Wednesday 29 October 2008

Birds Eye View of Edge Hill University

Thanks to Narco for the tip to look at Live Maps - not something I'd ventured across before, and might even save us a few quid (we've just had a request to purchase some aerial photographs of the University).

This image shows the LRC (library) and how small it looks in comparison to our newest build, the Faculty of Health - kind of back a bit, SW and looking like a building site, which it was 2 years ago.

The most amazing thing about this image, is that it loooks very different to the college of higher education where I started my study almost 9 years ago! It's a very different place now, physically, organisationally and in terms of the size of student and staff, but still a very green, lush campus, and a great place to work.

Monday 27 October 2008

Creating Business Models

Edge Hill University and Blackwell entered into a unique and very interesting business agreement last September (2007).

The University had introduced a very innovative bursary scheme, which offers all full fee paying students a £200 return, to be spent only on learning support materials. (It won the 2006 Times Higher Award for Outstanding Financial Student Support Package)

During the first year of the scheme, Learning Services attempted to support the purchase of text books and stationery through the help desk, putting a significant amount of pressure on an already stretched service.

In January 2007, I started to look around for a solution that would ease the pressure on the service and offer a professional retail experience for our students. In thinking about this, and discussion with colleagues, we decided that we needed both a virtual/online presence, in addition to a physical/store presence.

At that point, there didn't seem to be an awful lot of choice of booksellers that offered a dual option. A chance conversation with Matt at Blackwell BBS led to a recommendation to speak to the retail and online arms of Blackwell, as they seemed more able to offer a solution.

A rapid succession of meetings followed, with the design of a unique business model taking place. Blackwell's Online and Retail divisions were at that stage very separate and it seemed at times to be a 3 way conversation rather than a 2 way supplier/customer relationship but it all worked out in the end.

From initial meeting to go live was a period of 6 pretty intense weeks, this involved designing the shop area (luckily we were refurbishing the foyer area at the time!) and designing a bespoke online bookshop area for Edge Hill students and staff.

Launched in September 2007 the shops were a roaring success, an evaluation in November led to very positive comments from students who enjoyed the flexibility of ordering from home, and having items delivered, or browsing the campus shop. Interestingly, there was a 50/50 split in online and shop sales, and quite some competition!

I've been meaning to put pen to paper for quite some time about our experience, and this does only just scrape the surface, but I've been thinking about it again recently as I'm involved in the inter-regional tender retail bookshop sub-group.(try saying that after a bevvy) The inter-regional tender brings together NOWAL (North West Academic Libraries), LUPC (London Universities Purchasing Consortium), SUPC (Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium), NEYAL (North East and Yorkshire Academic Libraries) and MUAL (Midlands Universities Academic Libraries). This group aims to use the purchasing power of all five consortia to gain better discounts and levels of service and deliver value for money.

The first meeting is tomorrow with representatives from Bournemouth, Bath, Newcastle and De Montford as well as Edge Hill. I'll post about progress (as much as I can).

Monday 20 October 2008

REaD - Reading, Engagement and Development

For a while now (a few years), I've been working on several projects based around reading/resource lists. Initially it was to consider how we do things at my place, and how we could improve the process from a staff point of view. That done, and a little more focussed, we changed the remit to look at the student experience of reading lists, and given the almighty call of 'not enough books on the library shelf' looked at ways we could improve their experience, in terms of search and retrieval, and access methods.

A lot of good work has been undertaken, a lot of relationships strengthened, and a whole new way of working has emerged. (It needed to, we couldn't go on the way we were).

The final phase of the project is to consider how we engage academic staff with reading lists, given that many take over a module/programme where reading lists are already in place, and they are quite often low down on the priority list for attention- especially if the one there does the job.

We are starting to deliver some CPD sessions this week to colleagues, giving opportunity for discussion around understanding of, and expectation of students and staff, strategies for consideration when developing a list and the technologies that are available to assist (or otherwise).

I'm really looking forward to it - Lindsey Martin, who is our E-Learning Strategy and Development Manager at Edge Hill University will be taking on the philosophical side of things, whilst I'll tackle the practical and organisational elements.

I reckon more work will come out of the discussions, an institutional proposal for 'Reading, Engagement and Development' is already on the cards so let's just see where this week takes us!

p.s. Thanks to Jackie Chelin for all her advice on 'Reading Strategies'. The work UWE has done has been instrumental in moving this project forward.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Writing a strategy for Web 2.0!

A Web 2.0 Strategy - is that a contradiction in terms..? I've been working on a project to remodel our departmental web pages over the last 9 months, due for launch in January. Recent conversations with colleagues have led to requests that the new web site is 'web 2.0'. I have a bit of an issue with this in a few ways.

1. The fact that it is a corporate higher education site means it is pretty much by default web 1.0.
2. When colleagues are talking about web 2.0, they are talking about discussion boards, which isn't in the real sense web 2.0.
3. Most colleagues who are asking for this, seem to be using the latest buzz word, and haven't engaged with web 2.0 at all, yet are hoping that we as a service can understand it, and engage users with it.
4. Some colleagues think it is about particular apps, for example, we should have a facebook policy - so what happens when facebook is bought out or starts charging, or changes dramatically.

Shouldn't it be about why we are using these apps, what they can do for the teaching and learning experience of our students, how we engage communities, how we get feedback, how we watch what is being said about us etc etc....

As yet we don't have a web 2.0 strategy - do you? I get the feeling that by the time we've shared the understanding of what web 2.0 is and written one, we'll be very much into web 3, in which case this may be a pointless exercise!

I'm going to be doing some benchmarking to see if anyone else has one (maybe as a part of the overall web strategy), that I can look over, but I'd be very interested in your views, and what you might be doing at 'your place', HE or otherwise.

Tuesday 30 September 2008

UK's best Universities

A post inspired in part by Chris Keene's post at

Chris asks 'What are the top 20 Universities in the UK?'. (via Twitter)

Reading the comments is interesting, and I considered my answer, albeit briefly, before posting. You will notice that many of my top 20 are not Russell Group, not traditional red brick Uni's, but ex-poly's, mostly post 92.

My thinking around this was that I could only really comment on those Uni's that I'd had an interaction with professionally, either in my current role as Information Resources Manager, or in previous roles (LMS Project Manager, Learning Technologist). I don't really watch the league tables, as it is likely that our place will move up slightly but will never hit the top 10.

If I had answered with the Oxford's and Cambridge's of this world, I'd have been talking about perception, a wider perception than my own. The comment may come across as pretentious, or as a stand for the underdogs but it isn't intended to be either. And, it is such a broad question that I felt it would be useful to focus the attention - best for what?

On another point entirely, I'm meeting with Linda Rush tomorrow to discuss our new READ project, loosely based on something that UWE have been doing over the past few years. I'm really looking forward to this, and assisting in delivering a couple of professional development sessions for academic colleagues over the next couple of months.

Part of the initial discussion will be around the definition of academic reading, how we put reading lists together and what we mean by essential, desirable etc. The expectations of students and staff are key in understanding this, however are very rarely discussed at any level of study.

I'll keep you informed on progress!

Friday 19 September 2008

Living it up in the smoke..

I got talking to a couple of fella's on the train a few weeks ago. We were discussing the merits of finding a good hotel in London for pretty cheap, they were self employed, and I'm tight with the company's money! Now, I have stayed in London a few times, and have to say that it is usually a not very nice experience - lots of traffic noise, not great customer service, and hotels that are missing an 's' before the 't'.

One of these chaps suggested using which I had heard of, divulging that they had had some great deals with 5* hotels for not a lot of dosh. I've been playing about tonight, trying to suss out a good hotel (a bit luxurious if I'm not in my own bed, and away from my family) that is handy for Euston station, University of London and Westminister Abbey that looks relatively safe for a lone female traveller. Having spent 2 hours faffing about, I'm still no better off, and am wondering if being conscientious really is worth it.

My payoff - should there be one, will be that I'll get a good expensive hotel, for a decent acceptable price for the company. So, my question to you is - Do you know the way to San Jose?, sorry - wrong question - Any good hotels in London near Euston??

p.s. I could crash at friends, but after a day's business meeting will really just want to chill and watch telly, and not make much effort to be sociable!

Wednesday 9 July 2008

A day in the life...

An interesting challenge posed by Lauren's Blog. Write about what a librarian does in a typical day..

2 things before I start, there is no such thing as a typical day, and I think I may be the only non-librarian in my type of role in the whole of the UK (but willing to hear from anyone who thinks differently!).

I'm the Information Resources Manager at Edge Hill University, UK which is a similar role in lots of ways to a Technical Services Manager.

Today then, 8am start and checking any urgent emails whilst saying that I would clear my inbox (yeah right). Big project on the go in relation to reading lists, and a whole new acquisition workflow so looking for emails from two suppliers, as we're trying to match up the marc fields that we'll receive from one, with the LMS so that we won't have to manually input orders anymore - yay.. Deb in Inverness, Fiona in a very wet Ringwood.

Read the Governers report that landed on my desk before passing it to Ruth to catalogue and file, and discovered that EHU are planning to build student accommodation to the tune of 10 million squid, and some other things.

Went to see the Dean of our service to have a chat about some of the information in the Governors report, and digressed into Leadership courses, SMS enquiries, current projects and writing for research.

10am - attended staff development session on Infozone - an online induction that is supported by staff but stands alone should students need to refer back to it. Very interesting, and good to have time to look at it properly. Main things that came out of it was the need to have it aligned with the LS web pages, and that it probably needs a wider team to look after it. Very useful though..

Whilst in the session, was hunting for some further information on leadership courses as recommended by boss, and emailed for programme information for an April 09 intake.

Caught up with a project team member who can't make tomorrow's meeting, and had 5 minutes then back to the office.

Quick check of emails before heading off for lunch with colleague.

Back into it, and loaded some test bibliographic and order records to see what outcome would be. Fed back to both suppliers re: results. Not quite there yet, but I'm sure it only needs a little tweak.

Worked on a Library 2.0 presentation that I'm delivering next Monday, thought about a presentation that I'm delivering next Friday at our staff conference, created a document in Google docs gathering research on IM (Instant Messenger, and Interruption Management) and read a few articles.

Used spark chat tool with colleagues who are new to it, and passed on IM dictionaries relating to jargon and slang!

Discussed with a colleague the possibilities of using Google Scholar in our link resolver, and did a bit of digging in WorldCat - updated our profile and emailed for clarification on some things.

Emailed Sonya at LibraryThing in relation to getting an institutional account so that we can play at putting word clouds in the library catalogue.

Had a chat with a colleague looking at Google Analytics as part of the Walter project, and how we might use the stats. In addition, using the stats from both the web pages and the library catalogue could prove very interesting! Google showed that I accessed from Cork at the end of June !

Got a quote from Allwag for the LS merchandising, which I'll need to follow up tomorrow as it happens, and spoke to Angela to discuss/negotiate price decrease based on quantity ordering.

Wrote a team update and sent it to senior managers, the team and the IRD team for information.

Arranged a visit to Chester University to benchmark the fines payment product. Phew...

Checked on progress of receipt, sorted out a 'too much leave' issue, had discussion with colleagues about use of IM Spark and how it might work for the service.

Booked a day's leave for friday and arranged to meet a friend.

In between, facebooked a bit, twittered a bit, read my google reader and hotmail, received a pep talk from a trusted confidante, and that was about it which took me to a 5pm finish!

I'm sure there were other bits in there too, but hopefully you can see that it is anything but a 'typical' role (which is why i love it) , and books were never mentioned once !!

5. 10 Pick Georgia up.
5.50 Get home and make tea
6.30 Tidy up and play (one usually cancels other out!)
7.00 Bath time for Georgia
7.45 Bed time for Georgia
8.00 My time !!! Blogging, twittering, research, writing presentations (see library 2.0!), housework if i can't avoid it, and reading (currently Taleb's Black Swan, just started it)

Oh, and I might add - it was a 5.50am start this morning!

Friday 27 June 2008

Only in Ireland

Have just returned from a 2 day business trip to Ireland, Cork to be precise. It was my first visit to the lovely Emerald Isle, and there were lots of other firsts, including trying a glass of guiness (and liking it), being guided to Murphy's (which is Corks own better version of Guiness) which is very nice, and being driven in a peugeot 107 (interesting!).

As it was work, there wasn't much time for looking around, however, we did manage some time in the city, a few hours getting to know UCC - University College Cork, and its art gallery and libraries. There just so happened to be an exhibition on the book, which was very interesting and gave me some good ideas as to what we might do with some of our stock from the LRC... library!

Stayed in a lovely hotel, the Lancaster Lodge, which I'd really recommend.

The Irish colleagues that we met were very friendly and really interested in what we were doing at Edge Hill, and some of them had even heard of us. One of the presentations led by Dr Philip Cohen was titled Learning Spaces, and it was nice to see half way through, that photographs of the ground floor learning space in the LRC appeared, and Philip talked about what Edge Hill had achieved on a limited budget and how great it was - yeay!

Some of the Irish Institutes (which formed a consortia to purchase Innovative) were doing some great things using RSS feeds, and librarything to form tag clouds in the library catalogue. Definatley something to take away and consider for EHU.

It was interesting that the programme was varied and covered issues such as Information Literacy, Leadership in Libraries and Customer Service. There was also opportunity for colleagues to get together and discuss in facilitated sessions, which are usually the most useful sessions.

Colleagues were keen to learn more about how EHU is utilising the library catalogue to develop online reading lists which encompass digital articles and chapters, books, journals, electronic resources and even past exam papers.

One of the really good things to come out of the visit is that the IIUG (Irish Innovative User Group) and the EIUG (European Innovative User Group) have started to have discussion about a joint EIIUG meeting in 2009, which should host up to 200 delegates. As a committee member of EIUG, this is something that I'd really welcome, and i'm sure would be beneficial to all concerned.