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The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

By Paul Ayris, on 20 March 2020

An extraordinary week

Main Library stairs

I wanted to write at the end of what has been the most extraordinary and challenging week I can remember in my professional life. I am enormously proud of the way all colleagues have worked together to support our researchers, teaching staff and students. The Library’s covid-19 Working Group, chaired by Ben Meunier, has worked tirelessly to identify how the Library should best respond to the crisis which confronts us. They have been absolutely brilliant in giving their time and energy, beyond all reasonable expectations. And that goes for all members of staff in the Library, who have worked as part of the team, to deliver the best possible continuing support for the UCL community. I read and hear so many stories of contributions and effort beyond the call of duty – it makes me proud to be a member of this library community.

Now, we are beginning to settle into new patterns of working remotely and digitally. All our libraries, with the exception of the Student Centre, are closed for the foreseeable future. I have today been holding meetings and having chats with colleagues both via Microsoft Teams and via Skype. It’s a new way of working, and one that we will all get used to in the coming weeks. But I would stress the importance of physical and mental well being. The regular covid-19 updates, both from the Provost and from the Library, will give guidance and advice on this crucial matter. It is important that we still feel that we belong to a community which works and celebrates together. The crisis in our midst will pass and, together, we will emerge strong at the other end.

As we move to our new ways of working, I wanted to share one very positive piece of news which bodes well for the future.

From January this year, the Library has been undergoing an Internal Audit, performed by KPMG. The subject of the Audit is the way the Library has implemented and monitored the new Library Strategy. The UCL Library Services Report is due to go to UCL’s Audit Committee at the end of the month. I am proud and delighted to say that it gives the Library top marks for its work in Strategy development, implementation and monitoring. Its conclusion is ‘We have reviewed the processes around Library Services Strategy at University College London (“UCL”) and have reached an overall assessment of ‘significant assurance’ (green), which exceeds management’s expectation of ‘significant assurance with minor improvement opportunities’ (ambergreen)’. This is a fantastic result. The ‘management expectation’ was not mine, but senior managers’ in UCL. To have achieved full marks in this Audit is outstanding.

I take the result of the Audit as a sign of great things to come. The current covid-19 crisis is challenging, but we can and will come through it united as a team. The Audit result for the Library shows what a tremendous team we have and what great achievements we can make in the future in one of the greatest universities in the world.

Stay healthy and safe.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)


The Pro-Vice-Provost’s view

By Paul Ayris, on 14 March 2020

Coronavirus and UCL’s reponse

We are working in an environment of unprecedented challenge in the coming weeks as instances of covid-19 infections increase in number in the UK. UCL is taking its duty of care for its staff and students very seriously indeed, and the university is winning praise for its efforts in social media as a result. 

As you will have read, the Library has established a Working Group to oversee covid-19 preparations and actions, which is chaired by Ben Meunier. Ben and the team will ensure that all actions taken in the Library are aligned with UCL’s policy and practice as we tackle the enormity of the challenges which face us all in the coming weeks. Updates will be sent to all Library staff on a regular basis, as the situation is fast-changing. I have to be honest and say that things will get worse before they get better. UCL is preparing both for the short term and the long term in tackling this pandemic. For example, all UCL staff on clinical contracts have been released from academic duties so that they can devote their whole time to supporting the NHS and patients who are diagnosed with the coronavirus.

To support the efforts of the SMT Working Group, I have asked Ben to spend as much time as is necessary on tackling covid-19 issues for us, with as a principal concern the well-being of our staff. To enable this to happen, I have (with immediate effect) transferred line management responsibilities for the Library HR Team from Ben as Director of Operations to Martin Moyle as Director of Services. This arrangement will be reviewed later in the academic year, once the current emergency is past.

It only remains for me to tell everyone to read the bulletins on coronavirus being issued by UCL and from the Library and, above all, to stay safe and healthy.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)


Coronavirus update

By Benjamin G M Meunier, on 4 March 2020

Dear colleagues,


We know that you will be feeling anxious about coronavirus (Covid-19), as the situation continues to evolve under relentless media coverage. A response group led by Anthony Smith including senior UCL staff and Students’ Union UCL are meeting regularly to explore the possible short and longer term implications. More locally, UCL Library Services senior managers are working on plans to ensure we fulfil our duty of care to our staff and continue to deliver services to our community of users.

For the latest information and advice from UCL on coronavirus, please check on the UCL webpages: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/coronavirus. Please refer to this page for accurate and updated advice about the coronavirus and UCL’s response. If you have a question about UCL’s response to the coronavirus outbreak that isn’t answered in the frequently asked questions on this page, please get in touch via this online form.


UCL Estates are working with Sodexo to deploy bottles of hand sanitizer to toilets and receptions across the campus. The Library Facilities & Projects team has requested that Sodexo provide sanitiser gel dispensers in all library sites, by the entrance/exit. Collette Lawrence has ordered hand sanitiser to be delivered directly to all NHS based sites, not managed by Sodexo.


Public Health England have produced a range of resources for educational institutions. The attached poster should be displayed by the entrances to Library sites, near the sanitiser gel dispensers. Additional UCL or Library Services signs (paper or digital) relating to Covid-19 will be circulated to all parts of Library Services via the Library Communications team as and when they are produced.


If you (or any member of staff) need to self-isolate, you should inform the Library HR team or line manager. If you are able to work remotely you should liaise with your line manager to arrange this. Staff who are directly employed by UCL who are not able to work remotely will be placed on paid special leave. Agency workers, employees of sub-contractors and self-employed contractors who are not able to work remotely should liaise with their employer or contractor to seek further guidance. Sodexo, Axis and Aramark have agreed to pay special leave for any of their staff who are advised to self-isolate. If staff become ill during this period you should follow the government and NHS guidance and advise the Library HR team (who will record your absence as sick leave).

You can find advice and information at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/coronavirus. Alternatively, if you have any concerns about Covid-19 in relation to Library Services, feel free to ask your line manager or the Library senior management team (lib-smt@ucl.ac.uk).

Thank you for the support you are showing each other, and your steadfast support for our users, though this uncertain time.

UCL MyHR Training

By Jennifer L Brown, on 21 February 2020


For managers who require information regarding how to record the completion of  probation reviews please visit the Library HR pages on LibNet and under the Key Tools section you will find a link to the UCL knowledge centre which contains user guides on a range of MyHR topics.

Instructions to access the Knowledge Centre

If you are a first time user you will be prompted to register (which will include adding a password). Once in you need to click on the UCL Knowledge Paths, then click Manager Self Service (MSS), then click the next link for Manager Self Service. From the drop down menu which appears on the far left you need to select ‘My Team Employment Information’ and then select ‘Add probation Details.’

MyHR training for all staff

There are a range of training videos which have been uploaded on the MyHR page to aid employees navigation around the new system. There are also self help guides in the Knowledge Centre (first time users will need to register first and provide a password). Once in under UCL Knowledge Paths, click on Employee Self-Service, click Employee Self-Service (again) and then select from the drop down menu on the far left.

Leave requests

NB. Please be reminded that Library Services is not using MyHR for leave requests, this should be done via MyFlexi only.

Spotted: Jeremy on the move!

By June Hedges, on 20 February 2020

Jeremy has started his journey to his new home in the Student Centre!

Bon voyage,  Jeremy.

Jeremy Bentham in a crate

Conservation Lab tour at the Institute of Archaeology

By Paul J Majewski, on 19 February 2020

In November 2019, we had an opportunity to tour some of the laboratories at the Institute of Archaeology. The visits were very informative and interesting and gave an insight into what our students are studying. We found that the labs specialised in one area with the science of archaeology, while other specialised in the heritage of archaeology, museums, and conservation. The laboratories that we visited in the IOA were Wolfson Archaeological Science Laboratory, The Institute of Archaeology Museum Collections, the Bone Laboratory (which I found fascinating), the Conservation Laboratories and the Archaeobotany Laboratory.

We have visited both the Conservation Laboratories and the Archaeobotany Laboratory. We were impressed and pleased seeing the students hard at work, everyone looked very smart dressed in white lab coats. We were interested in the work of one student who had discovered that the object she was working on had been intentionally aged to look older than it was. We also learned a lot about the history of the institute.  For example in the Archaeobotany lab, some of the plant samples collected by ‘Insert name’ in the ‘insert year’ are still kept in original matchboxes. (Lewis Rushton)

Margarita, Sofina and I went on five tours in the Institute of Archaeology. The first tour was to the Wolfson Lab of Archaeological Science, IOA museum store and the Bone lab. We found the Bone lab very interesting especially when presented with a calcified cancerous tumour from a uterus of a 60-year-old woman who had lived with it for 20 years before she died. The other tour was to the Conservation Laboratories and the Archaeobotany Laboratory. Margarita found the Conservation Lab the most fascinating especially reconstructing broken fragments of artefacts, and seeing the final product as it would have looked all those years ago


“New Directions in Customer Services”, CSGUK Conference, 2019

By Rachel L Nelligan, on 6 February 2020

For those of you who have not come across CSGUK, they are a national group of library staff supporting colleagues in Library Customer Services. They have two task groups who produce work and events throughout the year, and an annual conference, of which this was their 7th.

The conference travels around the country and this year was held at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, a great location in the centre of Cardiff. The conference kicked off with a keynote from Chris Powis, Head of Library and Learning at the University of Northampton. They have completely rebuilt their campus nearer the city centre; a utopian space where ALL staff (academics, library and professional services) share the building with students. No one has their own desks, there are no lecture theatres, just “white boxes” where “active blended learning” takes place. Building stakeholders work together to support students and manage spaces. Chris admits they “went off a cliff edge” removing all their fixed PCs, but every new student is given a laptop when they enrol. The book stock has been reduced by 43% but books are now everywhere and are more appealing and accessible for browsing. One of the key takeaways for us was that when you’re changing services is not to ask people what they want because a) they don’t really know and b) they will just say “yes” they do want more lecture theatres, more books etc. The key is to ask “how do you want this room to work?”

Hannah Roberts from the House of Commons Library spoke about their research to influence behavioural changes, and stressed the importance of understanding not just how people use your spaces, but why. David Turpie from the Open University talked about their enquiries management system which is used across the institution and how they use it to manage and improve their services – redirecting staff workloads at quiet/peak times, and increasing training for staff on referencing when the number of referencing enquiries increased. Sarah Cull from the Royal College of Nursing spoke about carrying out Peer Observations – where staff observe each other and give feedback to improve their customer service skills and confidence. This is something we thought could work well with our teams at UCL so we’re arranging to follow this up with Sarah at the RCN in the near future.

After the morning’s sessions we had table discussions on artificial intelligence in libraries – could chatbots work in the library? We agreed there are definite advantages where student expect to use these kinds of service and we could see a more interactive “FAQ” working well for basic questions like “what are the library opening hours”, but were concerned it could add a further level of frustration to the user experience if not used well or if there was an over reliance on it.

The main afternoon sessions were dedicated to supporting student wellbeing. Jenny Foster from Edge Hill University described their joint service model where student services, learning services and careers operate from a single desk, and staff are trained in providing wellbeing support and referrals. We were really impressed with how they have created easy access to a wide range of services from any point at which students interact with the university. Sally Bridge from Queen’s University, Belfast showed us a brilliant video made by students from the university’s Autism Spectrum Disorder group, and how the library has adapted services to support the different ways in which they like to learn. The video is part of the familiarisation programme, encouraging students with ASD to apply to university and supporting them through their studies. Laura Waller from the University of Warwick then spoke about how the CSGUK conference in 2016 on providing accessible and inclusive services had inspired her to create a sensory room in the library, improving an existing accessible study room, then moving on to create a couple of sensory rooms for students referred from the university’s disability service. She has since rolled out a programme of “Sensory Refresh” events in collaboration with other university staff, both in the library and going out to departments, encouraging all students to take time out from study. This section ended with another table discussion on ways in which we could collaborate in our own institutions to support student wellbeing. Finally, the conference ended with Leo Appleton and Nuala McLaren speaking about their work within the new Student Experience Directorate at Goldsmiths, where they have achieved the Customer Service Excellence accreditation, alongside the Leadership and Management accreditation. There were nods around the room as Nuala explained how “library staff just get customer service” in a way that other staff across the university sometimes don’t, and that’s enabled the library to lead the way in the whole Directorate getting the accreditations. We were impressed that the Directorate had presented 30-40 minute “Day in the life of…” – repeated 10 times so that all staff across the university had a better understanding of what their colleagues in other services are doing.

For more information about the work of CSGUK and to see the conference presentations  have a look at their website.

Rachel Nelligan and Breege Whiten

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

By Paul Ayris, on 29 January 2020

The Sorbonne Declaration on Data Rights

27 January 2020 saw a number of global university networks assemble in Paris under the chairmanship of LERU (League of European Research Universities). The international Research Data Rights Summit was dedicated to a discussion of Open Data and national/regional legislative frameworks to support research data management, research data being the building blocks on which publications (such as journal articles) can be based. The meeting was called under the aegis of the Sorbonne University, the University of Amsterdam and UCL (University College London).

The Sorbonne Declaration is signed

Following intensive discussion, 8 global university networks signed the Sorbonne Declaration on research data management and research data rights. These networks are: the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Coordination of French Research-Intensive Universities (CURIF), the German U15, the Group of Eight (Go8) Australia, the League of European Research Universities (LERU), RU11 Japan, the Russell Group (UK), and the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities. This Data Summit was unprecedented in its scale, with networks representing more than 160 of the main research-intensive universities in the world actively involved.

Research data is the new currency in the age of Open Science/Scholarship. This is an essential issue for the quality and transparency of research. It is also a crucial economic issue: funded largely by public money, research data represents tens of billions of euros worldwide. The objective is therefore to make these data accessible in order to accelerate scientific discoveries and economic development. For example, in Europe, according to a recent report produced by the European Commission, sharing and better managing research data would save 10.2 billion euros per year in Europe, with an additional potential of 16 billion euros of added value by the innovation generated. With the current global concern over the coronavirus, the sharing of research data can only help lead us faster to finding effective treatments. The Sorbonne Declaration is therefore set against the background of the growing importance of research data as a key scholarly output which can benefit society and address the global challenges which face humankind.

Zamansky Tower, Sorbonne University

The Sorbonne Declaration acknowledges a number of principles which underpin research activity in the age of Open Science/Scholarship, such as: research data should be openly shared and re-used as much as possible and it is the academic community which can identify the complex conditions for such re-use.

The university networks commit to a number of actions, such as: research data should be FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Re-usable); and changing reward schema to acknowledge FAIRness and Openness.

The Declaration calls on the global research community to build the necessary environment to encourage data sharing and makes a number of requests of funding agencies, such as to consider the full costs of research data management as eligible costs for funding; and of national jurisdictions, to ensure proper legislative frameworks to support openness and sharing, avoiding ‘lock in’ to commercial services.

Open Science/Scholarship is a force for good in the world, leading to better research methodologies and the global sharing of research publications. With the possibility to share research data, Open Science/Scholarship offers the potential to provide new routes for discovery and the creation of knowledge and understanding. This is what the Sorbonne Declaration aims to do – to create a scholarly landscape from which the whole of society can benefit.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

Sustainable Procurement

By Benjamin G M Meunier, on 29 January 2020

UCL Sustainability ran a workshop this week on sustainable procurement, looking at how UCL departments can take action to ensure the goods and services which UCL purchases are sustainable.

To give a sense of scale, UCL spends over £500 million a year, with 40,000 suppliers (although 80% of spending is from 200 suppliers). Three quarters of UCL’s carbon emissions come from the services and products we buy.

Sustainable procurement (also know as “responsible procurement”) is defined as

” the process whereby environmental, social and financial impacts of all of UCL’s procurement processes are taken into account, making sure to reduce negative impacts and enhance positive impacts.”

What is UCL doing?

  • All new contracts for suppliers at UCL now include sustainability criteria, which now form part of standard procurement practice when inviting bids for new suppliers.
  • The Sustainable UCL team monitor suppliers on an annual basis based on the Key Performance Indicators set when contractors are selected to supply goods or services to UCL
  • From Spring 2020, catering at UCL will be disposable-free, as Sodexo have procured reusable melamine crockery. By 2020-21, UCL will be totally plastic-free across all catering
  • Stationery choice on the UCL eMarketplace will be reduced by removing non-recyclable options (for instance for reducing the available choice for A4 copy paper from the 104 options currently available)

What can we do?

UCL Sustainability propose 4 rules to consider before buying:

      1. Do you need to buy?
      2. Follow procurement guidelines
      3.  Use UCL contracted suppliers.
      4. Complete a Sustainability Assessment (a simple template is available, with more information at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sustainable/resources/procurement-and-purchasing)

The slides from the workshop are available: Fairtrade and Procurement Slides. For more information on sustainable procurement, please see the dedicated webpage: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sustainable/get-involved/procurement.

UCL Sustainability also noted that Fairtrade Fortnight is coming (24 Feb-8 March 2020). To find out how you can get involved, visit https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/get-involved/current-campaigns/Fairtrade-Fortnight

New travel advice for countries affected by the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus

By Benjamin G M Meunier, on 29 January 2020

[sent on behalf of Fiona Ryland]

Dear colleagues,

I am writing with the latest update about the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus as of today, Wednesday 29 January. The situation is moving rapidly and there is further information below about:

• Updated FCO advice
• Travel and insurance booked through UCL
• Advice for UCL staff and students who are currently in, or considering travel to, affected areas.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) continues to advise against all travel to Hubei province, and now advises against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao). Please see their website for the latest guidance.

UCL is monitoring the situation and is continuing to support UCL staff and students in China and other affected countries. We are also in regular contact with Public Health England to provide our staff and students in the UK with the most up-to-date information and assistance.

The FCO advises that UK nationals in Hubei province should leave if they are able to do so, with most countries issuing very similar advice to their own nationals. The Chinese government continues to impose further restrictions on movement within China and it may become harder to leave China over the coming weeks.

UCL staff and students who feel that they may want to leave China soon should consider making plans to do so before any further restrictions may be imposed. They should contact UCL’s insurers Drum Cussac by calling (+44) (0) 208 608 4100 or emailing rsa@healix.com to assist them in returning to the UK.

British nationals in Hubei province can contact the British Embassy for assistance by calling the 24 hour helpline on +86 (0) 10 8529 6600 or the FCO in London on (+44) (0)207 008 1500. UCL staff and students in other affected countries should register with their local consulates or embassies, who can advise on any updates and evacuation plans for respective nationals.

Neighbouring countries also affected by the virus are starting to impose travel restrictions, with Hong Kong imposing such limitations on visas starting today. It is therefore important that UCL staff and students in countries or regions with confirmed cases of infection review their decision to travel to that country, or consider leaving the country before the local government imposes restrictions on travel as the virus spreads.

Please remember to use Key Travel to book any planned UCL trips for all staff, students, contractors and visitors – no matter where in the world they are visiting. This way UCL will be able to contact you quickly in the event of an emergency. If you are aware of any UCL student or staff member who is currently in China, but who did not book their travel through Key Travel, please make the Workplace Health aware of them as soon as possible by emailing ohsadmin@ucl.ac.uk.

The UCL website has more information about the virus, what to do if you think you may have it and the latest travel advice from the FCO. The situation continues to evolve so please check this page regularly. We will be updating the website with new information as it becomes available.

Kind regards,
Fiona Ryland
UCL Chief Operating Officer