Author: Georgina

Using a feedback wall at York St John University

Following on from Andy’s Speaking Wall post, Clare McCluskey has shared her experience of using a wall for feedback with users over the past few years in her library space at York St John University.

The feedback wall was introduced in 2011, as part of a wider project to increase dialogue between Information Learning Services (Library, IT, Media and Print) and the rest of the York St John University community.  A re-design project gave the opportunity to rethink many of the established procedures.  The library (as it was then) had regular questionnaires, feedback projects and user group meetings, but nothing to enable immediate dialogue.

We have one small wall of the library building covered in ‘whiteboard’ paint, but at the beginning of the project, we simply applied temporary whiteboard sheets to the surface.  This meant we weren’t incurring a lot of expense, should the project be abandoned quickly.  Pens are provided and anyone can leave feedback, questions or comments.  These are then responded to by ILS staff, depending upon who is best placed to do so.  This has become a core part of our strategy to engage with the rest of the community and improve our offerings for them.

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Of course, not everything written on the wall is positive.  Common issues include a perceived lack of resources in a subject area, which may indicate an actual gap that needs filling or that students are unable to navigate our systems to find what we do have:



More books on Buddhism in Thailand.  Thailand religion & Sri Lanka. Please ask your tutors to send orders through for these – we have money to buy them.
Could there be a Caribbean lit sub-section/post colonial lit sub-section. Books in the library are shelved using the Dewey system, so that literature of the Caribbean, or other countries, or different topics, are shelved together.  Always check the shelf number on Discover and watch out for interesting ebooks on the topic too!  If you are having problems locating items, please ask at the service desk.
More copies of the ‘New Collins Japanese – English dictionary’.  It’s the best one, but there’s only one copy.  Also the second edition of ‘The Routledge comprehensive Japanese grammar’ would be nice Yes, we will buy these texts ….thanks!


Another issue which occurs frequently is the old problem of misunderstanding what Athens is and how subscriptions work.  We use Athens as one authentication method, but the convoluted nature of logging in with local details often causes problems and we try to use EZProxy where possible.  The misconception that Athens is the magic answer to accessing anything with a paywall persists, however, and the feedback wall gave us further evidence that we need to explain subscriptions, open access and the whole issue of access to research much more:

Question/Comment Reply
Could we have access to OpenAthens.  Seems like they hog all the best articles. Athens is used here.  Please come to the service desk and ask to speak to an Academic Liaison Librarian who will be able to help you with this.
Why isn’t there access to ALL (mentions very large journal publisher) Journals online? Please ask to talk to your Academic Liaison Librarian, who can explain more about journal subscriptions.


An unexpected bonus is that the students now communicate with and reply to each other on the wall, often beating us to it in the speed of reply!  In terms of managing expectations, it is good for us to know that they are engaging with each other and letting others know that not everyone agrees with their point of view.

I don’t think there will be enough computers for all students in YSJ.  But can you be considerate?  If you are using your laptop instead of the computer in front of you, can you PLEASE move to empty tables instead?

Hard copies instead of electronic books.  They are annoying to read!  …Agree! …sometimes you can find copies, just change your search criteria! … Agreed, or try Google books …….This is the exact opposite of what I want  ..…  What if you can’t get to the library? E-books are easier to find your quote as well.


We keep a record of everything so that we can spot trends.  This has already resulted in a move-around of the book stock in the building and we are about to implement a wider laptop loan scheme, with self-issue.  Excellent work in noting all of the comments by our administrative staff in a single spreadsheet also means that we have a growing data bank to draw on.  We plan to use the NVivo package to analyse it as part of a large project on ensuring we understand the needs and concerns of the community.


imageClare McCluskey
Academic Liaison Librarian
Information Learning Services
York St John University


UX in Libraries goes global

medium_334937864Places have almost completely sold out for the upcoming UX in Libraries conference to be held in Cambridge (UK) in March 2015, so if you’re still thinking about booking a place, you will need to be quick.

The event promises to be truly international with delegates from all over the world converging on Cambridge including librarians from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, and of course the UK.

So if you want to increase your network and be part of something very special, grab your UX in Libraries place today before it’s too late!

The student journey

At the University of Sussex, we’ve embarked on a collaborative venture with SAGE publishers, taking the ‘Child of our time’ approach to learn more about the student journey. We hope that by capturing evidence of the development of an undergraduate during their three years at university, we will be able to track changes in their behaviour and in their evolving interaction with the Library. We hope to gain a deeper understanding of how students develop their research skills, how they discover resources, how they use them, and also to gain some insight into how they want those resources to be delivered.

Students on the discussion panel for the Booksellers conference, Brighton 2014

Students on the discussion panel for the Booksellers conference, Brighton 2014


The three undergraduate students, from Geography, Psychology and International Relations, have signed up for three years with us. What do they get out of it? A scholarship (funded by SAGE) but also the opportunity to develop their communication and presentation skills, to use social media skills in a professional environment and the chance to work with an international academic publisher. All things that will look very good on their CVs when they finish at Sussex.

What were we asking of them?

  • A time commitment equivalent to up to 2 hours a week during term time
  • A commitment to writing regular blog posts and taking part in Library activities and events
  • Active engagement with SAGE


Dear diary…

LearnServ105Learning Services (at Edge Hill University) have been interested in using ethnographic techniques for some time now to gather more meaningful information about how students are interacting with our learning spaces (and don’t worry…we still keep stats on how many people are coming in and out of the building as well!)

We were originally inspired by research undertaken by Bryony Ramsden for her PhD and she kindly signposted us to the extensive research on this topic in the States.

Our Learning Spaces team regularly use activity counts, non-participant observations, scribble sheets (and more!) to give us a better insight into how students are using our learning spaces and this type of activity is now embedded in our practice.

After reading up on the ERIAL project and The Library Study at Fresno State we decided to try using student diary mapping to give us an additional viewpoint – direct from the students themselves.  We did try this technique with a small group of students last academic year and what did we learn…?  Well – mainly that students need more incentive than ‘your views will help us shape the future of your learning spaces’ and so this year we tried a different approach…

In a nutshell we recruited 10 students and paid them for their time.  Students were asked to undertake three complementary activities:

  1. To write down all activities (related to learning!) undertaken in two days from the moment they woke up to the moment they went to bed.  We wanted details of the activity, but also any thoughts/feelings and any barriers they experienced
  2. To map out (to literally draw on maps of the building) their journeys within the University library learning spaces
  3. To take photographs of things that were important to them and vice versa i.e. photographs of anything that got on their nerves!

Students were also asked to take part in a semi-structured interview; our plan was to discuss their diaries in more detail, get them to reflect on their activities, probe them for more information.  Basically to open up a dialogue.

It seems that we got the incentive right this time!  Ten sets of diaries, maps and photographs have been submitted and we are half way through the conducting the interviews.

So what next…?  Well, as well as working through all of the data we have gathered (there is a lot) the plan is to invite all the students who took part in the diary mapping to take part in ‘design work shop’.  No idea what that will involve at this stage – but I picked up the idea from Paul-Jervis Heath following a really useful session at the i2c2 conference in March – so we’ll see how we get on…

I would love hear from fellow novices like me (or experts!) about your diary mapping, or other ethnographic techniques.  Get in touch, or even better –  write a blog post….

DSC_2853cropHelen Jamieson
Customer Services Manager
Learning Services
Edge Hill University

Photo credit: Learning Services, Edge Hill University

Ethnographic methods: a student perspective

origin_345712329So obviously I’m biased.  I’m writing on here because I’m a firm believer in using in-depth qualitative data collection to learn about what people are doing in libraries.  When I presented in London at the end of March as part of the ‘Spaces, places and practices’ seminar, organised by UCL and IoE, I can’t tell you how excited I was to see so many people there interested in the same thing, in trying out the same methods, and most importantly a desire to learn about their patrons, their community of visitors, to try and provide the best user experience they can.  The following is roughly the same stuff I said at the seminar, but I’ve got more room here to add some qualifying information and some useful links/info!


A summary of ‘Spaces, places and practices’

large_5896530863On 31 March 2014, I was fortunate to be invited to a seminar on anthropology in libraries called ‘Spaces, places and practices’. This seminar was a joint venture by UCL and IOE, with generous support from the UCL/IOE Ideas Incubator Fund.

In the morning, we heard from several speakers who discussed the work that they were doing in different libraries and using different methods. I took limited notes because I was listening so intently to what everyone was saying so I hope my write-up is at least a fairly accurate representation of what was discussed.  We hope to be able to present a more detailed picture of some of the content summarised below on this blog in due course, thereby covering anything that I’ve missed.

Lots of tweets came out of the seminar and I have collated them all as a Storify.