I’m pleased to be able to say, that for the majority of respondents, we seem to be doing most things right. The refurbishment has been well-received and use of the Library is high, especially with first-year undergraduates, which is as it should be.
But there are still areas for improvement. We have taken on board your comments regarding book stock in some areas, and have already bought a number of the items requested. If you did ask for something you can check the Library catalogue to see if it is now in stock, but please bear in mind we have tried to focus primarily on Part 1 materials.
For those of you that made a wider point regarding resources for particular Triposes, we will make improvements, but this will take time in checking reading lists and pinpointing the weaknesses, and allowing for our annual budget. If you want to recommend a particular book that you didn’t put on the survey please use the request book on the enquiry desk. If there is a Part 1 reading list for which we have very little it may be because we have never got hold of that list – this does happen. Please let us borrow it to photocopy if you think this might be the case so we can then work on improving our coverage. The most important thing please is more communication from students to help us improve the stock.
It was also very interesting to see that 27% of respondents use Google or Google Scholar as the first search point when looking for journal articles. This is not a great strategy, not least because many articles are available free through the University, but you need to be recognised as a University member to access them for free. Visiting the journal website through Google will usually result in being prompted for payment.
The best places to start searching for articles are LibrarySearch+, where you can search using the article title, or the eresources@cambridge website, where you can look for the journal title, and then find the correct issue and article. You may need to enter your Raven password to access material, but it should be clear what is available in full text, and for free.
We could also see that not many of you were aware of the Library blog and Twitter. I’m hoping that might start to change, and that we can engage with you a bit more through social media. In particular, the blog isn’t just a place where we write short posts about events or library/University news, though that is one element of it. It is also where you can find maps of the library, loads of information on how to use the library, links to resources and common FAQs. We’d like to make the blog a useful and informative place to visit, so please continue to give us feedback.
We asked about suggestions for improving induction sessions…
Some of you seemed to think it was unnecessary, whilst others thought it extremely important, with a suggestion it should be made compulsory (it nearly is).
A number of you had comments about the timing of the inductions and the size of groups. We are aware that this can be an issue, particularly the group sizes for subjects like Natural Sciences. We are constricted by all the other things freshers need to attend before they start lectures, and the sheer number of students and subjects we need to induct.
But, the idea of having extra sessions for those who missed their induction, or need a refresher in their second or third year is one we will try to introduce this year. The idea of more leaflets on how to do certain things, e.g. reserve books, is one that we will also investigate.
We asked what affects your choice of library…
Book stock, study space, location/convenience and opening hours all scored very highly in your response, with general work environment/ambiance also important for 50% of you. From your comments it seems that the 24 hour opening is something that is really appreciated.
We asked about the Library environment…
Respondents mentioned noise, temperature and the space pressures of exam term as problems.
Noise – as a 24/7 library, it is going to be without supervision for a large part of the time, particularly evenings and weekends. Porters have their own duties which mean they can’t sit in the library. As adults I would hope students might be able to moderate each other sufficiently to create an acceptable working environment. But do please approach the Porters if there is unacceptable behaviour going on. The library is not advertised as a silent study space, but should be a quiet space. The architecture prevents silence, so a level of mutual respect is what is needed to address much of the issue.
Noise from the drop boxes and those returning home from a night out was also mentioned. We’ve had maintenance install some foam to the drop box flaps, which seems to have dulled the noise, but we’ll keep monitoring it and please give us more feedback on that if you wish. Unfortunately it is not possible to prevent noise at the Porters Lodge, particularly from students a little worse for wear after a night out. This is something I feel only you the students can address in trying to change the habits or culture of returning clubbers.
Temperature – you told us it was both too hot and too cold… The Library is a large space, and the temperature is not consistent throughout. We are aware that the top windows occasionally malfunction, and this is reported as soon as we are aware of the problem. We now have fans on the upper floors that you can use whenever you want. You are also free to open and close the windows to suit yourselves. But please consider shutting windows if you leave in the evening to keep the heat in.
You should bear in mind that if you sit still for a number of hours studying you will start to feel the cold in even a warm environment. Make sure that you take breaks, go for a walk or get a drink or something to eat to help keep yourself warm.
Exam term – we’re taking on board your comments regarding how long books can be held in piles during Easter term, and the reserving of desks. We will be introducing systems over the vacation that will hopefully allow the desks to be better used through next term.
In other areas…
- Some of you didn’t like that Homerton’s books don’t show their availability on Newton/LibrarySearch. We are aware of this, but it is a systems issue that is not quickly fixed. We are looking at ways we might be able to get our availability onto the catalogues, but don’t know the viability of this yet. The only full-proof way to have our availability showing is to move our Library Management System from Heritage to the one used by the University Library. At present this isn’t an option as there are over 9000 books that are not yet entered on the University system. We are always working to improve your catalogue experience, but it will be some time before anywhere but the Heritage Online catalogue will be the best place to look.
- Only 39% of respondents were confident that they knew the differences between the various library catalogues. Rather than give a full explanation here there will be a separate blog post on this in the near future.
- A law student asked for more copies of Thomas, Textbook of Roman Law. We will try, but this book was published in 1976 and is not in print. When second hand copies do become available they can be priced anywhere between £100-250 each and are snapped up very quickly. We have made one of our copies reference only so that there is always one available to consult in the Library. We are aware this is not ideal, but this is a specific issue with this book.
- One student asked for more of the wooden book rests. We will aim to purchase more depending on our budget. However, of the original set purchased, five had disappeared by the end of Easter term last year and were never recovered. If we experience similar losses this year we will not buy any more.
- Some of you requested more maps to help you find your material. As well as the map and subject list on the ground floor near the enquiry desk we now have maps on both of the upper floors covering the material you can find there. The maps are also available on the blog, under the Where Things Are tab.