Friday, 10 August 2007

Visit to Middlesex University

Fun and games last Thursday with a visit to the brand spanking new Sheppard Library at Middlesex University on the Hendon Campus courtesy of the UC&R group. The main aim of the day for me was to have a look around another academic library and to have a chat with other academic librarians as I'm quite new to London and am generally quite nosy. However, I also got a chance to talk about a whole raft of other issues such as dealing with a similar student body and changes that other libraries are facing and how they're being dealt with.

We started the day with Bob Jackson, a veteran of the University after working as a Subject Specialist for 25 years and then before that as an academic. Needless to say, we had a comprehensive history of the making of the transformation from colleges, to polytechnic to new university - and not all of this will be found in the official history!

The library itself has a fantastic light and airy feel to it - but doesn't get too hot! There's a LOT of glass with great views of trees and distant scenery and greenery. There are some ideas that I'd like to steal for UEL.....

Consumables vending machine
The most amazing vending machine ever thought of! It sells everything you could possibly need to keep students happy and their PCs or laptops running - everything from USB cables, folding keyboards and discs to i-pods, sim cards and web cams. We were wondering about security on it, and there's apparently never been any attempts to break into it, but the big yellow 'this machine is being watched' sign probably helps! Genius idea. Every library should have one.

Staff offices were again bright and lovely. It was good to see that there was plenty of room for staff to work away from students. This was one of the big discussion points of the day! At UEL, we have an open plan library with the staff area open to the rest of the library, although not accessible to students. The noise levels still get quite high. At my old job, my desk was in the library making it difficult to work with all the queries as I was the first port of call for EVERY query. It was good to see that there are actually walls in the library and that the staff have space to get away from the general library hubbub. But in five floors of library there is only one reference desk which strikes me as maybe not being enough.

Staff Facilities were lovely. Big squishy sofas, nice kitchen and several proper tables. It made you want to go and use it.

Current journals display. The university, in the way of many new universities don't have massive back runs and rely mainly on electronic journals. But what they do have are displayed so people are aware of new issues and what is actually available. I would have liked to have seen newspapers displayed as well, but that's just something I'm working on here....

The thing that several people went along to see. From the demonstration and discussion, it struck me that if you're going to go down the RFID route, do it properly. They've decided not to tag the CDs in books or any of the videos or DVDs as the tags are too expensive. But at £1.50 a go, I'd personally think that it's more than worth the money as if the CD goes missing from a book then it's upwards of £45 to replace the whole thing. They've also decided that the best thing to do is to issue the CDs manually from behind the counter - a backwards step? RFID is meant to make life easier for everyone.

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