Posted on May 8th, 2012 by Paul Stainthorp
As I start to understand the aims of JISC Collections’ KB+ (KnowledgeBase+) project a bit better, it’s starting to seem more and more relevant to the real-life problems of e-resources management. At last week’s meeting of the Technical Advisory Group, here were the things I found particularly interesting:
- The proposed database model for journal package data, which does a neat job of distinguishing between the various ‘layers’ of ERM (in allowing data to be recorded separately for the issue, title, package and platform involved in a particular subscription deal);
- The proposed links with the GOKb project in the USA, including the possibility (and it’s only a possibility at present) for sharing/co-designing data import processes; and the aims of the GOKb project itself in building and publishing collaboratively-maintained journal package data openly for the Kuali Open Library Environment;
- The plans for live user testing of the first KB+ data release later in May, which will include e-resources librarians from 10 institutions getting their hands on the data and initial UI. This seems like a really useful and rare opportunity to do some near-real-world testing with groups of experts in the field of ERM. (N.B. this first group of 10 users doesn’t include the University of Lincoln – but I’ve asked Liam Earney if we could have ‘observer status’!);
- The interesting questions (raised by Owen Stephens) around the complexities involved in representing overlapping journal package deals to e-resources managers – how will the librarians react to having their assumptions (and their mental model of what a journal ‘deal’ is) … challenged? My gut instinct is that we ought to want to know the underlying detail of multiple access rights in a single journal package – to dispel the ‘myths’ that might have grown up about our holdings over several years, even if it makes things look more complicated than we thought they were. (Naturally we need a way of re-presenting / simplifying this complexity to our users.)
I’ll continue to make notes about KB+ on this blog.
Posted on November 27th, 2010 by Paul Stainthorp
This is one of those seemingly-simple jobs that turns out to be more complicated (needlessly so, I’m sure) than you might expect: that of communicating the Library’s opening hours to our users.
I’ll admit in advance that I’m a terrible pedant when it comes to consistency and getting small details right, which probably doesn’t help.
But why so complicated in the first place?
- We have five separate libraries (sort of—one’s a ‘reading room‘—which AFAICT is just a small library). Each library runs different hours, ranging from 142 hours/week at the main, GCW University Library during our periods of 24/5 opening, down to just 19 hrs/wk, spread over 3 days (at the aforementioned ‘Theology Reading Room’ in Chad Varah House).
- It’s not just library opening times: we also need to communicate our library desk service hours, which are usually shorter [naturally...] than the building hours. This is perhaps becoming less important as self-service takes off, but don’t dismiss it as a pedantic librarianism – we’ve learned that users really value knowing the difference, and get irate if we don’t tell them in advance that we’re going to close a help desk 15 minutes before the building closes.
- The opening hours change throughout the academic year to take account of Bank Holidays, vacation periods, and changes to the teaching calendar. Needless to say, each campus runs to its own slightly different timetable. There’s a reasonable amount of autonomy for the campuses – which means they can be flexible to meet local needs, but does mean there’s no one person who necessarily has all the year’s opening hours at their fingertips.
- Topically, there’s always the odd snow day, just to keep things interesting!
If you try and give the users too much of this constantly-shifting information in one go, it starts to look far too confusing on the webpage, poster or flyer. Not enough detail, and students/staff (rightly) complain that they’re not being kept in the loop.
And the University of Lincoln’s opening hours aren’t even really that complicated: our near-neighbours and close acquaintances in the Sibthorp Library at Bishop Grot (a.k.a. Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln) have it much worse.
So, here’s what I’ve tried to do, in order to get the opening times across clearly. It’s worth saying that I don’t think we’ve cracked it, yet.
- I overlay the tables with properly-proportioned, colour-coded bars (again using CSS), to give a visual indicator of the length of the working day. Colour is used to distinguish desk service times from self-service opening. I liked this idea when I first thought of it, but feedback has been mixed—people are generally indifferent—and I do worry that it’s just confusing.
- A few weeks in advance of University vacations, I usually post PDFs (like these: 1|2|3|4|5), one for each campus library, containing the vacation opening hours. These have the advantage of being self-contained documents, which I can leave up for users to download without cluttering up the website or disturbing the in-semester opening hours. But they’re a bit clunky.
- We’ve been experimenting with using a spreadsheet on Google Docs to allow my colleagues (via Google’s sharing-and-permissions options) to edit their own library’s opening hours, including vacation and Bank Holiday ‘exceptions’ for each campus library… the idea being that we could then get Jerome to use the information to generate flexible opening-times displays on the fly. I’m not sure how well this will work in a live environment, and rather than using Google Docs we may end up creating something bespoke within the Total ReCal project to track and ‘push’ changes in library hours out to students’ own personal calendars, as well as to the web.
The daft thing about all of this is that I shouldn’t really care about our opening hours: it’s not particularly my responsibility, just something I picked up because it generally falls to me to get stuff online for the Library. And it certainly shouldn’t absorb as much time and mental energy as it does… but dammit, I just want to get them right.
Q. Is it just me? How do you make sense of your library opening times for your users?