I always look forward to receiving the ‘Artefacto Newslet for Libraries’ emails. They contain links to fascinating articles, some of which I instantly read and others I bookmark for later. I have dozens of these articles saved but rarely get back to them, however sometimes just the vaguest glimpse is enough for me to profess a deep understanding of the content!
Earlier this year I met with my manager Frances Roberts, South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture Libraries Service Development Co-ordinator, and Jeanette Castle, Library Transformation Manager at University of the West of Scotland, to discuss ways in which the public and academic libraries might work together. Suddenly a bookmarked article emerged from some dusty part of my memory. I think there was a picture of a student standing at a public library counter and a title that hinted at collaboration. I guessed at what the text might have said and suggested that we could allow UWS Hamilton Campus students to access our public library resources using their student cards! I then quietly berated myself for voicing such a half-baked plan.
However, as we explored the possibilities we identified several potential benefits of such a partnership. We felt that public libraries offered a very different library experience to the academically focused university model. Perhaps students, particularly those living away from home, would appreciate the opportunity to engage with library staff and users in their communities. It would be heartening to think that this seamless access to public libraries could help a little to reduce the pressures of social isolation for some students.
The multiple locations and varied opening hours of our 23 libraries would enable students to take advantage of study and relaxation spaces, free WiFi and PC use, off-campus. We hoped that positive engagement with public libraries would encourage students to maintain that link beyond their course completion.
Throughout that productive and enthusiastic meeting I had an underlying feeling that technology might be the fly in the ointment. Luckily that fear was unfounded, and in fact the magic of barcodes underpinned the project. At a meeting with Neil Buchanan, Lead Librarian (Resources) at UWS, we made the happy discovery that the barcodes on the UWS student cards were compatible with our library barcode readers. This ensured that the process could be fairly elegant, supported by our library management system which allows two separate identifiers for each membership.
The next step was to obtain approval for the partnership from the senior management of both organisations. This was a very painless process as all recognised the positive potential, and significantly, the negligible implementation cost. It was agreed that there would be no data sharing.
The timing of the project couldn’t be better as SLLC Libraries introduced a package of new and refreshed eResources during the earlier part of the year under our activeE branding. This means that UWS students have immediate FREE access to over 5,000 eBooks and 1,000 eAudiobooks, 16,000+ eComics, and more than 7,000 eNewspapers and magazines from around the world. Again this could be particularly beneficial to those living away from home who wish to catch up with their local news.
All that remained was to inform our digital resource providers of the new barcode format and create an instruction for our staff. The project was formally launched on 22nd November in the UWS library. Further promotional activity will be undertaken - including embedding the information in the library induction process for new students - but it’s too early to assess its impact. Nevertheless, given the easy low-cost implementation, any positive outcomes will underline its value.
I’m not sure how ground-breaking this initiative is. I’d be interested to hear if any other Scottish public library services have a similar partnership with colleges or universities and would be happy to answer questions on aspects not covered in this post.
Finally on a personal level, I have learned that it’s not necessary to read full articles when the content can be guessed by a title and picture. A career in tabloid journalism beckons!