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Posts Tagged ‘books’

Distance Learning Postal Loan Limits – survey results

Posted by gazjjohnson on 2 September, 2011

A few weeks ago I asked the UK educational library community some questions about levels of postal loans that they mail out to their students from stock. 35 individuals responded on behalf of their institutions and as such this is by no means a comprehensive survey, but merely indicative of the trends in postal loans as evidenced by the responding institutions.  As promised here are the results of that work – my grateful thanks to all those people whom took the time to respond to my survey!

For contrast to the national picture you can read about University of Leicester’s service here.

Do you post items from library stock?



Yes: UK based users only


Yes: Overseas based users only


Yes: All distance learners


Yes: UK and Ireland


Yes: Part-time students/anyone who has difficulty accessing the library


Yes: Any student off campus (not just DL)


Yes: BFPO addresses




Do all categories of users have the same limits?

Response Percentage
Yes: All users have the same limits


No: Limits vary by course level


No limits




No: Limited to p/t DL students only


What is the maximum number of items a distance learner may have on postal loan at any one time?

Response Percentage
2 items (shipped at any one time), unlimited**


3 items (shipped at any one time), unlimited**


5 items max


8 items max


10 items max


12 items max


13 items max


15 items max


20 items max


Unlimited (to normal borrowing quota)




**Values not included in Unlimited percentage

There is some variance hidden in the unlimited figure, due to the maximum number of loans varying by degree level for most institutions.  Many of those reporting an unlimited level of postal loans commented that few users took advantage of it; due the cost of returning items.  For some institutions this made a potential ceiling of 40 items on postal loan per user at any one time (ResPG students). The single institution that set a ceiling of 10 books for postal loan applies a £5 per item charge any items over and above this level.

How closely are any loan limits applied?



Strictly (virtually no exceptions)


Broadly (limited exceptions above normal level)


Flexibly (limits are guidelines only)


No limits


 Other comments

Additional comments were received from respondents amplifying the information they had given.  The following are selected highlights.

  • A number of respondents noted that the service was a lowly used one, and hence their loan ceiling was set generously high.  However, at least one noted that were the service to take off more that they would struggle to staff it with their current resource.
  • A number of institutions (4 in the sample) noted making a charge for the loan to cover postage costs.  Some have a flat rate, while others make a variable charge depending on where in the world it is being sent. Rates of between £1.40 to £5 per loaned item were quoted.  One institution offers a discounted rate where items are bundled, while another charges strictly on a per item basis.
  • Most, that noted it, pay for the outgoing postage and expect the student to pay the return costs.  One institution commented that departments are liable for the outgoing postage charges, and the students for the return.  Another noted that students themselves were liable for outgoing and return charges.
  • Many of the respondents noted a photocopy from stock supply service or scan to email service operated alongside their postal loan service.  Only one institution noted an active policy of eBook purchasing for distance learning students through faculty librarians encouraging academics to purchase these in preference to the print.

Key findings

From the sample it is possible to conclude:

  • The majority (91%) do post items from stock, mainly to distance learning students.
  • The modal value for postal loans is at an unlimited level, up to the maximum allowed by degree level.
  • UK based students (85%) are more likely to have a postal loan service than overseas students (37%).
  • Most institutions impose limits (80%) on the number of items postal loaned.
  • Some student loan limits (43%) vary by course level (PG/UG) or type (P/T or F/T).
  • Most institutions adhere closely to their postal loan limits (96% of those with limits).
  • A small number of institutions charge for the service, or make students or departments liable for outgoing postal loans.
  • The majority cover outgoing postal costs but expect students to cover payment for the return shipping.
  • Other supply services (photocopy, emailed PDFs and eBooks) operate in partnership with postal loan services at most institutions.

Posted in Document Supply | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The death of the textbook?

Posted by knockels on 16 June, 2009

I first heard about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to replace textbooks with online materials while driving to work the other day.   Since then, it has attracted my attention in a number of places.

The report I heard first was on the Radio 4 Today programme and suggested that he wanted to replace textbooks with websites and laptops.   This might, it was suggested, be as expensive as the textbooks.    But then another report I read (and I can’t remember where, sorry!) suggested that he wanted to replace textbooks with ebook readers.  And then it turned up on Have I Got News for You?, the BBC satirical news quiz.   There it was dismissed by one participant as a bad idea, in a tone that suggested that there could be no other reaction.

I think the most important thing, whether it is websites or ebooks, is the thing suggested by John Dunford, the head of the Association of School and College Leaders, who appeared (metaphorically) on the Today programme – the main issue with this replacement of books with electronic content is the issue of quality.  How will students know that the material they are reading is of good quality?   Of course, this is an issue with books too, and exactly the same issue is present in the same way if ebooks are used instead of print.  But if it is really websites, the issue has a new dimension.

Finally, on the HIFA2015 discussion list (HIFA2015 is campaigning for access to health information for all by the year 2015), several contributors have extended Governor Schwarzenegger’s suggestion to a developing world context and pointed out that access to electronic information is much more difficult there, so replacing books with anything electronic just does not work, for most people, yet.

Posted in Collection management, Technology & Devices | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Sony Portable Ebook reader review

Posted by gazjjohnson on 3 December, 2008

Sony EBook reader

The Sony Portable Ebook reader

In preparation for the HRH visit tomorrow I was loaned the library’s portable ebook reader.  As it turns out the turn I’m doing in the end won’t involve using it, but all the same I’ve had a couple of interesting weeks playing about with it.

If you’ve not had a chance to get your hands on one of these (and considering Amazon lists them at £219 last time I checked that wouldn’t be a surprise) what is most striking right away is the screen.  Designed to look more like a conventional page would to the eye without tiring it, which is something it does quite well.  What is a slight niggle is that it displays text (monochrome only) even at the lowest magnification a little larger than I’d expect, which makes even short books pages more in length than their physical counterparts.


Page turning thumb buttons

Why does this matter?  Well due to the biggest failing of the current model to my mind – the page turn.  To turn a page is simply a matter of clicking the thumb buttons half way up the right hand side, which is quite a natural option.  There’s also a dial button in the lower left that duplicates that function.  However, when it turns a page the whole screen goes black and then the new page appears.  It didn’t bother me much at first but as I read through The Importance of Being Ernest it got a greater and greater annoyance.  It wasn’t giving me a headache, it just took far too long to flick to the next page of what is simply plain text. 

All that said I did read the book throughout quite easily at my desk, waiting for the train, sitting in bed.  The feel of the reader and its leatherette case is quite comfortable weighing about the same as one of the more hefty paperbacks; considerably less than a hardback.  I will mention that its metal case scores in terms of ruggedisation, but loses points for freezing your hands off on a cold train platform.  A thin plastic veneer around the edges would go a long way to overcoming that problem.  Or naturally a pair of gloves for the user.

Oh and whilst I didn’t test it (this being a loaner) it naturally failed the bath test; or at least I don’t think I’d want to risk reading one of the 95 preloaded books in the tub.

Downloading books

In terms of battery life it does better than quite a few other portable gadgets that I own (sat nav and PSP come to mind) in not just the longevity of the charge, but also how well it retains that charge when switched off.  If I don’t use my TomTom for a week it’s as flat as pancake.  With not using the Ebook reader for a week, it had over 3/4 of its charge left.  Vital for something that I might want to pick up and use at a moments notice.  Recharging, and downloading new books, is via a USB 2.0 cable with a UC-E1 end (the sort your digital camera has most likely). 

I downloaded a book on marketing from one of the free ebook sites we recommend which worked fine as a simple file transfer.  There is software that comes bundled to manage the ebook’s books, but from experience of mobile devices I’m happier using explorer to directly plonk items to the flash storage.  One less piece of bloatware to clear off the home PC (and obviously couldn’t install on the work machine).

Unfortunately none of our subscription ebooks I could find allowed download to portable readers, so I couldn’t test that out.  Doubtless if I’d bought an ebook for myself I’d hope this would be just as painless a process.

Ports and controls


Top and bottom

In terms of other ports there is 5.2v DC in (not included with the reader I had), a standard walkman headphone jack and volume control on the bottom.  The top has twin slots for a PRODuo and SD cards as well as the sliding power switch.


Close up of screen and controls


Other controls on the main body of the reader include a bookmark, zoom, menu, menu navigation D-pad and numerical buttons down the right hand side.  Using these it is easily possible to navigate or jump to a specific page.  I confess I wasn’t overly fond of the numerical buttons in terms of look and feel; they felt a bit clunky and out of place with the smooth lines of the rest of the device.  But they worked, and function before form is something I can live with.

So overall a useful little device, with some software flaws and hardware niggles, but it does the job.  Would I buy one for myself?  The answer is no – I’d like to wait a couple of years for the developers to get the page turning faster and less looking like an etch-a-sketch at times, a revision to the numerical buttons and perhaps a warmer to the touch feel than cold metal.  And I’d like it for about £150 less and waterproofed thank you very much.  Not such a tall order is it?


Posted in Technology & Devices, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

I’ll take a satnav any day

Posted by gazjjohnson on 13 August, 2008

I’ve been a “proper” librarian for a change today, and that means I’ve been out of the office and moving things around on shelves.  One of the many tasks I’ve had on the to-do list for a bit was updating our guidance for geological surveys in the library.  Having reformatted the page, I thought I’d best wander to the physical stock and check it all tallied.

It did…for the most part.  However, there were a few nasty little errors and a handful of omissions to correct.  There was also a shelf and a half of books out of sequence for…well I’m guessing a while looking at the dust on them.  I decided that it would be more effective to shift them myself – given that by the time I’d worked out whom to ask to sought this out and waited for them to fit it into their work-plans it could be term time!

Thus when I link to the geosurvey help page from Rooms2, I’m going to quite content in the knowledge that it’s an accurate guide!

[Edit: And the page is live…]

Posted in Collection management, Subject Support | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »