Time to Reflect on Resources & Collection Development

Carol Barker, Senior Assistant Librarian: Bibliographic Services, De Montfort University

Carol reflects on how she and colleagues approached the challenge of planning an effective workshop drawing on multiple speakers, before examining the day’s outcomes.

Preparing to Train

This highly engaging event attracted a total of 22 staff representing 13 of the Collaboration’s member institutions, clearly demonstrating the level of interest in this subject area. The presenters were Paul Cavanagh and Natalie McKenna from the University of Derby, with myself (Carol Barker) from De Montfort University. The talks covered three distinct areas, although each related to the subject of Access to Resources. Respectively the speakers covered books and inter-library loans (ILLs) (Carol), evidence-based decision making for journals and databases (Natalie), promoting resources, academic engagement and new services (Paul). The speakers had met several times in the lead up to the event, to ensure our topics not only fitted in with the workshop’s theme but also didn’t introduce too much repetion or overlap. Additionally, with so much ground to cover within the three hours allocated, we were keen to check we could effectively fit everything in!

Personally, I wanted to use this (workshop/presentation) as an opportunity to evaluate what went well (in my projects) and what I would do differently next time; it wasn’t really a training session, nor a very informal discussion, but somewhere in-between. As a former Candidate Support Officer for CILIP, I was keen to share my personal learning journey during my five years working in DMU’s acquisitions section by reflecting on a few projects which I had taken a lead on. I also wanted to use this as an opportunity to evaluate the workshop and my own contribution, especially considering what I would do differently next time. I think it is important to acknowledge that you don’t always know the answers, and can’t always get things right, but that’s ok as long as some learning takes place. Moreover, it’s crucial to celebrate when you have implemented something which overall is successful in its aims!

As a result of my ruminations I felt that active audience participation through group discussions would be essential to all of our presentations. Fortunately, Paul and Natalie agreed this would enhance the sessions if we gave colleagues time to reflect on and evaluate their own learning and experiences of resource-related projects, and time to share this with delegates. On personal reflection, I would allow more time for discussion at a similar event in future, as there was so much to evaluate and share on the day! This was really satisfying to see, with delegates noting the value these discussions contributed towards their own professional development journeys.

The Workshop

Breathing a sigh of relief when my presentation was over as I don’t consider myself to be a natural trainer [I find this hard to believe Carol, I’m sure you were terrific! Ed] I was really interested to hear Natalie’s presentation. She spoke about improvements in usage reporting which she has implemented at the University of Derby, which had explored not only the quality of the data but also the support and guidance provided to subject librarians and academics. Natalie also demonstrated the fascinating Cost Per Use Calculator which caught everyone’s attention and admiration. The calculator indicates increases or decreases in costs per use, along with rises and falls in resource usage, across a two-year rolling period. Colleagues empathised with her No-use Newspapers and Shiny New Newspapers database examples, which clearly illustrated contrasting usage figures. The Calculator also provides a very visual dashboard interface which delegates felt was accessible and engaging. 

Paul’s presentation showcased a recent project at the University of Derby where the opportunity to bid for extra funding, with tight deadlines had arisen. This had been an exciting activity, but one requiring input and collaboration between several stakeholders, which represented a challenge. Library staff, academics, and students had all been involved at some stage of the project, which helped in making a strong case for investment along with satisfying the bid criteria. In this way everyone’s contributions helped to enable the library to expand and promote its provision of learning resources, in a manner which would more closely met the disparate stakeholder desires. A great deal of analysis, consultation and hard-work in a very short timeframe resulted in lists of those resources which would show a demonstrable return on investment (ROI). It was particularly interesting and inspiring to see the colourful infographic-style promotional materials which came out of the student co-creation element of their Books for You project. Paul’s exploration of the communications strategy relating to the library’s investment was also of interest to delegates.

Touring the Venue

After the presentations and final questions, I led a tour of DMU’s Kimberlin Library, which again was well attended by delegates. Colleagues were keen to see the newly refurbished spaces and hear about the recent Refreshing Resources project. This had seen approximately 80,000 (or 25%) of our least-used titles being withdrawn, and additional student study spaces being created as a result.

Reflections & the Future

“Make the day longer”, “More practical tasks”, “More time for discussions”, “More collection management events, please”

The sessions were positively received and the feedback from delegates was equally very positive. Delegates reported they enjoyed the opportunity to network and hear about challenges, experience and best practice in this area, with a number specifically finding the usage and data analysis tools session useful.

I mentioned earlier facilitating this event was an important opportunity for reflection. If we were to run a similar workshop in the future, clear lessons could be drawn from both our own impressions as well as delegate feedback. Chief among these insights were desires for more interactive time away from workplace-based pressures to discuss issues with empathetic colleagues. Would the event be as popular if we increased its duration to include more discursive and interactive elements? Perhaps! Nevertheless, including more space for formal and informal discussions, including lunch, would I believe have served to facilitate even more of the beneficial networking, practical activities and conversations which took place.

I’d like to finish by sharing some reflections from my co-presenters.

It was inspiring to see how passionate all of the delegates were about the work that they do, and how eager everyone was to share their experiences and learn from each other.  It was clear from the various discussions that everyone is facing a lot of challenges, many of which are shared by all institutions.  Despite this, there was a lot of positivity and some great ideas about improvements we can make to better meet the needs of our users. (Natalie McKenna, University of Derby)

We were given a very wide brief for the event, and I think this is reflected in the presentations. We wanted to offer three distinct topics around providing resources which focused on sharing our experience and best practice…The practice-based approach worked well because workflows and systems are a key feature of acquisitions and eResources [work]. The sessions didn’t assume prior knowledge of the topics, which was helpful given the mix of delegates. The attendees had a range of roles and backgrounds, and all groups were asking questions and sharing their experiences in positive and open manner. A key [takeaway] message for me was that although we have different systems, staffing and budgets, we share common challenges and there are many opportunities to collaborate across the sector. Having more time for discussion will help to explore those issues further. (Paul Cavanagh, University of Derby)

With thanks to Paul and Natalie for their contributions to the event and this article, and all the delegates for their insights on the day.


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