Ten changes we’ve made to the Library website since lockdown – Antony Groves

We are all currently facing unprecedented challenges, as are the communities in which we live, along with the libraries we work for that support these communities. As our University Vice-Chancellor has written to staff “the coronavirus crisis is first and foremost a public-health emergency” and while there are other important aspects of this crisis that I could be writing about, digital inclusion remains crucial. We should continue making our websites as accessible, usable, and helpful as possible or we risk isolating people further over this period. This post is written in the spirit of open practice not opportunism; it will share some of the developments that we’ve made to our website and services since the lockdown in the hope that they can be re-used.

1.      Added co-ordinated notifications

We’ve added notifications to many pages summarising what’s changed in relation to the information on that page. For example, the Your Library account page now has a notification explaining that books do not need to be returned and are renewed automatically. When we add notifications to a page, we add that URL to a spreadsheet noting the change and when we made it; so when procedures change again we can update corresponding pages quickly.

2.      Hidden and re-organised information

We’ve taken the decision to hide some pages (or sections of pages) where the information is no longer correct or relevant, for example we’ve temporarily hidden our ‘Visiting other libraries’ page. We have also reorganised pages so that the most useful information comes first. For example our Find and request books page has been reorganised to follow the path that people now need to take: search our collection for a digital copy, place an interlibrary loan if we don’t currently have it, and if we can’t get it that way make a purchase suggestion.

3.      Created FAQs

I’m not normally a fan of FAQs but users have been asking for one page containing key information about how the Library is now working. The Library FAQs LibGuide was created to address this need and has become one of our most viewed pages. It contains answers to the questions we’ve been most commonly asked over this period, a list containing the freely available resources being temporarily made available by publishers, how-to videos, guidance on tackling the infodemic and more. We’ve also placed a prominent link to the FAQs at the top of the Library homepage to drive visitors to it as a first port of call.

4.      Replaced tours of the library building with a tour of the library website

A large part of this work has involved thinking about where we can offer online alternatives to our physical services. Where we would normally offer tours of the library building, we have instead created a short video to provide a tour of the library website; showing visitors how to get the most out of our digital services.

5.      Replaced room bookings with Zoom bookings

While the library building is closed we’ve replaced the room bookings section of the website with links to Zoom guides (the University’s chosen platform) showing students how they can meet with their group remotely instead.

6.      Replaced guidance on finding books with guidance on finding ebooks

Our ‘How to find’ books page was solely focussed on our physical collections, showing people how to find books on the shelves. Instead of hiding this page we temporarily replaced it with a new How to find ebooks page containing a video. This has become another of our most viewed pages.

7.      Updated visitor information to include guidance on finding Open Access research

Our information for visitors page had previously contained information on schemes such as SCONUL Access. In an effort to be responsive, and focusing on what we can currently provide as opposed to what is no longer available, we have temporarily hidden the information about these schemes and added a video showing visitors how to find and access OA research with our discovery tool. We’ve also added this to our Special Collections page while the archives are closed, along with links through to relevant digital archives.

8.      Added our chat box to more pages across the site (and extended hours)

To provide as much support as possible to our community we have extended the hours of our chat service and added it to over thirty pages across the site as our digital frontline.

9.      Promoted the SensusAccess service

This automated service converts files into formats that are more accessible or just a bit easier to digest – for example changing a pdf to an mp3. We’ve added the link to our discovery tool so that it appears in the details of any electronic material found, and added it to pages across the site. We’ve also made a video to show people how to reformat files in this way. Along with other changes, we would like to organise remote testing with our users to see if these are the best places for the SensusAccess links and what else can be changed to help.

10. Added photos of staff working from home

To show visitors that we are still open and here to help we’ve also added photos of staff working from home to pages across the website (the photo below appeared in a temporary feature we had on the Library homepage when the lockdown began and has since been replaced with the Library tour video):

mmit blog

Much work is going on behind the scenes to make these services function: resources being added to our LibGuides and discovery tool; digital materials being acquired through ILR and reading lists; staffing of our extended chat service; promotion of these evolving digital services through social media and news items; and much more. However, this post is not intended to show-off about the work we have done: boasts of productivity help no-one. It is instead a recognition of colleagues’ tremendous efforts. I have written about our work in the hope that you will be able to re-use some of these ideas, instead of having to come up with your own, and as a result save a little mental energy for when you need it most.

Antony Groves

Learning & Teaching Librarian

University of Sussex Library


Revisiting Ranganathan: applying the Five Laws of Library Science to Inclusive Web Design (Part 2)

Part 2 of Antony Groves‘ article which applies Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science in a digital context. Find Part 1 below.

FiveLawsEvery book its reader’ | ‘Every webpage its visitor’

As every book has its reader, every webpage has its visitor and every service its user. Analytics and interviews provide information on what visitors are trying to do but how can this be foregrounded when developing a solution? One way is to use this information to create user stories. This involves writing a short scenario about exactly why a particular visitor would be coming to a page. When we updated pages, we thought about which people would be visiting that page and what they would be trying to achieve (based on the research that we had carried out and not our own assumptions). This meant that we could focus on the user whilst writing the page and make it as easy as possible for them to carry out the task for which they were visiting the site, a consequence of which would also be to save them time.

‘Save the time of the reader’ | ‘Save the time of the visitor’

Two of the main ways in which we attempted to save the time of the visitor involved the structure of the whole site and the structure of individual pages (along with the services that these pages may deliver). It is important to us that people can easily navigate through the site to find the page that they need and on that page be able to quickly locate the information that they require. To do this effectively, as the Manifesto for Agile Software Development champions, we collaborated with customers.

To improve the structure of the whole website we ran card sort exercises, learning from our community how best to organise information for their needs. This involved asking users to group together different labels (which represent corresponding pages of the website) in a way that they thought most sensible and giving that group a name. For example if there was a label for pens, another pencils and one for books, you might think that pens and pencils would be a logical group and that you’d call that particular group ‘stationery’. This helped us to make the architecture of the site as intuitive to visitors as possible and enabled them to find pages more quickly.

Similarly, with the help of our user stories, we structured the pages in a way that we hoped would save the time of the visitor. We used headings more effectively to make it easier to scan through a page and moved the most important information to the top using the inverted pyramid. I’m not sure whether it is a consequence of our profession, or just me, but I sometimes feel guilty of overwhelming people with information (see, well, this blog post). If someone wants to book a study room do we need to preface that with information about the range of different study areas available to them? Yes, that might be useful information but they’re trying to book a room – this should come first. The inverted pyramid reminds us to put the most important information at the top of the page and save the visitor time.

‘A library is a growing organism’ | ‘A website is a developing organism’

A website may not need to ‘grow’ in the sense of more pages and content being added unnecessarily but it should continue to develop. Through design iteration we have moved from prototypes of the homepage through to a completely live site, getting feedback at every stage. There is still work to be done and over the coming term we will be testing the website with users, making any changes that become apparent after this testing. And this development will continue as we learn more about what our community needs.

I believe that the same should also be true of our profession. From organising card catalogues to organising card sorts, the skills of Information Professionals need to continually develop in order to effectively support our communities. This post may not provide a comprehensive guide to redeveloping your website but I hope it offers a more familiar lens through which to view this work, one that shows how the Five Laws of Library Science should also apply to our digital services.

Revisiting Ranganathan: applying the Five Laws of Library Science to Inclusive Web Design (Part 1)

MmIT Committee member Antony Groves discusses updating the library website at the University of Sussex, applying Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science in a digital context. [This is the first of two blog posts on the topic]

By September 23rd 2020 all of our websites will have to comply with much-needed accessibility regulations. As the government make clear “you’re legally responsible for your website meeting accessibility requirements, even if you’ve outsourced your website to a supplier”. To achieve this, and in turn support our communities more effectively, we should all be working to make our websites as accessible and usable as possible – one not necessarily leading to the other. Whilst this work draws upon the emerging skills of our profession (coding, data analysis, UX research and design) it could also be seen as building on the legacy of S.R.Ranganathan and The Five Laws of Library Science; a framework that some may be more familiar with and one which I hope will provide an alternative entry point to this area of work.

This post will show how the Five Laws can be applied in a digital context, how they align with approaches from other sectors, and how we have used these to start updating our library website (a task that some of you will also need to undertake in the coming months).

‘Books are for use’ | ‘Websites* are for use, by everyone’

The two main drivers behind our website redevelopment were accessibility and usability. As books are for use, so too websites. We wanted the site to be easy for everyone to use and for everyone to be able to use it. To make sure that inaccessible online content can be identified the government provide information about how to perform a basic accessibility check. Should parts of your website not meet the required level there is plenty of guidance on how to address this. For us this included changing background colours to ensure that text was visible, using headings more effectively, and adding ARIA attributes to accordions so that they worked with screen readers.

*our goal should be to build digital services, not websites per se. People will be visiting our sites in an attempt to do something; read a journal, renew a book, pay a fine etc. They are unlikely to be coming with a specific goal of navigating through a website, unless it’s a fellow librarian ‘benchmarking’ (which we also did).

‘Every person his or her book’ | ‘Every visitor their webpage’

This law echoes the first point on the Manifesto for Agile Software Development: valuing individuals and interactions. Every visitor comes to our site for their own particular reason and interacts with a specific part of it. Trying to understand the needs of the user is key; why are they visiting and what are they trying to achieve? We took a user-centred design approach and started with user needs. To begin we reviewed Google Analytics for the site and interviewed our community in what the Design Councils Framework for Innovation describes as the ‘Discover’ stage. We gathered feedback and identified top tasks to focus on what key services the website provides.

[To be continued]

The Five Laws of Library Science.  Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tinfoilraccoon/5489218642

Staying connected in a crisis: virtual working

Jisc have published a helpful guide, Check your tech as part of your coronavirus planning, on making contingency plans in case of self-isolation or workplace closure as a result of COVID-19.  While written for HE/FE audiences, it may have wider application. We’re using some of their headings to highlight resources that may be useful for information professionals who find themselves temporarily displaced from their workplace.  

Obviously, if you are unwell, your energy should be directed to following medical advice and convalescing.  Work can wait!

Collaborate with the right platforms

If you are going to be working from home for whatever reason, do make sure that you have access to the Usernames and Passwords for all the systems you will need remote access to.  Too many of us rely on the saved password feature on our work computers! We suggest that you use use a password manager to record these rather than Post-It notes!

Many of us already support library users at a distance using chat or video. You may find some useful suggestions amongst the recording, slides and tweets from MmIT’s 2018 webinar on using video in your library and information service  (#MmITvideo).

We’ve discovered some helpful guidance on good practices for COVID-19-necessitated online meetings.

Access digital content wherever you are

This should be a quick win for info pros, but have you taken advantage of all the software that you are entitled to download on your own tech? Within HE, you may have subscriptions that permit you to download Office 365 and EndNote, for example, while you are employed or studying.   It may also be worth ensuring that you’ve downloaded the latest version of Adobe Reader and updated the apps that give you access to e-content.

Check out what your employer permits you to save or access away from the workplace (there may be restrictions due to GDPR or sensitive data).  If you can access files remotely through a VPN, test it out in advance.

Are you registered with your local public library for e-books and e-audiobooks?  Most services offer Borrowbox or Overdrive but you’ll normally need to obtain a pin number as well as your library registration number.

Support your most vulnerable

Does your workplace or union provide access to online support services or tools like the Big White Wall ?

Can you access Reading Well recommended titles through your workplace or public library service? You may find that some of the titles are available as e-books.

Virtual spaces for wellbeing

We have a number of posts which touch on aspects of Digital wellbeing on our blog.  Whether you  want to feel better without logging off, find 20 quick ways to beat digital distraction or balance work and life, you’ll find resources of interest.

Many people find podcasts a great way to relax and/or distract themselves.  Everyone has their own favourites but we’d recommend the back catalogue of Jo Woods’ Librarians with Lives podcast.  Plus you can read all about Jo’s experience of Creating, producing and marketing a podcast for information professionals.

Finally, for a bit of light relief try Wash Your Lyrics from @neoncloth.  It generates hand washing instructions accompanied by lyrics from a song of your choice!

#ILI2020 – call for speakers

MmIT will partner with Internet Librarian International again – this year scheduled for 13-14 October. Here’s some key reasons why you should send in a proposal for #ILI2020

MmIT are delighted to be again partnering with Internet Librarian International 2020 during 13-14 October at London Olympia. We’re not yet sure how we’ll follow last year’s ghost robots but visit our stand to find out!

Whether you are a regular ILI delegate and/or a first-time speaker, here’s why we’d encourage you to propose a talk this year:

  • This year’s theme is Strategies, solutions, stories, and strength. We all have stories to share and your strategy or solution may be just what someone else needs to hear!
  • The regular focus on innovation means you’ll return inspired by the talks and informal chats with some of the hundreds of library and information professionals from around the world who gather at ILI.
  • The first speaker on an accepted talk receives a complimentary registration to the two day ILI conference – including lunches, coffee breaks and a drinks reception.
  • The deadline is 3rd April so you’ve got plenty time to hone that proposal…..
Internet Librarian Internation – 13-14 October 2020 – Olympia London

What’s the alternative? Helping students with independent learning at Leeds Beckett University Library

As part of our Digital Inclusivity series, Pippa Wood highlights the work of Leeds Beckett Library’s Alternative Formats Service

Leeds Beckett University Library has been running an Alternative Formats Service for over 10 years, providing reading list resources in an accessible format for eligible students.  Students are referred to the service by the University’s Disability Advice team because they have a print impairment – this is often a visual or physical impairment or a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia. The service tries to obtain all reading list resources in an accessible format for each student from two main sources.  The first is RNIB Bookshare, a repository of books in accessible formats for print impaired students in education, and the second is directly from the publisher.  It sounds relatively straight forward but the procedure is complex and time consuming, and in 2018/19 the service was reviewed, to enable it to keep up with growing demand and build on its success.

With the support of the University’s Continuous Improvement Unit, we used a number of their recommended tools to carry out a review.  Continuous Improvement is a recognised set of tools that provides a framework to analyse systems and processes, and there are lots of different Continuous Tools available.  The main tools that we employed to carry out our review were process maps, waste identification, fishbone analysis and the 5 whys.  The service data we had available was used to inform our analysis.

The review enabled us to understand which areas of the service and parts of the process needed improving, and as a result we have introduced a number of changes, including:

  • Sharing Alternative Formats resources using the reading list system Talis Aspire
  • Enabling students to access RNIB Bookshare directly
  • Implementing a new workflow for creating and updating Alternative Formats Talis lists, carried out by the Library’s Learning Resources team
  • Improving the help and support offered to Alternative Formats students, including creating a new Alternative Formats libguide

These changes have improved the way that the process is managed, removing duplication and single points of failure from our workflow.   Sharing Alternative Formats resources using Talis Aspire reading lists has also enabled Alternative Formats students to access all their reading from one place, using the same system as their peers.  Providing students with direct access to RNIB Bookshare allows them to explore the whole collection and not just the books on their reading lists, enabling greater independence.

During semester one of the 2019/20 academic year there have been 61 students using the service, and we have shared 154 Alternative Formats Talis reading lists.  In the video “The Alternative Formats Service at Leeds Beckett University Library: A Student Perspective”, Jim, a student who is currently using the service, talks about how it has supported him with his academic studies.

Image of Pippa Wood, blog post author
Pippa Wood, Senior Information Services Librarian at Leeds Beckett University

Research(er) Workflows in the Real World – A guest review from our bursary winner.

A review of our December event with ARLG from our New Professionals bursary winner.

At the start of December I was lucky enough to be granted a bursary by CILIP’s MmIT (Multimedia Information and Technology Group) to attend the above event, which was organized jointly by MmIT and ARLG.

This was very relevant for my work as part of my role is supporting PGR students.

After a quick update from the British Library about the new Shared Research Repository https://bl.iro.bl.uk/  which will bring together their current repositories (EthOS, BL Research Repository, etc.), Alison McNab from Huddersfield University introduced the day by talking us through the array of tools that researchers have at their disposal during their research workflow lifecycle, for writing, citing and submitting.

blog research workflow

This was followed by Andy Tattersall from Sheffield University, with a presentation about how researchers can own their research communications so that the media do not misrepresent their research. He recommended that, as librarians, we should promote Open Access, highlight the importance of good engagement with the media, promote the use of ORCID IDs and train academics on the use of social media.

In my opinion, one of the most interesting presentations was by Dr Gabrielle Neher, an academic from Nottingham University, who explained the role of the librarians in her institution as co-creators for her research.

Jeroen Bosman and Bianca Cramer from Utretch University Library advocated the use of open infrastructures for research.

They have researched and mapped all the tools currently available and created the diagram below.

blog research workflow 2

For them, the main reasons for supporting common infrastructures were:

  • For collaborating
  • To support researchers when they move to other institutions
  • To prevent vendor lock-in
  • As an exit plan (disaster recovery)
  • To support community-based development and innovation
  • To contribute to common infrastructure

However, they admitted that institutional policies mean that open source will not always be the preferred option. To find out the best option within these constraints, they have created a tool that compares all the available options and helps researchers decide which one is the most appropriate.

They finished by giving examples of closed vs. open source tools and encouraged all librarians to promote the open source tools.

blog research workflow 3

After lunch, Andy Appleyard and Alison Selina from the British Library focused on the UKRR (UK Research Reserve) which has freed up huge amounts of space in academic libraries through co-ordinated de-duplication, while preserving a national collection and continued access for researchers.

For the British Library, document supply peaked in the mid-90s. Demand has dropped since, mostly due to Google, big deals with publishers and declining acquisition budgets. The British Library has responded to these challenges by sourcing from third parties, concentrating on niche areas and building on their brand and trust.

Their current strategy focuses on four strands:

  • Customer retention
  • Diversification
  • Open Access
  • Living Knowledge

Unfortunately, one of the presenters, Jez Cope, could not attend because of illness. Luckily, Sally Halper from the British Library filled the gap with an excellent presentation on their recent research with users and non-users, which found that most people want instant access to information, free WiFi, quietness, bookable rooms for collaborative working and subject-specific search.blog research workflow 4

The last session of the day was an excellent UX activity facilitated by James Rennie.

First we had to do an individual sketching exercise when we had to draw what “Research” means to our users.

My superhero angel librarian was a success!blog research workflow 5

After that, in groups, we had to map the experience of a new user in our library, what their goals are, their feelings and the services that they encounter.

All the slides from the day are available at https://www.cilip.org.uk/members/group_content_view.asp?group=201297&id=844743

Thanks to the MmIT for sponsoring me to attend this event. I met lots of interesting people, learnt lots and I am already applying what I learnt to my job.

Eva Dann


Information Consultant for the School of Engineering, Physical and Mathematical Sciences Royal Holloway, University of London


Digital tools for raising awareness of work to decolonise collections and promote inclusion

An interview with Jess Crilly, Associate Director Content and Discovery at University of the Arts (by Rowan Williamson)

UAL has done extensive work on decolonising the Collections over the last couple of years. Hand in hand with our efforts to decolonise our collections, is our work to support the University to decolonise the curriculum. Last year this culminated in a  series of events and exhibitions in partnership with the University ‘Decolonising the Arts Curriculum’ zine that toured our six UAL libraries throughout the year. Whilst our physical spaces were all engaged in promoting this work and showcasing the breadth and depth of our collections to support decolonisation, the challenge was how to create a digital presence and that did the same. Jess Crilly Associate Director for Content and Discovery has led the way in developing our approach, and describes some of the tools used below.

“At UAL we are using various digital tools to support the promotion of resources in relation to ongoing work on decolonising collections. Padlet has emerged as a really useful tool in this context, for sharing resources in a rapid, visual, interactive and collaborative way bypassing some of the constraints of other institutional platforms.  Padlet is also being used in the sector for collaboration between libraries, sharing information and practices, and disseminating conference presentations. An example of a co-created resource list that formed part of the  from London College of Fashion library: LCF Library decolonisation Padlet

Online zines are a good way of disseminating counter hegemonic narratives, and at UAL we have now produced the second Decolonising the arts curriculum: perspectives on higher education  zine, an open collaboration between staff and students, which includes many reflections on the role of the library and archive in decolonisation initiatives.*

Collaborating on this work at UAL has also led to more promotion of online resources and media, including Spotify, Box of Broadcasts for sharing playlists of films and TV programmes, film screenings,  we’ve also seen great examples from other libraries who have created YouTube playlists.

The library’s role is also about rebalancing bias and under-representation in online resources and platforms, for example the under-representation of women and people of colour on Wikipedia – encouraging students to create and contribute as well as consume information, including through collaboration with organisations working in this space, such as Art & Feminism.

Discussions around ways of promoting resources surface some interesting philosophical debates. If the ultimate aim is to embed practices and ways of thinking about inclusive resources into everyday work. then how does creating standalone guides, Padlets and playlists fit in with embedding inclusivity? If we are truly inclusive, are these tools the best way to present these resources in a way that helps academics and students to find key resources that support their own efforts to decolonise and broaden their research, their reading lists and their sources or should it be integrated in our subject guides and catalogues?

“Decolonisation is a complex and contested issue, some of the work described above has been about the promotion and sharing of resources, the digital equivalent of the library display, but our concern now is with mainstreaming activity and collaborating to make more structural change. Within the university an example is integrating our work further with initiatives like the Academic Enhancement Model, and in the library addressing bias in our core systems, including classification and metadata. We don’t use a Reading List Management System at UAL, as the reading list, though very important, isn’t the main driver for collection building and the university has mainly enquiry led pedagogies so we don’t have collections data in that context, but are analysing reading lists through a Liberate the Curriculum project, with librarians, students and academics working together to review and reimagine reading lists. We are investigating mapping data from the library catalogue, and visualisation through infographics, to get a clearer picture of characteristics of our collections, such as place of publication, as many other libraries are also exploring.

So we looking for ways to use digital tools, beyond simply sharing resources and ideas, examining library systems to better “see” and understand our collections in the context of our colonial legacies, and hopefully to plot changes in our collections over time.”

*Zine 2 is a production of Arts Student Union, and UAL Teaching Learning & Employability Exchange. Collated and curated by Rahul Patel with additional support from Annie-Marie Akussah, Anita Israel, Hansika Jethnani, Zina Monteiro and Clare Warner.

Jess Crilly is Associate Director for content and discovery at UAL. She has published and presented extensively on this work. You can read more about her work on decolonising the collections here.