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Work life balance approval checklist

By Jennifer L Brown, on 16 December 2020

UCL lettering outside the Student Centre

In order to aid with the decision making process when considering work life balance requests we have produced a new checklist for Library managers which complements UCL’s Work life balance policy.

The document also includes guidance for managers in terms of the process once they receive a request.

The checklist entitled Work life balance approval checklist can now be found on LibNet.

Appraisal Window December 2020 to March 2021

By Jennifer L Brown, on 16 December 2020

Decorative image

As we have entered our new Appraisal Window, we would like to bring to your attention some changes for the upcoming cycle.

Appraisal form

During the current Covid-19 pandemic, colleagues in Library Services are asked to complete the abridged version of the UCL appraisal form.

The new format dispenses with Parts A-C in favour of a single document.

Appraisals and Covid-19

This has not been a ‘normal’ year. UCL’s position is that the appraisal write-up should include acknowledgement of any agreed adjustments to objectives, workload or working patterns, for individual members of staff. Where a barrier, such as the impact of COVID-19 or lockdown, may have impacted on an individual’s ability to meet agreed objectives from the previous year, it should not impact negatively on the individual in terms of demonstrating good performance over the past year. Nor should their revised working pattern/workload create a barrier to any learning and development opportunities which have been identified as part of the appraisal process.

See more information about holding appraisals this year.

How to manage the appraisal documentation


  1. The Appraiser and Appraisee should keep a signed copy of the appraisal document, in a confidential file/location, until the subsequent appraisal, when the document should be disposed of confidentially. (If the appraisee leaves the organisation, the paperwork should be disposed of confidentially at that time.)
  2. If revisions to the job description have been agreed during the appraisal process, please send an electronic copy to Library HR at lib-hrteam@ucl.ac.uk.

The LibNet appraisals page has been updated with information about the abridged appraisals process.

Developmental Conversations

The Developmental conversations approach allows for two-way conversation to take place which can enhance the appraisal experience through meaningful goal setting and personal development.

Further information on developmental conversations is available.

The recommended Developmental Conversations training module is available for staff to complete.

Appraisal Targets

In line with the Library Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action plan, all staff are required to have a target of engaging or undertaking at least one Equality, Diversity and Inclusion associated activity or event in the 2020/2021 academic session. For example contributing content to the Library Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) newsletter, engagement in wellbeing initiatives, attending a training session or team building exercises using the theme of EDI.

A discussion should take place regarding the Library Strategy and targets that link to the Strategic Key Performance Action objectives.

When developing the targets, consideration should also be given to the UCL Ways of Working and the indicators relating to the grade of the post that the employee holds.

Diagram: Ways of Working

4 dimensional (4D) goal setting:

UCL has introduced a goal setting framework based upon the following principles:

  • Discover my potential – 1 goal required
  • Deliver my role and alignment to UCL’s strategy – 3 goals required
  • Defer/Discontinue activities that hinder me from achieving my role’s purpose and focus
  • Demonstrate UCL’s way of working – 1 goal required

Further details about UCL’s 4 dimensional approach to goal setting are online.


Please ensure you review training completed in the past year and that any mandatory refresher training is set as a training objective.

There are 9 core mandatory courses:

GDPR refresher course completion required every two years.

Mandatory training for Managers

Managers should complete UCL recruitment essentials before participating upon recruitment panels.

UCL has a vast amount of training available for staff which can be found by visiting the Learning Academy.

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

By Paul Ayris, on 13 December 2020

2020: a year of challenges

2020 has been a year of challenge, but also of achievement. Over the last 9 months, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live. It has led to very rapid changes in the way the Library offers services to our 45,000+ users. All colleagues in the Library have given more than 100% to ensure the safety of our staff and users, and to offer cutting-edge services in these most difficult of times.

Light is on the horizon in 2021, as vaccines start to become available. However, it is too early to relax our guard as we risk losing all the gains we have made. In UCL, we are planning what Terms 2 and 3 will look like. To be realistic, we believe that it will not finally be possible to return to anything like the old ‘normal’ before the new academic year 2021/22. But change is happening quickly and the timescale is far from certain.

At Library Committee this term, I presented my Pro-Vice-Provost’s Report to committee members. I described the challenges we all face, the incredible resilience shown by library colleagues and your fantastic offering over the year. In the Library, the SMT is now beginning to plan what the new ‘normal’ will look like. We want to learn from the last 9 months and retain the things that worked, to supplement the rich provision we know we have offered in the past. It is not a threat, it is an opportunity.

All that remains is for me to wish every member of staff Happy Holidays. Make the most of your downtime and enjoy it with your family and friends. 2021 will be a different year and I look forward to that.


Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services & UCL Office for Open Science and Scholarship)

Celebrating Black History Month 2020

By Nazlin Bhimani, on 15 October 2020

The Library Services EDI Committee would like to highlight some content you may find interesting as we continue to celebrate Black History Month 2020 (BHM2020).

You may not be aware but UCL’s Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health have a newsletter which lists interesting online events, provides summaries on Black historical figures, highlights literature, and poetry and even shares recipes. The archive of the newsletter is available but you can subscribe to it to receive a copy in your mailbox.

Goldsmith’s Library, in conjunction with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture, is putting together an online event entitled ‘Liberating & Decolonising Historical Minds’ for 29th October. It features some interesting speakers including the historian and librarian Dr Elizabeth Williams. Do sign up for it if you can take the time off to listen to what promises to be a relevant discussion for us.

At the IOE Library, the BAME Resources LibGuide has been updated for BLH2020 and includes relevant content for schools such as Black historian David Olusoga’s Black History We’re Not Taught in Schools and the Black Curriculum created by Lavinya Stennett who worked with over one thousand teachers in schools, as well as the IOE’s Teach First lecturers, to come up with the curriculum.

John Amaechi’s talk on ‘The Big Questions on Race’ at the online RIBA Inclusion by Design Festival took place as part of Inclusion Week (28th September to 2nd October 2020). Amaechi, a former NBA basketball player, is an organisational psychologist and best-selling author. He recently caused a stir with his short talks on BBC Bitesize answering difficult questions such as What is White Privilege? and explaining the difference between being Non-Racist and Anti-Racist. More recently he gave an interview on TimesRadio where he highlights the everyday racism he and members of the Black community experience.

The RIBA talk is an eye-opener and recommended to anyone who is interested in organisational cultures and change (register with RIBA). Amaechi focused on how to be an ally to Black and Brown staff and how to work on being anti-racist (it doesn’t come naturally). To demonstrate how unconscious biases are appropriated, he showed the audience a video of ‘‘The Doll Test’ experiment which was conducted in 1940 by a group of US psychologists. By the age of four, children have already decided that Black / Asian / mixed-race people are ‘not good’. It is therefore important for us to be vigilant of our unconscious biases – and stand by our values for simply intending to be anti-racist is not good enough. Anti-racists should communicate their values in the workplace making it clear that they will not tolerate racism or any form inequality whether it relates to homophobia, islamophobia, misogyny, sexism, disability, etc. Amaechi does not beat about the bush. On nepotism, he says, if people get promoted to jobs because of the people they know, that a sure sign that the organisation has a problem. Additionally, those that are tired about talking about race after a mere three months (since George Floyd’s death) are the problem. Change needs to happen now because Black and Brown people have waited centuries for change and asking them to wait longer is akin to letting them watch a group gorging themselves whilst they are kept hungry. This, he says, is the indignity of racism. Listen to Amaechi – the clarity of his arguments surpasses other speakers on racism.

Addendum: John Amaechi’s talk on LinkedIn is here – this one focuses on how to be an ally.


Alma update and Digital Services support

By Margaret Stone, on 15 October 2020

This month there are two important updates from the Digital Services team.

Alma’s new layout

From 1 November 2020, you will see a new screen layout when you log in to Alma.  The aims, according to the suppliers, are to increase the working area in Alma, improve navigation, give more options to customize menus, and facilitate improved user workflows.

Please note that this is not the same as the planned changes to the Alma metadata editor, which will be coming next year.

If you would like to try out the new interface and get used to it before 1 November, you can switch it on in the user menu of Alma.  Go to your personal user menu (head and shoulders icon) in the top right of the Alma screen and click to open the drop-down menu.  Then click on “Enable new layout”.

More information is available on the Alma pages of the Ex Libris Knowledge Center or from this short Alma New Layout video.

Digital Services support update

Some 18 months after introducing the new ISD support team for many of our applications, we are retiring the digital-library-support email address.  In its place, we are re-emphasising the first-line support role of ‘Functional Leads’ for Alma and other services.  Beyond that, there is now a single support form which guides you to the correct support route for each service.  For more information, and to bookmark the link to the support form, visit our Digital Services Support pages on LibNet.

The reason for these changes is to make the support process more efficient and to ensure that library staff get the quickest response from the relevant support team.  For example, the new support form prompts the enquirer to indicate to which service the query relates.

For many digital services, such as Alma, there are designated Functional Leads in Library Services who are the experts and coordinators for the digital service. For these services, please first contact the relevant Functional Lead with your query or problem report. They can assist with resolving some issues directly, collating multiple reports and leading the liaison with ISD as necessary. For Alma, the Functional Leads are responsible for granting and updating access rights to Alma.  For this new process, please see the updated FAQ on the Alma page on LibNet.

The next tier of support is provided by the Library Applications Team in ISD. This is a dedicated team for our digital services, who can also bring in assistance from other support teams in ISD as necessary. When a support ticket is opened from the problem report form, either by the Functional Lead or by you directly, the Library Applications Team will respond to the ticket.  Please only contact the team through the support form or through the tickets which are generated.  You may occasionally come across their team email address, but it is only used for internal communications, not for raising new queries or issues.

Progress on problem reports and requests for service changes is monitored by Rob Drinkall and Margaret Stone on behalf of Library Services. This liaison includes escalating urgent matters and clarifying the priority of ongoing work.  Please do contact us if you have any queries about these support arrangements.

Reminder: Visit the new problem report form.

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