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Innovating and sharing new ways to work efficiently

By Andrew Watson, on 1 September 2020

UCL Ways of Working wheelWhen the Retrospective Cataloguing Team adopted the theme Innovating and sharing new ways to work efficiently from UCL Ways of Working as one of our goals earlier this year, little did we know how apt it was going to prove.  Within weeks, we were abruptly separated from the printed material we spent much of our time cataloguing and our chief activity appeared to be curtailed overnight.

Or was it?  One of our key skills is correcting and enhancing metadata, honed through working with Special Collections material stored offsite where retrieval depends on the accurate matching of bibliographic data to barcode numbers.  Analysis of data, accurate matching and enhancement lend themselves to many situations and this is where our journey of innovation led…

We began by matching over 1,900 of our rare books to entries in the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC), a union catalogue of imprints chiefly in the English language published prior to 1801, and added UCL holdings.  ESTC is one of the chief international finding aids for such material.  We then turned our attention to Special Collections archive holdings adding barcodes and shelf locations to records for items contained within 350 boxes of Karl Pearson and J B S Haldane papers.

Next, Tabitha Tuckett enlisted our help in an innovative project she devised to meet academic needs whilst physical collections were inaccessible.  This involved us working with the Special Collections Digitisation Team  to make all stored digital images of Special Collections printed material available online in the UCL Digital Collections repository.  We assisted by enhancing the relevant metadata to enable discovery.  In addition, we added links in the catalogue records so that for the first time, descriptions of our rare books on Explore lead directly to online images of the resources, as in this example from the Laurence Housman collection:  An anti-suffrage alphabet.

Testing software for the delivery of Special Collections teaching, moderating online events, enhancing presentation transcriptions, so the journey continues…

As for my own innovative activity, I’ve been converting Excel spreadsheets of bibliographic data into MARC records for importation into Alma.  Compiled by the Folklore Society Library for their rare material, the data required analysis in order to be assigned to an array of over 40 MARC fields and subfields.  It is the first time this has been attempted for material held by Special Collections which has complex inventory importation requirements.  Tom Meehan provided invaluable assistance by setting up the necessary import profiles in Alma, an innovative activity for him and one deserving a blog post of its own which Tom plans to provide.  The records are now available on Explore by searching for flsrare.

What innovative activities has the lockdown period led you to explore?  Do share!

New Subject Guides Platform

By Lindsay Ure, on 26 August 2020

We have over 45 subject guides on our website, maintained by Subject Liaison Librarians and Site Librarians. These guides help students and staff to identify resources available through Library Services to support their discipline of study.  Over the next month, they are being moved to a new web platform, to improve user experience. Below, I’ve summarised what you can expect to see at the start of the new academic year.

A Subject Guides Group started work in January, to plan the move of our guides from Drupal into LibGuides, a platform designed specifically for libraries.

Here is a sneak peek at the new design (thank you to Amelia Hellyer for allowing us to show this preview image of the Pharmacy guide):

Screenshot of new subject guide design

We’ll also be replacing the Drupal page that lists all of the subject guides with a new subject guide homepage in LibGuides, enabling users to search for guides by title, or keyword. It’s still in draft form, but this image gives you a good indication of how it will look:

Screenshot of subject guide homepage

Many thanks to the members of the Subject Guides group, who have worked very hard over the lockdown period on the new subject guide design and then supporting colleagues to move their guides into LibGuides, through online tutorials, and one-to-one advice and support.

Group members are: Chris Carrington, Francesca Ezzelino, Giulia Garoli, Amelia Hellyer, Zuzana Pincikova, Iona Preston, Paola Stillone, and Zoe Thomas.

I’d also like to thank Subject Liaison Librarians and Site Librarians, who are moving their guides into the new platform on quite a tight timeline, to create an enhanced experience for our users in support of Connected Learning.

SCONUL RETURN 19/20-It’s all in the numbers

By Sandra I Enwesi, on 19 August 2020


It is important that decisions made within the library are primarily supported by data , not only to improve productivity but to make operations more efficient.

The SCONUL (The Society of College, National and University Libraries) return is simply an annual insight , it provides a detailed picture of the workings of  UCL Library Services , allowing us to take stock, plan and benchmark our performance against our peers. In total we collect 34 measures some of which have been featured in my word cloud and are reflective of the different areas of the library.

The SCONUL RETURN 19/20 will soon be open and as I always do I will be collecting promptly, if you provided any stats in the previous return but will not be doing so this year please let me know in an email and advise who has taken over.

In the next couple of weeks I will be sending out emails requesting the stats you have collected (Aggregate figures for the academic year (1 August to 31 July) are generally required) against these set of measurements which continue to provide the information that the Library has found useful for bench marking, internal advocacy and strategic planning .

Sandra Enwesi


(Still working remotely somewhere in north London)

UCL Ear Institute and Action on Hearing Loss Libraries not to re-open in current location

By Anna Di Iorio, on 17 July 2020

The UCL Ear Institute and Action on Hearing Loss Libraries at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in Gray’s Inn Road were due to close on Friday 21st August 2020, necessitated by the Hospital’s relocation within UCLH. Due to the current circumstances and the resultant early closure of the Hospital building, the libraries will not re-open in this location.

Arrangements are being made for the rehousing of the collections from both libraries. Important clinical and teaching material will be retained on open shelves at the Cruciform and Language & Speech Sciences Libraries respectively. The core course books required by UCL Ear Institute/Audiology students will be located at the Language & Speech Sciences Library. The rare book and archive collections owned by Action on Hearing Loss will be transferred to the stewardship of UCL Special Collections, and will remain available for consultation by members of UCL, UCLH and the wider public. Other material from the Libraries will be available for next-day delivery from the Library Services Store.

The UCL Cruciform Hub is now the centre for library provision for UCL Ear Institute staff and students, including information skills support delivered by the training team. The Cruciform Hub is also the home library for healthcare staff and students at the University College Hospital campus, providing a range of facilities and tailored clinical support services.

UCL Library Services is grateful to all those who have made use of the UCL Ear Institute and Action on Hearing Loss Libraries over the years, and proud that we are continuing our long association with Action on Hearing Loss through UCL Special Collections. Further information will be provided as UCL’s plans to re-open its buildings and Libraries develop.

Green Impact 2020: a golden year for Library Services

By Benjamin Meunier, on 17 July 2020

I felt really proud of working for Library Services at this year’s UCL Sustainability Awards ceremony.

With Covid-19 and the lockdown, we had to adapt our services quickly to support our users remotely. The lightning talks from the Library Staff Conference helped to bring to life the variety of ways in which colleagues have worked tirelessly to deliver a continuous high-quality service with a personal touch. Leaving our buildings (and plants) behind, carving out workspaces from home, and working in new ways – all of these things might have served as obstacles preventing our Green Champions from submitting to the Green Impact scheme in 2020.

But there is no stopping our Library Green Champions. On the contrary, rather than 2020 being a fallow year, we have achieved the best results ever for Library Services. As detailed below, we have returned submissions and improved in most areas, with 1 Bronze, 6 Silver and a staggering 11 Gold Awards for 2020. At the virtual ceremony on MS Teams (which you can read about and even watch online), many colleagues took to the floor to “receive” their award and the Dean of the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences Sasha Roseneil remarked on the strong showing of Library staff.


The full list of awards to Library teams is provided below. I want to congratulate all our Green Champions, and thank colleagues who have supported the effort to achieve such a fantastic result for this year. As we sketch our plans for return to campus, UCL is taking the opportunity to operate the campus in a more sustainable and eco-friendly manner. Earlier this month, UCL has received Fairtrade University status. One tangible example is the introduction of 600 new bike parking and storage facilities on campus. For more tips on preparing for a sustainable return to campus, please visit the Sustainable UCL website.


The School of Slavonic and East European Studies Library


IOE Library

Main Library

Ophthalmology Library

Science Team Library

Senate House Hub

Wickford Zero Waste


Action on Hearing Loss and Ear Institute Library

Bartlett Library

Central Library Services

Cruciform Hub

Institute of Child Health Library

Institute of Archaeology Library

Queen Square Library

Royal Free Medical Library

School of Pharmacy Library

Institute of Orthopaedics Library

Language and Speech Science Library


Slade School of Fine Art Degree Showcase 2020

By L ( Elizabeth ) Lawes, on 9 July 2020

Due to the current campus lockdown, this year’s Slade School of Fine Art student degree shows were cancelled – a disastrous outcome for those students who had spent three or four years (BA/BFA) or two years (MA/MFA) studying towards that moment, their one opportunity to showcase their work to the wider world.

But Slade staff and students are nothing if not open to experimentation and have embraced the restrictions by producing a virtual degree show. Each student has their own microsite which includes a personal statement and images or video content.

One of the highlights is the work of BA student Mataio Austin Dean, who has produced a tripartite work titled Colonial Structures focusing on UCL’s colonial connections. Anyone who attended the Special Collections Late event, Protest!  Voices of dissent in art and text, will remember Mataio’s moving performance of the late 18th century industrial ballad, The Four Loom Weaver.

The showcase also has some associated live events; from 13th July Slade Radio will broadcast audio work, discussion, talks and other aural miscellany via Twitch.

The online platform is available until 14th July and is an opportunity to celebrate the work of students graduating, before a celebratory physical exhibition next year.

Colonial Structures: UCL-Wilkins, Mataio Austin Dean, 2020, inkjet on paper, approx. 30 x 40cm.

Colonial Structures: UCL-Wilkins, Mataio Austin Dean, 2020, inkjet on paper, approx. 30 x 40cm.

Results announced for Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize 2020

By Tabitha Tuckett, on 9 July 2020

Books on shelves

The winner – Alexandra Plane – and six other finalists have been announced for this year’s Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize, which aims to encourage students at an early stage of collecting physical books, manuscripts and printed material.

The competition is open to any student studying for a degree at a London-based university, and this year received a record-breaking 64 applications – the largest number in the prize’s history. Universities represented included Birkbeck, Queen Mary University of London, Goldsmiths, SOAS, King’s College London, and UCL which hosted the prize for the first time this year.

Collectors under lockdown

Despite the pandemic, students applied from wherever they found themselves during lockdown, from Norway to Texas, Bulgaria to China, Vienna to North Wales, with many applicants unexpectedly reunited with, or separated from, their collections.

The range of collection themes was similarly wide, from Singaporean debut poets to Slovakian Beat poetry, Norfolk history to a 20th-century novelist who used eight different pseudonyms, photobooks and queer manga to bilingual parallel texts and women’s genealogical health.

Finding the collectors of the future

The guidelines of the competition specify that ‘the intention is to encourage collecting and we expect that applicants’ collections will be embryonic, so their size, age and value are irrelevant. What is much more important is the enthusiasm and commitment of the collector, the interest of the theme and the vision of how the collection will be developed’. But selecting a winner from so many applicants was a challenge.

After a process of longlisting, shortlisting and interviews, the judges have chosen Alexandra Plane for ‘Books that built a zoo’: her collection of works by Gerald Durrell. Alexandra is studying for an MA in Library And Information Studies at UCL.

The other finalists were:

  • Imogen Grubin for her collection of early 20th-century editions of Victorian literature
  • Blake Harrison who collects material on James Joyce’s Ulysses
  • Jiayue Liu for a collection of early 20th-century English Private Press editions
  • Naomi Oppenheim who collects editions produced by Black British publishers in the mid 20th century
  • Bori Papp for her collection of Hungarian translations of English literature illustrated by the artist Piroska Szántó
  • Kit Rooney for a collection of hand-written inscriptions in books.

See the finalists present their collections online

Join us for this summer’s UCL Rare-Books Club Online, every Tuesday lunchtime, to hear the winner and finalists discuss their collections and present some of their books, starting on 14 July with Alexandra Plane, introduced by Anthony Davis.


The judges included representatives of the UK’s Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, the UK’s Bibliographical Society, and Senate House Library who hosted the prize last year, as well as UCL Special Collections.

For the Special Collections team, it was also a great pleasure to collaborate this year with the founder of the prize, Anthony Davis, and to share his inspiring enthusiasm for books and collecting with the students. We hope many of them will continue to develop and cherish their collections long into the future.


The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

By Paul Ayris, on 3 July 2020

UCL Library Committee

Library Committee met virtually on 25 June by Microsoft Teams. It was the probably the first time in the Committee’s long history that this distinguished body had not met physically in a committee room.

One of the items on the agenda was the termly Report from me as Pro-Vice Provost. The Report from the Pro-Vice-Provost  can be seen behind the link. I used the usual structure, reporting against the 6 KPIs of the current Library Strategy, but I fashioned the narrative to reflect the extraordinary events that we have all been experiencing.

The coronavirus crisis led to lockdown in UCL Library Services, with closure of library sites beginning on 17
March. With senior colleagues we quickly agreed a set of themes which would underpin our work:

1. Electronic-led resource provision to support research and education
2. Digitally-delivered teaching and skills support
3. Fully digital enquiry services, which require a proper enquiry management platform
4. Open Science as the model for the future
5. Optimization of learning spaces
6. Research collection strategy in a digital era

These values continue to underpin our work as we develop our service provision to embrace the principle of digital-first in both research and education. It is the move fully to embed digital delivery in our education offering which is exciting, supported by £1.38 million of new money to purchase e-textbooks and to upscale our work on ReadingLists@UCL.

I would like to use this opportunity further to underline the Library’s commitment to supporting colleagues in #BlackLivesMatter. I am, as many of you probably know, a Tudor historian who publishes on sixteenth-century England. I wish here to put on record my repugnance at the views on race expressed this week by another Tudor historian, Dr David Starkey. Starkey’s views are repugnant to me and are completely at variance with UCL’s position.

In Newsletter 12, published today, our colleague Amad Uddin has told us about his team’s experiences in re-opening the Student Centre. He says: ‘I feel proud that Library Services have been involved in the first pilot [in re-opening UCL spaces] as it’s crucial we get back to some sense of normality. We are pioneers, what we learn from this pilot, the good and bad, will help other buildings open in the near future as restrictions get eased.’

Stay well, stay safe and I hope we will all be able to meet again in UCL in the coming weeks.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)


Supporting Black staff at UCL

By Benjamin Meunier, on 26 June 2020

In case you missed it in our daily comms, please find below some additional guidance and support so that we can all help further race equality at UCL.

Supporting Black staff at work

The UCL Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team have produced guidance to line managers on supporting their Black staff. This is also a resource for colleagues, and we commend it for all Library Services staff to read and take action based on the guidance to create an environment which is more supportive of our Black staff and students. 

Managers Guidance – Supporting Black staff at Work

There are many societal issues currently that may be impacting upon Black staff and their sense of wellbeing.  These issues are not new, Black staff deal with them all the time, every day of their lives.  However, there are a number of issues that have brought the presence of racism to the fore in recent weeks. The guidance references the work of sociologist Robin DiAngelo in her book “White Fragility”. To find out more, you could view this video of a reading of the book by the author, hosted by Seattle Central Library in 2018.

It is important at this time to check in with Black staff, ask how they are doing and offer them support. Having conversations about racism is everyone’s responsibility.  For those who are unfamiliar with doing this, the guide may be of some help. This guide is only part of a range of resources and measures to support our Black staff at this time.  It is not presented as a solution in its own right.

Free mental health therapy available for Black people in the UK

Black Minds Matter UK has announced they are providing Black people in the UK with free therapy with Black mental health professionals. Details are available at https://www.blackmindsmatteruk.com/

Nature article Ophthalmology 2020 gaining sight for sore eyes

By Debbie Heatlie, on 23 June 2020

Images from the archives of Moorfields Eye Hospital, held in the Joint Library of Ophthalmology and an interview with the librarian, Debbie Heatlie, feature in a Nature article Ophthalmology in 2020 gaining sight for sore eyes.  It is a fascinating read spanning 170 years of eye imaging to improve treatment, from artists’ detailed drawings, over a century ago, to 3D imaging and modelling, used by surgeons to plan operations today, looking forwards to the future of tele-ophthalmology and artificial intelligence.

The article came about because the NIHR Ophthalmology, based at Moorfields, does a great deal of outreach and publicity work to promote research funded by them to improve patient care and they know of our amazing archives.