperial College London) discussed the Research 2.0 programme at Imperial.  A version of this programme has been running since 2008 but it was only in 2011 that it was integrated into the professional development course for students. The six-week programme was delivered face to face and online, covering productivity, networking, developing an online digital identity, and legal & ethical issues. The advantage of the course was that it raised the profile of the Library and allowed researchers and staff to build their network and collaborate. It was regarded as innovative. However, the blogging part didn’t work so well. Because the course was part of mandatory Graduate School training it was hard to get the researchers to finish the course or stick to deadlines.

Jenny was also involved in filming five interviews with academics about their use of Web 2.0 tools and technologies. The interviewees were at various stages of their career and the aim was to show researchers how a ‘real’ academic was using such tools. The video can be found here.

Jenny’s talk raised a number of issues including:

  • Should we give students guidelines on what technology to use?
  • Should the focus be on the specific tools or the output?
  • How do you evaluate success with Web 2.0 workshops?

Tahani Nadim (Goldsmiths) recently completed her PhD and gave a short talk about her experience of research support. Tahani felt that the Library has a role to play in signposting throughout the PhD, not just at the start. Induction week can be overwhelming and information quickly forgotten. The PhD is an incredibly solitary venture and it is hard to imagine how subsequent years will pan out. Tahani suggested that videos of different stages of the student experience would be useful. She also suggested that Library pages need to answer the question “I need help with…”. Too often they can be buried and messy, when they really need to be simple and clean. The difficulty with a PhD is that you often don’t know what help you need until you need it! This means that problems are often figured out amongst colleagues and the PhD cohort; an informal and valuable network for recommendations.

A number of discussion points were raised:

  • How can the Library’s expertise and resources be used to support research?
  • How can the Library actively participate in the university’s research culture?
  • What role can they play in advising on version management?
  • What about students who aren’t part of the daily research culture?

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Implementing Finch (29 November 2012)

Posted by Helen on 13 December, 2012

This conference was hosted by the Academy of Social Sciences and looked at the implementation of the recommendations of the Finch Review for Open Access publishing in the UK.I attended the first day of the conference which focused on the impact for those involved in the arts, humanities and social sciences. It was an informative day and it was particularly interesting to hear the sharp differences in opinion voiced by PVCs, administrators, librarians and individual researchers.

A full report by the Academy with photos, presentations and video will shortly be available at  but I have included a few short summaries of the key speakers below.

Janet Finch
The authors of the Finch report were an independent group commissioned by government. The Government had a clear objective of what they wanted to achieve and the group were asked to advise on this. They were not there to debate whether change was necessary or advisable. It was not part of their remit to look at data, only peer reviewed publications (journal articles). It was seen as a moral imperative that if the tax payer pays, the tax payer should be able to access the research.

The main recommendation of the working group was a mixed economy between subscription journals and ‘author pays’ for foreseeable future. The balance should shift over time. The Finch report did not say that we should immediately move to gold open access, simply that policy should be set in this direction. It was envisaged that University presses will have an increasing role in the future. The transition should be gradual to avoid destabilisation. Disciplines will have to move at different speeds to accommodate these changes. Positive engagement is needed, particularly in the Arts & Humanities.

It was envisaged that University presses will have an increasing role in the future. The transition should be gradual to avoid destabilisation. Disciplines will have to move at different speeds to accommodate these changes. Positive engagement is needed, particularly in the Arts & Humanities.

Paul Hubbard (Head of Research Policy, HEFCE)
Academic publishing is at a crossroads. In the print age the subscription journal had an important role to play but it is no longer necessary.  The business model will have to change. HEFCE are very keen on institutional repositories because they ensure sustainability and cement the notion that it is the job of the research community to look after their output.

It was suggested that for REF 2020 items should be as freely available as possible, with regard to practical constraints and to requirements and policies of other research funders. Considerations for REF 2020 would include the format of the text and the level of open access (likely to be gold). Due time would have to be allowed for compliance, monitoring and verification. It was emphasized that none of this had implications for REF 2014.

Charlotte Waelde (Professor of Intellectual Property Law, Exeter)
It was hoped that copyright would play a small but key part in the open access landscape, but in fact it has no part. The law of copyright is not an impediment to the Finch implementations. But attribution is still vital as is respecting the integrity of the work. It was deemed vital to get the chain of permissions correct so third parties can use with confidence. CC BY is suggested as the best Creative Commons licence to use in the Finch report. CC BY means that credit is required for the author, moral rights are not affected, and the content can be shared, remixed, and used commercially. This enables broadest possible use by third parties.

Jude England (Head of Social Sciences, The British Library)
She discussed the implications of Finch for libraries but emphasized that the Finch report sits within the changing information landscape. The focus of her talk was on libraries of the future and what they will need to do to adapt. The role of libraries has changed, as has the physical appearance. There is now more collaborative space, longer opening hours, and more electronic provision. In terms of the growing areas of data management, rights and permissions management, and open access, it was crucial that libraries should provide training for staff and students in what all of this means.

The speed of transition from print to digital was discussed and it was suggested that by 2017 no print-only journals would exist and only a small percentage would exist in parallel with digital editions. How will libraries cope with the huge digital storage requirements?

Open Access was viewed as eventually resolving the issues of access, permissions, authentication barriers, subscriptions etc. that libraries always have to think about. In an open access future librarians would need to advise and help with discoverability. It was envisaged that OA would reduce the importance of libraries in developing institutional collections but increase role of managing the institutional repository. Libraries would increasingly need to work together to share functions and resources. Librarians would play a significant role in helping students understand the new landscape.

Lynne Brindley (Former Chief Executive, The British Library)
The Finch report was described as a ‘tour de force’ and praised for raising consciousness of open access. It was acknowledged that the path to implementation was contestable and that it was vital to make the transition without imploding the system.

Gold OA means that publishers receive the revenues from authors rather than those who read the articles. Research articles are freely accessible and conditions around reuse are minimal.

Green OA is seen as the only true route for many OA advocates. Articles in post-print version are made available in institutional repositories subject to embargoes.

How does this apply to arts and humanities? The focus of Finch was journal articles but they do not represent the highest volume of research output for the arts and humanities. Research monographs must be included in the wider debate, as must the peer review process.

Lynne discussed four key areas:
1.    Institutional publication funds. How is the mechanism for allocation going to work in the individual university? Who is going to decide and how transparent will this process be? Will the library budget be raided?
2.    Learned societies. If the subscription model goes, what happens to the other activities of the society? They would need adequate time for adjustment.
3.    Big commercial publishers. Does the Finch report hand publishers victory on a plate? Will we be paying twice? Paying journals up front (APCs) feels like a defeat for green OA advocates.
4.    Libraries. Opportunities and threats. They have long played a role in licence negotiations and are now involved in institutional repositories. How sustainable will repositories be in the new environment? Services will have to develop to support the publication fund.

She concluded by saying that it is disappointing that there is no implementation plan because the report has given an impetus to progress. A more extended period for awareness raising would be ideal.

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EMALINK – Bibliometrics & Research Visibility

Posted by selinalock on 12 July, 2012

A rather belated report on this May Emalink event:

What are Bibliometrics and why should I care?  Ian Rowlands (University of Leicester)

  • Bibliometrics can be very sterile & specialist so they must be used in a context that makes sense.
  • Citation data – indicates relationships of influence, deference & usage – a bit like social media networks.
  • Bibliometrics have to help the institution or individual in the research process.
  • BUT bibliometrics just one small par of the puzzle and tools available.
  • How much information is there really out there about research inputs & outputs?
  • Data can be variable e.g. to pick up on Univerisity of Leicester citations then authors need to put University of Leicester in their address.
  • Currently it is difficult to deal with the variety of research outputs e.g. data, software, plays…
  • New tools emerging e.g. Readermeter from Mendely to see if your papers have been socially bookmarked.
  • IMPACT of research – very important for REF but citations do not always translate to real world impact – need to go beyond bibliometrics.
  • Some types of citations have greater ‘weight’ in terms of impact e.g. citation in a NICE guideline directly impacts how healthcare is provided.

Enhancing research visibility at Loughborough (Lizzie Gadd)

  • In 2011 Loughborough found it had slid down the THE World rankings and needed to improve their citations count.
  • The Plan to improve citations = library to run sessions on publishing & promoting research, VC commissioned Academic Champion for bibliometris, promote visibility of good research in high impact journals, recruit & retain good researchers, ciations taken into account when promoting, use ResearcherID and Google Scholar profiles to improve citations & impact & use research repository.
  • Training Implementation = publish or perish sessions for new academics, lunchtime bibliometrics seminars in Depts/Research groups, 1to1 appointments ion request and online tutorials on citation tools and impact tools.
  • Plus provide bibliometric data to support staff and promote bibliometrics training through staff conferences, webpages, blogs & newsletters.
  • The Vision for the future = joined-up thinking (work with research office, IT service etc), research visibility focus (databases of research kit, data and publications).
  • Already seeing improved citations.

Some good ideas that could be implemented elsewhere.

Research training will be high on our agenda once we get our Library Research Services team fully in place, headed up by our own bibliometrician Ian Rowlands. I’ll be moving over into that team later this year.

Posted in Meetings, Research Support, Service Delivery, Staff training | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lecture capture

Posted by Andrew Dunn on 24 April, 2012

Tony Churchill gave a presentation at DL Forum on Tuesday 24/4/12 on lecture capture.  He talked about a project funded by Echo 360 – a supplier of lecture capture software.  The project looked at uses of lecture capture software beyond simply recording and posting lectures for students to revisit.

The project looked at taking recorded lectures and cutting them up into 15 minute snapshots which can then be used a subsequent year to support students’ learning.  The snapshots could be posted in VLEs before face-to-face lectures to provide students with background knowledge and free up time in lectures for more interaction and discussion.  Recordings of face-to-face lectures can be used to support DLs.
Short snapshots of lectures can be made publicly available and used as effective recruitment tools.

Denise Sweeny reported on a lecture capture project going on at the University of Leicester at the moment.  Using Adobe Connect and/or open source software OpenEyA (see for more information) lecturers from Media and Communication and from Chemistry have captured 5 hours of UG lectures and 12 hours of PGT lectures and have posted them in Bb with no guidance or instructions on how students should use them.  This term they will measure use of the captured lectures using Bb Analytics, focus groups, an online questionnaire and extended interviews.  They want to measure how often the lectures are accessed and how students use them.  They will also gather data on student demographics and their preferred modes of study.

If you want help and advise on capturing your own teaching sessions contact Simon Kear in BDRA.

Posted in Projects, Research Support, Service Delivery, Subject Support, Technology & Devices, Training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies, Wider profession | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

User testing on the UoL Library website

Posted by katiefraser on 15 February, 2012

In August last year the Library launched a new website, and in order to facilitate its creation, myself, Selina Lock and Mark Harrison ran a couple of user testing sessions, on the original website and alpha version of the new website. The redesign was prompted by the University moving to a new content management system, and there was support from an Information Architect in holding sessions to discuss content and organisation of material. The focus of the user testing sessions was therefore on navigation around the website and terminology.

New and original home pages

The new (red) and original (blue) homepages side by side

The participants

15 participants took part in the testing on the original website, and 5 participants in the testing on the alpha website (where we experienced significantly lower take-up and turnout to the tests). A mix of taught and research students and staff were recruited to participate in the testing, and there was a good spread of subject disciplines represented as well.

In order to get a little bit of background information, each participant completed a questionnaire. This indicated that around half of the participants had not been introduced to the library website by their Information (subject) Librarian. From this we could conclude that a signficant proportion of users would be approaching the website without having received formal training on its use.

Navigating the websites

Wherever possible the participants were paired, and encouraged to discuss the tasks they were given aloud. These discussions were recorded. In both the original and alpha website tests tasks involved navigating around the website to find certain pieces of information, such as a book, information on a company, a PIN reminder and a journal article. These tasks were identified as common user activities by the librarians.

Major themes arising from the participants’ navigation and discussion of the website were:

  • Library-specific terminology could be confusing, e.g. terms like catalogue
  • Users were uncertain about which system listed particular resources, e.g. the difference between the catalogue vs. e-journal lists vs. databases
  • Information was sought in context, e.g. PIN reminder information was expected to be by the PIN entry box
  • Information was expected to be consistent located across different systems, e.g. the library homepage always listed at the top left
  • Users could often end up in a ‘dead end’, e.g. searching for information within the catalogue which was in a different system, and never returning to the main website
  • Users often abandon the website when stuck, choosing to send an email or contact library staff instead

It was therefore concluded that terminology needed to be improved on the new library website, and that there also needed to be more consideration of where information was located on each page. The improved structuring of the website did seem to have improve the location of information for some tasks in the alpha website testing.


Example of alpha mock up

One of the alpha website mock-ups, with one set of terminology options

In the alpha testing, users were also presented two alternative mock-ups of the alpha website, with different terms on each. Half of the groups saw version A first, and then commented on the version B as an alternative, and the other half saw version B first, and then commented on version A.

Some terms were more debated than others. A particular issue involved differentiating between the new discovery system, which allowed searching by journal article title, and the existing journal title search, with participants putting the article title and journal title in both boxes interchangeably.

The expertise of the users had a significant impact on preferences for some terms. Novice users preferred the label ‘Books’ for the catalogue search, but the more experienced users (particularly academic staff) felt that this oversimplified the diverse range of materials in the catalogue.

Where an explicit preference arose, this term was included in the new version of the website (now visible at However, even the current solutions to the most debated terms (the Articles, Journals A-Z and Books searches) continue to confuse a proportion of users.


The main conclusions arising from the studies were the following:

  1. Don’t assume that library website users will have had training: a proportion of users will always be approaching the site ‘blind’.
  2. Terminology is an issue, and some terms present bigger challenges than others. Describing searches is a particular problem because of the multiple search interfaces available. This problem isn’t yet entirely solved by discovery systems (which don’t always offer journal title searches, for example).
  3. Information needs to be consistently presented on different parts of the website and help needs to be contextually located, near to its point of use.
  4. The difference between library systems (catalogue, journal title search, discovery systems, databases) are not instinctively understood by users. Furthermore, once a user enters one particular system, it will often serve as a dead end: users rarely return to the homepage and look for an alternative route to information.
Many of these conclusions are directly applicable to the design of library websites in general, and the outcomes were consistent with more general guidelines for website usability.

Posted in Digital Strategy & Website, Service Delivery | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »


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