A trip to Cambridge

A while ago (erm nearly a year now – I am a terrible blogger) I visited some of the libraries at the University of Cambridge. Much thanks go to Niamh Tumelty who made it all happen and arranged visits to a great selection of libraries. Thanks also go to Pat Aske at Pembroke, Jodie Walker at Peterhouse, Meg Westbury for an interesting discussion at lunch, Sonya Adams at Selwyn College, Rose Giles at the UL and Emma Etteridge for making sure I didn’t get lost between English and the main University Library.

I wanted to visit the libraries in Cambridge because I could see the similarities between our satellite campus library and the College and Departmental Libraries of Cambridge.

The over-riding message I took back from the day is how much all the library staff I met go above and beyond to make the libraries meet and exceed the needs of their students. There were so many good ideas to take away from these innovative librarians to take back to our campus library.

Some practical points I took away for implementing at our campus were:-

  • Opening the library open for longer and staffing it with postgrads – a potentially useful idea as our campus develops.
  • Books on student welfare & literature – basically going beyond the required texts and having material to support the whole student. Also possibility of ad hoc novel collection, not purchased by the library. We’ve gone some way to providing this in London, from having books on careers to buying books to help with IT basics. We haven’t developed a fiction collection yet, but there are still a few months left of this academic year and we have set up a book club this year.
  • Display cases throughout the library and the College to display objects and treasures from the library. At the time we were investigating how we could display Special Collections from Liverpool at the London campus and came away with several ideas to do this, as well as the potential idea of displaying student work.
  • A mixture of seating throughout the libraries from study carrels, group desk, sofa’s and beanbags. This did lead to the purchase of two beanbags at our campus which are often used by students and created an extra seating area in the library. We also rearranged the sofa’s in the social space which has increased their use.
  • Involving students in events e.g. Students create xmas tree out of books, craft club, treasure trail for museums at night, dark rooms and bookbinding activities, escape room type event, alumni weekend, library valentines, what do you love about the library, students giving book reviews.
  • Advice for new students from older students displayed in the library. Am very tempted to see if we can get our current cohort to do this for the next year’s students.
  • Activities such as colouring, jigsaws, lego for exam time. We set up colouring quite early on and this is used quite regularly, we’ve started to collect some jigsaws and board games for the library which we hope the students will like.
  • Cambridge Penumbra which is a shadowing scheme for the staff at Cambridge University and College libraries, which could be something to explore between the satellite campuses.
  • The University Library had camera and software for creating ID cards, would love to have this at our campus
  • Loved seeing the plans for the library up and displayed in staff areas – I’d seen an example of this in my previous workplace and there was another example of this at the UL. I think being able to see what the goals are for the year (and when you’ve ticked things off) is really good to make sure you don’t forget them in the day to day. Being reminded of this is giving me ideas for our office noticeboard.
  • The staff often tweet about useful tools and this is another good idea for our twitter account.

Below are a few pictures I took on the day

I’ll be catching up on writing about a the other visits I made last year, but this has made me realise that nearly a year is up since I visited another library. It’s definitely time to start thinking about visits again, if only to visit Niamh’s newly refurbished Department of Engineering library, which looks great in the photo’s. As well as finding new libraries to visit, visitors are always welcome at our campus library.