24 April 2013

Asking awkward questions ...

Attending UKSG is always an stimulating and somewhat exhausting experience and I enjoyed attending presentations on a range of topics.  However, as I can’t encapsulate them all here, I will use the new few posts to consider some of the issues that particularly struck me. Do feel free to comment.  

The conference website has links to the programme, slides and videos of the presentations.

What’s new for libraries

Sarah Thompson and Liz Waller from University of York library reported on a project to improve their services to students.  They began by asking 17 other university libraries about what they were doing. 

This yielded an extensive list of service improvements, some of which will be familiar to most librarians.  I noted longer opening hours, silent study areas and reduced-cost or free printing; more ebooks, a greater use of PDA for acquisitions management and the provision to first year undergraduates of e-readers with e-content already loaded.  Applying for Customer Service accreditation was another interesting idea, perhaps a good way of demonstrating the value of a library service.   It will be interesting to see how students receive their new services at York.

A presentation from a librarian at the Open University on their acquisition and promotion of ebooks largely mirrored our experience at Cambridge.  It's good to know we aren't alone in the joy and pain of this format!  While I sympathised with her frustration at the lack of a single source of information for prices and availability of ebooks, I suspect that with such a range of licences, access restrictions and prices it is unlikely that this will be available for some time, if ever.

University of Surrey librarians have been engaged in developing the use of mobile devices so they can advise students using them to find resources etc. They have done this by running sessions for staff to “play” with various devices and encouraged their use of iPads at work.  Here I wondered whether device specificity is going to become a problem.  Is Bring Your Own Device going to become the norm for staff as well as students, and if so how will they be co-ordinated?

Like most of us, I'm fascinated by the impact of the availability of e-content on library services.  Students understand that The Times online behind a paywall while Wikipedia is free to use; even that a book in whatever format must be paid for; but are puzzled that library purchased ebooks are restricted by licence terms, even though print loans have always been restricted by borrowing periods and availability.  The problem, it seems to me, is that suppliers have perpetuated the worst elements of library provision instead of developing the potential of the ebook.  Meanwhile, free (illegal) ebooks can be found online or simply scanned in. 

I'm going to look at this more in another post, but am now asking myself whether, or for how much longer, the traditional model of library print circulation, with loan limits, periods and possibly fines, will be acceptable to students. 

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