It’s that time again

We have hit exam time on campus, which is an ideal time to review what worked well in the last exam period and what we are doing for this one.

During the last exam period we provided the following activities

  • jigsaw puzzle
  • sudoku puzzles
  • crossword puzzles
  • colouring-in
  • knitting/crochet
  • fruit from the Guild of Students
  • Sweets in jars

For the Jan exams  colouring-in, fruit & sweets were well received but none of the other activities really took off and we received very little feedback about the activities.

We also ran into problems of belongings being left in the library, food and rubbish left on desks and a little seat hogging. None of this was major as we still had enough seats for the students studying, but it was something to think about ahead of the next exam period.

Additionally the campus was able to extend opening hours at the weekend in the Jan exams and at a Student Library Partnership meeting this was highlighted as the most important thing we could provide in the coming months.

In the intervening months, the jigsaw was suddenly opened and at breaks between lectures, small groups of students could be seen playing with the jigsaw. Just before the exams it was finished,  and there was demand to provide a new one.

So how did we approach this exam period?

All of the exam activities are under a heading of Take a Break, combining the activities that worked well, the new interest in jigsaws and wanting the manage the space better for all students.

TAKE a BREAK (1)

Activities

  • 2 new jigsaws have been purchased and a 3D puzzle of a London bus.
  • Fortune tellers – print outs to make their own little origami fortune tellers
  • Knitting
  • Colouring-in
  • Sudoku puzzles

Food and Drink

Sweets have been purchased for the sweetie jars and we are waiting to hear from the Guild if they will be providing fruit, although this is likely to be in the main University exam period which starts later than our campus. On a good week (when I have time in the morning) there is also cake in the library.

Taking the lead from our main campus in Liverpool we are giving away Golden Tickets. These tickets are a voucher for one free regular hot drink at the campus cafe and we have 50 vouchers over the 5 week exam period. There are tickets that are hidden in the library and some tickets will be given out in response the tweets and WeChat messages.

golden ticket

The main campus have extended the Golden Ticket giveaway for this exam period and I’m looking forward to finding out how their new golden tickets are received.

Extended opening

Extended opening at the weekends is back and for the whole 5 weeks of the exam period which is great for the students and hopefully the numbers of students here at the weekend and the positive feedback will demonstrate that this is well received by the students.

Seating

Inspired by University of Sheffield library we are trialling a Take a Break Pass.Take a Break Pass

The students can ask for the pass to put on their study space giving them 45 minutes to have a break. This is especially useful as the students are using study spaces that can be booked by staff and students, so helps us manage bookings, provide the students with the study space they prefer and make sure that they take breaks.

Have we got it right?

Well it is still early days, but one week into the exam period and we’ve had an additional two jigsaws finished with requests for more and requests for more sudoku puzzles. The fortune tellers just went out on Friday and I came back on Monday to little piles of fortune tellers scattered in the social space. I’m not sure there is the same enthusiasm for colouring-in, but there is the odd knitter taking a break. It’s a complete change around from the first exam period.

Take up of Golden Tickets was initially slow as the students didn’t realise what they were for, but there is huge enthusiasm for them now, new tickets get snapped up pretty quick. The best take up has been from the tickets we hide them in the library, rather than students interacting with us on social media, but we are using both methods to make sure a cross-section of students can get one of these vouchers.

The students have also been writing their ideas on the feedback wall, perhaps not surprisingly these revolve around hot water and food. This isn’t something we can provide in our library space, but perhaps it is something that could be provided at the campus in other areas, so we have passed this onto the campus team.

Additionally,  it seems that more libraries are providing activities for students in this exam period so there is plenty of inspiration at the moment. I’m very taken with the idea of a chess board as inspired by @UCLSSEESLibrary and I do wonder about lego or other model making toys which might have a bit of the jigsaw appeal but can be reused more than the jigsaws can.

So, what exam activities are taking place at your library?

 

Library activities during exam time

Last year in our library we looked at “take a break” activities we could provide for the students during exam time. We went small scale as we weren’t sure how well these will be received, so chose activities that were free and easy to set up. In the summer 2015 exam period we went with colouring in and knitting/crochet, using free colouring in pages and some pens, pencils and knitting supplies from home (don’t think the children have noticed a few pens and pencils have gone). We used our social seating area for the activities and advertised with posters on the tables and noticeboards as well as flyers in the study areas.

  

These activities were well received by our students, with the take up of colouring-in the best received and we have continued to provide both activities throughout the year due to it’s popularity.

With our next exam period approaching I thought I should look again at our exam offering and had a bit of a scout around what other libraries provide during exam time. I did find this useful summary by Leila June Rod-Welch from a presentation at Brick & Click Libraries: An Academic Library Conference (14th, Maryville, Missouri, November 7, 2014) which summarises a review of library websites for destress activities over exam periods.

As well as this I sent a quick tweet out, which  resulted in some great suggestions from the twittersphere. So thanks to the following for their
great suggestions @schomj @cjclib @samanthahalf @schopflin @CaliSpina @bethanar @niamhpage @jwebbery @NickyAdkins @tinamreynolds

Suggestions include

  • knitting and crochet (as I missed it off the original tweet)
  • crosswords
  • bubblewrap
  • exercise room
  • loom bands
  • massage therapy
  • therapy dogs/petting zoo
  • nail art
  • origami
  • magnets
  • mindfulness tips
  • lego

The suggestions from twitter were great, some require a bit more organisation and collaboration with our student team before we can go ahead, but it’s a great list to make plans for the June exam period. For the Jan exam period we are increasing our activities to include a jigsaw puzzle, sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles, as well as colouring-in, knitting/crochet. We may also be able to provide origami and magnets if I can find the right supplies at home.  We are lucky again that all of this we can do without incurring a cost. We are also going to be the place students can pick up fruit which is provided by our Guild of Students. We’ve redone our posters and flyers to show that specific areas of the library can be used to relax during the exam period and are using the same branding to create two new sets of flyers, one for indicating which activitiy they prefer and one for commenting on other activities they would like us to include. These flyers will also help inform what we should provide of the June exam period.

And below are handy links for some of the activities we provide in case you want to do the same are your library.

I hope this provides some useful ideas for other library looking to provide activities during the exam period. If you have any further suggestions of possible activities? Either something you’ve thought of or something you’ve tried that was well received, please let me know in the comments or via twitter

2015 in review

So 2015 brought in some changes on the workfront. Librarycow has moved to a new pasture and is now working at the University of Liverpool in London Library. This is a satellite campus that opened in it’s current building in Sept 2014, having spent the first year at the University of Law. The current campus now been open a year and we have meeted and greeted our second intake in the library, although the third year for the campus itself. The role, which is shared with a colleague, is as librarian for the campus. Working at a brand new campus and brand new library makes quite a change from working for established and historic universities I’ve worked at prior to this, so I thought I’d review some of the similarities and differences.

The Building blocks

In previous roles collection development was heavily weighted towards weeding a collection that had been built up over hundreds of years, whereas in this role we need to build a postgraduate level collection and do it rapidly. We have gone from a library without bookshelves at the very beginning, to all our shelves now being full. We have reading lists  set up for every subject, so we have all the required readings in the library. The next step is to look at collection development techniques for building a collection, rather than weeding a collection. For me, it’s a lot of fun to use the same tools and methods (e.g. citation analysis, collection usage) build a collection rather than look at ways to reduce a collection.

Variety is the spice of life
In this role no two days are the same, from dealing with printer jams, eduroam failures #dammitjanet, developing and delivering academic skills sessions, dealing with a flood in the library, helping find information for dissertations which range in topics from corporate social responsibility to public health in African communities, making circulation systems work……..

Everyday brings something new, which I’ve had in previous liaison roles and one of the reasons I like working in this area. I guess for me the change has been the range of enquiries and building up expertise in areas I previously only had a little knowledge in. We have great colleagues in Liverpool to call on, but for the campus we are all the various library services rolled into one. We are Customer Services, Acquisitions, Academic Liaison, Cataloguers etc etc, every one of these roles falls into our remit, which for me this is a great learning experience and is also part of the reason I went for the role. As a new library we also have the opportunity to define how and what we support at the campus, even exploring areas of support outside the traditional library role, adding even more variety to our role. I don’t think we are doing anything completely revolutionary, but it’s great to look at new area’s of support

The “On Call” librarian

The role is effectively “on call” all day, we have an open door to our little office in the library as we want to be as approachable as possible. This has really worked and we have students and staff popping in all through the day whether they have an in depth dissertation enquiry, want to suggest new items for course readings or even simply want to say hello. The new challenge is staying focussed despite interruptions (an area I’ve generally struggled with anyway). I’m learning to work out the ebb and flow of the whole week, and to plan work a little more in advance so can adjust what happens on each day (I’m learning a lot about to do list and productivity software and what works for me). Things like knowing teaching days, coursework deadlines, exam times and events on campus is really useful for this. Switching off distractions and dealing with one task at a time is another. It’s far easier to pick up one task after an interruption than 2 or 3, although less distractions is problematic when you are also meant to be manning social media accounts. It’s still hard, especially for those tasks that require a bit more concentration and thought, but it’s starting to feel more manageable.

Balancing act

We have to balance the role the library plays at the main campus with providing a library service at a different campus in a different city. What would work for one campus may not work as well at the other campus. One way we approach this is to find out as much as we can from our students to make sure we develop our service with them in mind. We’ve found out about the teaching on campus (see above for finding out timetables, deadlines etc), so we know our students won’t be on campus unless there is teaching and teaching often takes up a whole day. We work closely with student support team, so we know we have a much higher ratio of overseas students compared to the main campus, and our students live further away from campus (why does every journey across London take at least an hour).  Another way we approach this is to gather feedback whenever we can, from the traditional ways by attending all the Staff student committees, to using other means such as our feedback wall. We also try and gain feedback not just for services that we already provide but also for services we want to develop.

It’s good to talk

This aspect I really love at our new campus and makes this role very rewarding. We are really closely linked with all the staff on campus, the student support team are our informal team, they are the colleagues we have team meetings with as well as more informal gatherings. The library is on the same floor as the academic offices so as well as more formal academic liaison meetings we often see them informally –  on their way to lectures, making a coffee, even at the copier. We also try and hold various events in the library, from the expected library training to setting up a craft club, and creating spaces to destress during exam time. All of which helps us support the campus the best way we can and makes the library is an integral part of the campus community.

 

I really like and am inspired by this quote from R. David Lankes “Bad libraries build collections; good libraries build services; great libraries build communities.” and this is what I hope we are building at our campus.

 

 

 

 

The year ahead

As this blog is called Librarycow’s Library Reflections it seems apt to reflect on 2012 and what it has meant for me.

What started as a fairly calm year brought unexpected events, most notable of which for me was a new role.

I’m now “acting up” as a team leader for the science subject librarians. While it’s not a role that I’ve been comfortable with all the time, I’m gradually becoming more confident in what I do. I won’t deny I’m still finding my feet , but I’m enjoying the adventure rather than being in a state of mad panic.

I finished my PGcert. The PGcert process has been an enriching experience for me. I won’t deny there were bad times (tears at 4am when I could find anything to write), but the overall experience did make the tears worthwhile. I found the overall experience far more rewarding than my Librarianship MA. The knowledge and experience it brought were far more relevant to my role. I also found the process of learning far deeper and reflective than the MA. Now this may be due to nature of the subjects, but to my mind it reflected what an masters course should involve :- a move to independent thinking that provides a bridge between undergraduate study and a research degree /professional qualification.

I helped organise the 2nd London LibTeachMeet, you can read all about it here. I had a great time and it was great to meet so many talented and passionate people with an interest in infolit.

I became more professionally involved with other groups as well, such as Information Literacy Group and USTLG, joining in with London Libraries Learning Research Reading Group. I gain a lot from these groups so I think it’s a good thing if I can give something back, even if it is only a small amount. Hopefully I can continue with this next year and perhaps even set a little bit more time aside for it.

So what will 2013 bring, well I can’t say, but I hope that I look forward to it and take up the opportunities that come along. I don’t really have any work based resolutions (it was interesting while reflecting on this year and thinking about next year that most of the resolutions revolved around family life).

My one firm resolution is to make sure that I catch the 6.15 train home. This will involve me working smarter, but it is one resolution I want to be able to tick off on December 31st 2013.

Otherwise I want to stay more involved, through groups like ILG/USTLG and joining in with the Information Literacy Journal Club. I would also like to visit some of my fellow professionals. I’m very interested in finding out how other institutions provide information literacy and hopefully during 2013 I can book in some visits to see how they do it.So can I come and see you?