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The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris20 August 2019

Medieval Mysteries from UCL Special Collections

Today’s meeting of the UCL Rare Books Club took a fresh and insightful look at UCL’s medieval scientific manuscripts. An outstanding scholar, Professor Charles Burnett from the Warburg Institute, gave a masterly personal commentary on many of the items on display.

Professor Burnett is here seen describing his favourite item on show, MS. Lat. 15, described in some detail in D.K. Coveney, Descriptive catalogue of the manuscripts in the Library of University College (London, 1935). It consists of 33 leaves and 1+2 fly leaves. The MS. is a palimpsest, which means that the original text has been erased and over-written. The original text is still visible on some folios.

The contents are in handwriting thought to date from the 14th century and the text is accompanied by diagrams in red or red and black.  The MS. contains various texts, and the one most discussed by Professor Burnett was Johannis de Sacrobosco, Tractatus de Sphera. This main text constitutes one of the most famous fundamental tracts on astronomy and cosmography being circulated from the 13th to the 17th centuries. It is based on Ptolemy and discusses the terrestrial globe, the rising and setting of stars, and the orbs and movements of planets.  Johannis De Sacrobosco (otherwise John of Holywood, or Halifax), is thought to have been born in Yorkshire and he settled in Paris around 1220. He was a mathematician and astronomer. He wrote texts on arithmetic, astronomy and cosmography. He died either in 1244 or in 1256 (see the UK Archives Hub here). The manuscript was formerly in the Graves collection, no. 3496, bequeathed to the Library in 1870. John Thomas Graves (1806-1870) was a mathematician and Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London, whose collection included manuscripts dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries, relating mainly to mathematics.

My own personal favourite, being a church historian of the English church, was the Perspectiva Communis of John Peckham, formerly Archbishop of Canterbury 1279-92, being a treatise on optics. He was a prolific author of treatises on science and theology. This manuscript dates from the 15th or 16th centuries and is MS. Lat. 31, bound  (perhaps from the first) with two printed works, the Arithmetica of Jordanus Nemorarius, edited by Jacques le Fêvre (Johannes Higman and Wolfgang Hopyl, Paris, 1496), and the Geometria speculatiua of Bradwardine (Paris, 1495) (see AIM25 here). The manuscript also formed part of the library of John Thomas Graves, and was formerly Graves no. 3950.

The session today was well attended by UCL staff, students and external visitors. As Professor Burnett remarked, the medieval holdings of UCL Special Collections deserve a wide and appreciative audience.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris13 August 2019

R.D. Laing and UCL’s underground press material

13 August saw a public lecture from UCL Special Collections’ first Visiting Fellow, Professor Adrian Chapman. Professor Chapman is Professor at Florida State University and based in London. He has a PhD from UCL and two English degrees from the University of London. He has publications (academic articles and creative work) in the area of Literature and Psychology / Medical Humanities and a research interest in Rhetoric and Composition. His research is particularly centred on R. D. Laing (the radical Scottish psychiatrist) and his network. For the announcement of his appointment in Special Collections, see here.

Around 50 people, perhaps half of them from outside UCL, attended to hear Professor Chapman talk about the influence of R.D. Laing and his network on psychiatry, using as source material the matchless collections in UCL Special Collections from the underground press. Wikipedia says: ‘Ronald David Laing (7 October 1927 – 23 August 1989), usually cited as R. D. Laing, was a Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness – in particular, the experience of psychosis. Laing’s views on the causes and treatment of psychopathological phenomena were influenced by his study of existential philosophy and ran counter to the chemical and electroshock methods that had become psychiatric orthodoxy. Taking the expressed feelings of the individual patient or client as valid descriptions of lived experience rather than simply as symptoms of mental illness, Laing regarded schizophrenia as a theory not a fact. Though associated in the public mind with anti-psychiatry, he rejected the label. Politically, he was regarded as a thinker of the New Left. Laing was portrayed in the 2017 film Mad to Be Normal.’

During his talk in UCL, alas cut short in the last few minutes by a fire practice, Professor Chapman gave a number of examples of Laing’s influence, as displayed in the collections on view, accompanied by recorded music of the period. Take, as an example, musical illustration no. 12: The Doors, ‘Break on Through (To the Other Side)’. (The Doors, Elektra, 1967). Like Dylan, Jim Morrison was, and continues to be, an icon of the ’60s. The Doors took their name from The Doors of Perception, a book about mescaline and the expansion of consciousness by Aldous Huxley, whose nephew, Francis, was a great friend of Laing. Aldous Huxley found his title in a line from William Blake, the English Romantic poet, who wrote that  ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite’. According to a review in It 39, The Doors’ ‘Break on Through (To the Other Side)’ is ‘very natural, like breathing’. The need to break through convention and the ‘false self’ to a region where one can at last breathe freely – a liberated zone of playfulness, creativity and authenticity – was a desire shared by The Doors, the Laing network and the underground on both sides of the Atlantic (Programme Note from Professor Chapman).

Professor Chapman’s talk was received enthusiastically by his audience and marks a further step in the successful development of outreach and academic engagement activities by UCL Special Collections.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

 

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris29 July 2019

Library Strategy update

2019 saw the adoption of a new Library Strategy by UCL Library Services. How is the Library faring in delivering on the 6 Key Performance Areas the Strategy contains? As Pro-Vice-Provost, I have compiled an analysis which I share with the many visitors who visit UCL Library Services, as well as with UCL committees such as UCL Library Committee. On Thursday 25 July, I had the honour to share the strategy with Mohammed Jassim, who was until recently Director of Mosul University Libraries in Iraq. His library system was desecrated by ISIS and his colleagues are facing building a new library structure and organisation from scratch. It was very humbling to hear about the current state of library services in Mosul.

Of the 6 Key Performance Areas (KPAs) in the Library Strategy, the most successful to date is undoubtedly the one on Sustainable Estate, where the opening of the Student Centre has already revolutionized the way students study in UCL. With 1104 learning spaces, managed by the Library, it is a major addition to the suite of library and learning spaces which UCL can offer. Under the User Experience KPA, the Library has also seen an increase in its 2019 NSS (National Student Survey) score to 86%, up 1% on the previous year. This is another step towards the target of 90% satisfaction that the Library aims to achieve amongst all third-year undergraduates surveyed.

Main Library stairs

The Library is also the first Division/Department in UCL to achieve Customer Service Excellence accreditation, passing in all 57 criteria at the first attempt – a very notable achievement and a fantastic confirmation of our wish to put the User at the centre of the library experience. The CSE Accreditation Report made particular mention of the contribution made by Library staff: “The staff appeared ‘passionate’ in meeting and exceeding customer expectations and clearly understand what was meant by customer service excellence. All staff appeared keen to deliver an excellent service to ensure Library Services was both ‘leading the way’ and exemplar for other library services. The assessor was also very impressed by the overall staff commitment such as their attention to detail, the desire to continually improve things and the professionalism displayed by them.” This statement is a great confirmation of the Library’s commitment to developing the skills of its staff in KPA2 – Staff, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Every member of Library staff, through their professionalism and commitment, plays a really important role in delivering the Library Strategy and in making UCL one of the best universities anywhere in the world in which to study and do research.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris13 June 2019

Visit of Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation

On Thursday 13 June 2019, the EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, visited UCL with members of his cabinet.

The purpose of the Commissioner’s presence was to re-visit those European universities to which he feels especial affinity. He leaves his position in the autumn of 2019 once the new European Commission takes office.

As Pro-Vice-Provost with a responsibility for co-ordinating Open Science across UCL, I was asked to address him in the Provost’s Office to outline the success that UCL has had in introducing Open Science practice across the institution. I also highlighted the challenges in Europe in moving to embrace Open Science principles. This is the text which I used in my talk, sitting next to the Commissioner as I spoke.

Successes

  1. UCL Press is the UK’s first fully OA University Press. We have published 106 monographs with over 2 million downloads – when conventional sales over the bookshop counter might result in 200 sales per title. Our most downloaded book is from Professor Danny Miller in Anthropology in UCL, How the World Changed Social Media, which has been downloaded over 300,000 times. This shows the transformative effect of OA monograph publishing.
  2. We have also launched a megajournal platform – with the first subject section being the Environment. This has Open Peer review and the submission is made available immediately as Green OA in a Pre-Print repository prior to peer review and final publication.
  3. We have just launched our Open UCL Research Data repository for academics to archive their research data for sharing and re-use.
  4. UCL Discovery is the institutional OA repository. We monitor OA compliance from the Faculties on a monthly basis and have compliance rates as high as 90%. UCL Discovery has just passed the 20 million download mark.
  5. From 2000-2016, Digital Science has shown that UCL is consistently the university in the Russell Group in the UK most engaged with OA.
  6. We have also launched a pilot Open Educational Resources repository to collect educational materials for sharing and re-use.
  7. We have a pan-UCL Open Science governance platform, which monitors the introduction of Open Science principles and practices across the institution; and we lead work in Open Science in LERU (League of European Research Universities).
  8. UCL is one of the first universities anywhere in Europe to include Open Access to publications, research data and software, as a core principle in our academic promotions framework. This policy was signed off and published in 2018.

Challenges and how UCL can help  

  1. Academic concerns with Plan S, not with Open Access, threaten to de-rail the advances made across Europe in Open Science practice. We would like to support Plan S by working with the Commission and others to make Alternative Publishing Platforms, on the model of UCL Press, a reality across Europe.
  2. Those who manage the European Open Science Cloud have not engaged with universities, indeed they ignore my calls for collaboration. UCL would like to work with the EOSC to determine rules of engagement for universities. We have considerable experience, running the DART-Europe portal for OA research theses, which aggregates metadata for 619 universities and provides access to over 800,000 full-text research theses in 28 countries.
  3. The Commission’s Open Science Policy Platform work on Next Generation Metrics is badly stalled and needs a kick for it to produce a set of Recommendations which can be embraced by the global academy. UCL could help as we are out to informal consultation on an institutional Bibliometrics policy, grounded in Open Science principles.
  4. UCL is attempting, with LERU and other partners, to build a pan-European community for Open Science; the Commission could help by providing opportunities for seed funding to encourage growth in community engagement. Open Science, after all, is about people not just principles and practice.

I gave the Commissioner a gift bag from UCL Press containing, amongst other things, a copy of Danny Miller’s How the World Changed Social Media, the most downloaded book from UCL Press. The Commissioner has asked me to follow up with him and his team on a number of the issues I raised. I will certainly be doing that.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris30 May 2019

Increased student support for UCL Library Services

UCL takes student feedback very seriously. We have a range of student surveys, and participate in national surveys, to measure the level of happiness students feel with their UCL experience.

The Student Experience Survey was conducted between 1 March and 10 April 2019 and included all penultimate year undergraduate students. 5,185 students were invited to complete the survey, and 20% responded (n=1037).

Questions are arranged under 9 main headings, one of which is Learning Resources. This general category was the best scoring category out of all 9, with 83% of respondents saying they were satisfied, an increase of 3% over 2018 and an impressive increase of 7% over 2017.

The most important question concerning library resources and services is this one – the library resources (e.g. books, online services and learning spaces) have supported my learning well:

Question 2019 2018 Difference
The library resources (e.g. books, online services and learning spaces) have supported my learning well. 85% 80% +5

This is a great result, showing an increase of 5%. Indeed the result is so good that the score to this question made it the highest scoring question in the whole of the survey. One of the reasons for the increase is, of course, the addition of the Student Centre to the library footprint, with its 1,000 new learning spaces. The Centre had just opened when the survey was held and, already, its impact is being felt in rising levels of student satisfaction.

Many congratulations to all members of UCL Library Services – all of whom have contributed to the reputation of our services and the impact they make on the student body. It’s a great performance and bodes well for the future.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris19 February 2019

The Student Centre is live!

As colleagues will know, the UCL Student Centre opened its doors to our students yesterday. The news story behind the opening can be found here. The £67.4 million multi-purpose Student Centre, located in the centre of London, provides 1,000 new study spaces, over eight levels, for UCL’s 42,000-strong student community.

At lunch time today, I took the opportunity to walk round the architectural spaces which the Student Centre provides and to discover how UCL students are taking to the additional study spaces which UCL is providing. Centrally located, the Student Centre provides wonderful group and quiet study spaces for UCL students which are open 24 x 7. The new study environment does not replace existing library provision, because from the start I decided that the Student Centre would contain no paper copy. It is easily within walking distance of the UCL Main and Science Libraries.

What we have been able to do, therefore, in bringing the Student Centre online is to create a fully digital learning environment – one which encourages both quiet study and group/collaborative working. There are also bookable study rooms which students can reserve for discrete group working, intelligent lockers, and banks of laptops which can be loaned.

The building also houses the public-facing services from the UCL Registry and thus provides a one-stop shop for student learning and support queries.

The space the building occupies was originally the College Hall, which was destroyed by bombing in the Second World War. It has taken decades for UCL to decide the use to which this plot of land should be put. It is fantastic that the Library has gained such a footprint in this wonderful building; and it is the Library who will be responsible for operating the building now that our students are beginning to use it. Already in the second day of its opening, I have received e-mails from university libraries all over the country asking to be able to come and visit the Centre and to discuss with us the UCL model for the library of the 21st century.

Congratulations to everyone in UCL Library Services who has contributed to delivering on this brilliant project. It is a proud moment in our history that we have added such a prestigious site and project into the UCL family of libraries.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris14 December 2018

Happy holidays!

On this, the last day of term as we approach the Christmas period, I want to write and thank you for all your hard work and dedication over the past year.

At the annual Planning round meeting with the Provost yesterday, the Library’s work was commended by academic colleagues for the quality of services we offer to the whole university. It is a credit to all staff in Library Services that we continue to receive strong feedback in user surveys, and that we are leading the way in providing high-quality research-based library services, in public engagement in London and in open access publishing.

We can be proud of our collective achievements in 2018. Looking ahead to the New Year, there will be challenges but also exciting times in 2019. The opening of the Student Centre will set UCL as an international beacon of good practice, combining excellent design with our exceptional customer service ethos. There will be opportunities for many of our libraries to shine in the subject-level Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF), where UCL is participating in the pilot.

I wish you a very happy and relaxing break, and hope to see many of you at the Library Christmas Party this evening.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris21 November 2018

UCL Library Services Strategic Operating Plan 2019-21

Every year, the Library is expected to issue a Strategic Operating Plan (SOP), drawing on the Library Strategy, which details what we will commit to deliver in the coming 3 years. The Strategic Operating Plan 2019-22 was duly submitted on Friday 16 November. Click on the link to read the whole document (43pp).

Every professional service, and every academic Faculty, has to submit a SOP each year. In this way, UCL can ensure that all the major activities undertaken across UCL are aligned with UCL 2034.  The Library SOP does not only acknowledge the importance of this institutional strategy. The new Library Strategy has also been very important in creating the framework for this strategic planning document. The new Library Strategy was approved by Library Committee earlier this term, following extensive consultation in the Library and across UCL, and will shortly be made available on the Library’s website.

There are 6 Key Performance Areas in the new Library Strategy and the SOP, and these are:

  • User Experience
  • Staffing, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • Finance and Management Information
  • Systems, Collections, and Processes
  • Sustainable Estate
  • Communication, Outreach, and Open Science

There are 73 Actions identified in the Implementation Plans for the Library Strategy and these will be delivered and monitored by KPA leaders through the new Library Strategy Committee. So 2019 will be an exciting time as we implement a fresh wave of activity. But perhaps the most significant action identified in the SOP is the opening of the Student Centre in February 2019. Here is the picture that I took today (21 November). 1,000 digitally-enabled learning spaces will transform the learning experience of UCL students based in Bloomsbury. It will also enable us to re-think some of our existing learning spaces after the new Student Centre comes online. The new SOP rightly highlights the impact that this major new building will make on the Library and on the 3,000,000+ visits to library spaces that already happen each year, making UCL one of the most heavily used academic libraries in the UK.

Please feel free to share any comments on the SOP and the new Library Strategy, once published, so that these can be shared with the Library Strategy Committee and elsewhere.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris17 October 2018

Autumn Report to UCL Library Committee

Yesterday, Library Committee met for its first meeting of the 2018/19 academic session. As usual, I gave a Report on the Library’s performance against the Library Strategy. My full Report can be read here in the document PVP Report October 2018.

I recently visited the Science Museum here in London and I was struck by the exhibits on space exploration – particularly this model of the lunar module, a craft which enabled spectacular achievements when the USA implemented a lunar programme.

Yesterday, it was my privilege to report on the outstanding achievements of UCL Library Services too – in terms of its delivery of the 2015-18 Library Strategy. 95% of all the Actions identified in the 6 Implementation Plans have been delivered, or are on target to be delivered. It’s a tremendous result, applauded by members of Library Committee.

In my Report, I highlighted a number of achievements:

  • The Library being Highly Commended, for the second time in 3 years, in the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (THELMA) 2018;
  • the inscription of UCL’s Orwell archive onto the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register.

I also highlighted two challenges for the Library in the new Strategy period 2019-21:

  • How to increase the Library’s satisfaction rating in the National Student Survey (NSS) to 90% from the present 85% (q19).
  • How to engage with UCL researchers, to encourage them to make their research data FAIR and Open for sharing and re-use, ideally in the new research data repository that UCL is launching in the academic year 2018-19.

All members of Library staff should feel congratulated by the success of delivering the 2015-18 Library Strategy. We face challenges ahead in the new Strategy period, but we have already achieved a great deal – on which we can build going forwards.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

PaulAyris14 October 2018

SMT Working Groups

On 10 and 23 August, I wrote to inform colleagues of the imminent restructure of the Library’s Senior Management Team. An enlarged Senior Management Team came into being on 1 September, and we had our first meeting on 19 September. Amongst other things, we celebrated the successful launch of Alma, surveyed circulation activity for 2017/18 and approved the creation (for a pilot of 1 year) of a Special Collections Fellowship, which we hope will attract academics to come and work on UCL Special Collections materials.

With the re-creation of SMT, we have also set up new SMT Working Groups to advise SMT on detailed policy and operational issues which shape the Library. The complete Membership and Terms of Reference can be seen in the report SMT and Working Groups. There are five new Working Groups:

  • Budget Executive Group (Chair: Paul Ayris)
  • HR Working Group (Chair: Martin Moyle)
  • Library Estates Operations Board (Chair: Ben Meunier)
  • Staff Training & Development Oversight Group (Chair: Kate Cheney)
  • Survey Response Working Group (Chair: June Hedges)

With the start of the new academic year, these Working Groups are now beginning to meet and will make regular reports to SMT. Please feel free to contact the Chairs if you have any questions/comments.

Now that the new term is upon us, I thank all colleagues for all the work they have put in to welcome our new and returning students; and to ensure that the Library runs smoothly at the start of a busy academic year.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost

UCL Library Services