“Keep your fears to yourself but share your inspiration with others” (Robert Louis Stevenson)
The most enduringly popular element of the annual Business Librarians Association conference are undoubtedly the sharing sessions in which BLA members present on projects in which they have been engaged at their institutions. The Leslie Baldwin award is presented to the best sharing session and this year’s six contenders made for a very strong field. This time around the sessions were all scheduled to take place on the new ‘Members’ Day’.
1. Alasdair Stewart – The Enterprise Zone at Stirling University
Alasdair presented on the new Enterprise Zone at Stirling (defined as an area designated by the government with an aim to restore private-sector activity by removing certain tax burdens and relaxing statutory controls). A high-level decision was taken to make it happen and then Alasdair was handed the reins to actually make it work. The audience ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ at the 360 degree tour of the attractive new space for the EZ, especially at the sight of the inviting nearby loch glimpsed through the windows.
Events held or planned include a Student Leadership Programme, ‘Women into Business’ and clients like HSBC and Sky.
Working on the EZ has led Alasdair to evaluate his role at Stirling. It also made him consider how we can make an impact outside of our organisations and whether we are building enough relationships with external bodies. The tour is available here
2. Heather Peake – The Knowledge Interchange Online
Heather, from Cranfield University, talked about a new online area for executive development clients called KI Online. It incorporates a healthy mix of Cranfield content and third party information resources and is for both personal development and commercial use.
Defining users was important to make information providers less concerned about licensing their products for access. Providers include Emerald, Datamonitor 360, OneSource and GetAbstract. There is also some free content available on the site for anyone to access.
Other premium content includes different e-learning modules (not designed to answer everything on a subject matter but intended to be introduction only) of which 5-minute tasters are available for free. There are also ‘Hot Topic’ videos and ‘Critical Guides’ in different subject areas.
Future developments include ‘Smart guides’ on mobile phones, customised KI Online portals for specific courses, and also a move on to iTunes-U. Find out more about KI Online at this webpage or via this video introduction.
3. Barbara Humphries – Research services: making an impact
Barbara talked about the development of more personalised services to their researchers at LSE, specifically their new research postcards (the example we saw had a large quote: “Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis”). The postcards have a return slip for PhDs to fill in with details of their thesis topic. Staff found it easier and more effective to go out and approach students with this postcard rather than stand behind an induction stall as had happened in the past.
The completed postcards were given to the liaison librarians and academic support librarians wrote about relevant library resources for each student – personalised to each one – taking an hour a time. A high 50% response rate was received and the postcards were followed up with 1-2-1 consultations. Library staff also put research students in touch with each other on the basis of the topics they detailed on the return slips.
Impact on library staff included:
• Increased awareness of research areas
• Information received on most popular resources and how collections are viewed
• Information to help with selection and collection reviews
• Increased visibility
• Promotion of library resources
• Building relationship with PhDs
Halfway through these sessions we had a break in which as well as grabbing a coffee we all had a chance to read member posters including one I produced ‘Beyond the Library Walls’, a much more readable and accessible version of the poster I had produced earlier in the year for the Cambridge Libraries conference about our Information Point in the Common Room initiative.
4. Marion Kelt – SMILE: a New IL training package
Marion talked about the new SMILE online course at Glasgow Caledonian University intended to help students with their academic writing skills and information literacy. SMILE was originally created as a JISC project by Imperial College London, Loughborough University and University of Worcester.
Marion and her team have added elements including: a unit called ‘What is a student?’; online database tutorials; systematic reviewing pages; information on how to assess a research article; writing up your literature search using PRISMA. Advice on the ‘digital footprint’ made by students is being added soon.
SMILE is now on Blackboard (branded as GCULearn), regular drop-ins are held, and it is going to be incorporated into wider teaching.
GCU are now offering SMILE with other institutions under a Creative Commons License and BLA members were invited to apply. Access the open access version of the site.
5. Meg Westbury –“ It looks too professional”: a fresh take on library websites using WordPress
Our very own Projects Officer at Judge Business School presented next on how we have developed a new front-end service on a WordPress.org blog. Meg told the story of how we first moved from an uninspiring portal to a WordPress.com blog. Although this initial blog was a step-up it had a number of problems: it was too newsy to be engaging; database access took too many clicks; it didn’t push our social media; the banner logo was too large; and navigation wasn’t straightforward. Also Meg found that she couldn’t get ‘under the bonnet’ enough in order to customise it to our needs. The answer was to move to WordPress.org which meant far more flexibility.
After choosing a “clean and clear” theme which could be adapted to our needs with better navigation and spacing, Meg populated the new site with more information-rich content, seamless access to databases, Wikipedia-style subject pages (e.g. Company and financial info.), instant chat and LibraryThing widgets; links to most popular resources; and high-quality images.
I reacted to this first iteration of this new site with the, now infamous, words “It looks too professional” (hence the title of Meg’s talk) because I was fearful that it was so good that institutional feathers would be ruffled by us taking a higher professional, and non-traditional, profile which had not required any extra-I&LS team support. However, much any of us might be recognised as information gurus on the surface, it’s my experience that non-library staff everywhere are much happier about, and less threatened by, us if we fulfil the ‘stamp, shelve and shush’ stereotype. And I’ve found this can be a subconscious rather than conscious reaction too.
Getting back to Meg’s talk, she concluded by detailing the usability testing with students which led to a refinement of the first version to make it less busy and incorporate clearer contact details. The revised version has gone down very well with users. The site can currently be found here, but we will be moving to a new URL as part of the JBS website before the start of the new academic year.
6. Stephen Bull – Lights, Camera, Action: making an impact through a promotional library video
Stephen Bull of the University of Birmingham was the final presenter of the day. He detailed the planning and production of a new 5 minute film promoting Library Services. It was envisaged that it would showcase: study spaces; print and electronic collections; remote access; training and help, and would be used on open days, at inductions, and on the Library website.
Some interesting facts and figures included:
– More than 600 emails were sent during the project
– 210 hours were spent on planning and editing
– 3.5 days filming
– 7 hours footage obtained
– 5 days in the edit suite
– Project lasted 4 months
– 4.5 minutes final length
On reading these stats I couldn’t help but feel that the Warwick model we heard about on Day 1 in which a video camera was given to students seemed much more cost-effective. Nevertheless Stephen told us that the film was considered to be a success and that it had received many views.
Most interesting was what he and the project team learned from making the film: the amount of work required for such a short film; that the film should be short, but the final product needed to be viable for 2-3 years; that in-house advice from media-savvy colleagues was invaluable; student talking heads were more effective than narration and that these students needed to be briefed in advance.
Stephen ended the presentation by showing the film and very professional it was too.
The Leslie Baldwin Award
I was very pleased to hear Meg (pictured left) announced as the winner of the Leslie Baldwin award for the best sharing session. Given she also won a Kindle on the first day it really was her conference.
Because I know just HOW MUCH goes into these events I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Chair Emma Thompson and conference organisers, Maria Mawson and Alison Lahlafi, and the rest of the BLA committee. Great effort everyone: BLA2011 was a vintage year.