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Library Duty Officer – what is their role?

By Jay Woodhouse, on 31 July 2015

*All Staff Please Read* (sorry a little long, but important)

The Library Duty Officer role is in place to make day-to-day service and emergency decision on behalf of the Director of Library Services. The aim is to have one clear point of responsibility, which is able to take the lead and react quickly to immediate issues.

The Duty Officer is in this way is the final authority for any immediate problems across Library Services and as such their advice and instructions must be followed. The SMT and Director will not intervene on day-to-day problems unless requested to do so by the Duty Officer.

It is therefore vital that any immediate issues be reported to the Duty Officer. The areas that should be reported are:

  1. Staffing issues
  • Where a site or service may have to close. This should not happen without the knowledge and approval of the Duty Officer
  • Staffing will drop below minimum numbers for the site. This is listed in the Safety Arrangement documents for each site and we must not open or operate a site below this number of staff. The Duty Officer will prioritise services and may choose to close another service / site rather than the one that is short of staff.
  • Where there is a risk of lone working. This is where a staff member will be alone for more than one hour and where they are not due to have contact with another member of staff. (A member of staff on their own at the start of the day, but with other staff arriving within the hour is not lone working. A member of staff working for the same hour at the end of the day, when no one will be checking on them, is lone working and must be avoided.)
  1. Medical Emergencies – the Duty Officer must be informed if:
  • A member of staff is taken ill at work.
  • An ambulance is called and a staff, student or visitor is taken to hospital (please ensure you deal with the person before you contact the Duty Office unless you need assistance.)
  1. Fire or Flood
  • All instances of fire or flood must be reported as soon as possible to the Duty Officer. The Library has access to a number of support resources and the Duty officer will be able to assist immediately or initiate recovery planning.
  1. Bomb or Terrorist Threat
  • Any direct threat received by the Library must be reported to UCL Security via 222 or your local emergency number immediately and then inform the Duty Officer as soon as possible. If you have been requested to evacuate, please contact the Duty Officer after you have cleared the Library and are in a safe place.
  • Threats outside the Library will be assessed by the Duty Officer in conjunction with UCL Security. Advice and / or instructions will be issued by the Duty Officer to all of Library Services.
  1. Student or Other Occupation
  • Library Services has a standing agreement with UCLU that they will not occupy Library space during protests. If there are any individuals or groups occupying Library space and refusing to leave, contact UCL Security via 222 or your local emergency number and then inform the Duty Officer as soon as possible.

How do I contact the Library Duty Officer?

By e-mail on lib-dutyofficer@ucl.ac.uk

The Daily Diary is stopping from 31st July 2015. A weekly e-mail with the Duty Officer rota for the following week will continue for the time being. This will be replaced by an entry on LibNet displaying the current Duty Officer. When this feature goes live the weekly e-mails will stop.

Who will be Duty Officer?

The list of staff who will act as Duty Officer is as below:

Regular Duty Officers List:

Noel Forrester – noel.forrester@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 2545 ext: 32545 – mobile: 07917 555624 #6496

Jay Woodhouse –james.woodhouse@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 7094 ext: 37094 – mobile: 07500 605994 #6592

Robert Lamb – robert.lamb@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 2545 ext: 32545 – mobile: 07957 666817 #6602

Phil Watson – phil.watson@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 1141 ext: 51141 – mobile: 07747 474798 #6568

Sam Temblett – s.temblett@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 2545 ext: 32545 – mobile: 07824 857753 #6612 (on order)

Noreen Beecher – n.beecher@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 4226 ext: 34226 – mobile: 07824 864322 #6619

James McCaughey – j.mccaughey@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 2545 ext: 32545 – mobile: 07824 864350 #6618

Reserve Duty Officers:

Paul Ayris – p.ayris@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 7834 ext: 37834 – mobile: 07771 974051 #6611

Martin Moyle – m.moyle@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 7833 ext: 37833 – mobile: 07824 864504 #6614

Ben Meunier – benjamin.meunier@ucl.ac.uk

020 7679 2607 ext: 32607 – mobile: 07771 974069 #6593

Why should I contact the Duty Officer, can’t I sort this out myself?

The Library has a duty of care to both staff, students and visitors. In order to fulfil these obligations it is vital that we understand what is happening across all our sites. Therefor we need staff to inform the Duty Officer of any situation that is unusual. In many circumstances this will be just providing information on issues that have already happened, rather than asking for advice.

However, were there are situations such as those listed above, the Library procedures is that the Duty Officer should take the final decision. The Duty Officer will ask for information about the situation and have a conversation about what you feel is the correct course of action. The Duty Officer must consider the Libraries legal obligations as well as the service and will balance these sometimes conflicting requirements.

It is imperative that staff follow the Duty Officers instructions and advice. If you decide to ignore such instructions and do other than requested, you become legally responsible for any consequences and could open yourself up personally to criminal prosecution for any breach of Health, safety or Fire regulations. If you follow management instructions it is the manager and the organisation that are legally responsible and the individual staff member is protected from personal responsibility and possible criminal prosecution.

Examples of situations where the Duty Officer must balance Health & Safety needs against maintaining our services:

Problem: mains power goes off in library

Consideration: A public spaces must have working emergency lighting at all times.

Impact: Emergency lighting is designed, when new, to work for 3 hours on batteries. If the system is older it may not work for this long. Rule of thumb for safety is only use a third of the safe design. So it must be considered that the building has 1 hour of emergency lighting after which the building must be evacuated.

Action by Duty Officer: Allow library to continue working for one hour and then evacuate and close space if power is not returned in this time. If Maintenance state the power will be back on in 15-20 beyond the hour, if would be acceptable to hold off on evacuation, but for no longer.

Other Considerations: If the power has been off in the same space earlier in the day, the batteries for the emergency lights will be partly or full depleted. These batteries take 24 hours to fully recharge, so the space may need to be evacuated immediately.


Problem: a fire exit is blocked

Consideration: All public spaces must have two emergency exit routes which travel in opposite directions.

Impact: Taking the Institute of Archaeology Library as an example, which has three fire escape routes, one at the entrance, one in the middle and one from the rear in the stacks. If the stacks exit is blocked the front of the library could remain open, with the stacks area closed as there would be both the front and middle routes available. If the middle route was blocked the whole library could remain open as the front and rear stacks would be available. However, if the library was busy and near capacity, the two remaining exits may not be able to cope with the traffic and the library would have to close.


As you can see the decisions the Duty Officer make are not always as straightforward as they seem at first. In these situations it is important to take control, manage the problem and make a choice. Where there have been significant prosecutions under Health and Safety rules it is usually because no decisions were made, rather than the wrong decisions being made.

We ask you please to work with the Duty Officers and help them with a difficult role and when a decision is reached, follow that decision. We do review events and try to learn from them for the future and welcome input from staff on the scene. This should be done afterwards when we have time to reflect, delays at the time could lead to serious problems.

Thank You on behalf of the entire Duty Officer Team

Jay Woodhouse

Departmental Safety Officer

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