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The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris30 March 2021

Strategic Operating Plan 2021-24

Every year, all academic support and Professional Service Departments are required to submit Strategic Operating Plans to deliver on their Strategy commitments. They also identify new developments which they would like to introduce. Academic Departments do the same.

The planning cycle is for 3 years and the Library has just submitted its strategic plan for 2021-4, which you can read here as Library Services SOP 2021-24.

What we have tried to do is to identify the many positive new services which we have introduced over the last 12 months and to build them into the Library’s daily work going forward. We have also looked at the Library’s traditional service offering and attempted to strengthen it. Inevitably, UCL will receive more bids for funding than there is money available. However, as the 10th best university in the world (according to the 2021 QS rankings), UCL is committed to further improve the Student Experience going forward. We hope for successful funding outcomes in the coming months.

Paul Ayris

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

 

Library Committee

Paul Ayris23 February 2021

Library Committee (February 2021)

On 17 February, Library Committee met for the first time in 2021. Because of restrictions caused by the pandemic, the meeting was held virtually in MS TEAMS. I was honoured to be asked to chair it, as Professor David Price had been called away to another meeting. The text of my Pro-Vice-Provost’s Report can be read behind the link.

As usual, I described the work of the Library against the Key Performance Areas of the Library Strategy. Of particular note was the report under section 4, Finance and Management Information, on the SCONUL Statistics for 2019-20. UCL compares its performance against a select group of Russell Group universities. Here the stats show that in 2019-20, UCL Library Services was by some way the most heavily visited Library in UK Higher Education, with 3,011,764 visits.

I was also sure to underline for colleagues on UCL Library Committee the tremendous contribution which Library colleagues have made in the last 11 months during the various lockdowns. With the Prime Minister’s announcement on 22 February of a staged plan for withdrawal from lockdown, we have signs that life by June may return to something more like normal. I look forward to the days when I can be back in my Office and talk to colleagues in real life once again. Stay safe, well and positive.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost

 

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris13 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)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris3 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)

 

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris17 April 2020

Taking UCL forward

In TheWeek@UCL, UCL has described the crisis management structure it has put in place to plan for the coming months as we tackle the fallout caused by the coronavirus. UCL’s new decision-making structure is given here. It has adopted a 3-tier command structure of Gold-Silver-Bronze levels. Decisions are taken by the Provost and his senior managers at the Gold Level. At the Silver level, there are 2 workstreams which are looking at high-level issues concerning how UCL can function in the short-term (Aquamarine groups, which are looking at the period until September 2020) and Sapphire groups (which are looking at the situation from September onwards). These are supported by a number of Bronze Working Groups, which are currently in the process of being established.

How does the Library feed into this structure? Well, the Library has representation on a number of these committees and Working Groups. As of 20 April, this representation is as follows:

Paul Ayris

  • Aquamarine Silver 4 – Research. Chaired by Professor Alan Thompson (Dean of Brain Sciences)
  • Sapphire Silver 3E – Estates, Infrastructure and Place. Chaired by Paola Lettieri and Kevin Argent
  • Sapphire Silver 2 – Education. Chaired by Professor Piet Eechout (Dean of Laws)
  • Sapphire Bronze 3 – Education Infrastructure. Chaired by Professor Ivan Parkin (Dean of MAPS)
  • The Gold Integration Centre (GIC): Blue Team. The ‘Blue Team’, led by Fiona Ryland and Tom Rowson, has been created to ensure that developing plans are tested against a broad range of professional skills and experience. The ‘Red Team’ has been setup to provide additional tension and challenge, always considering other options and approaches.
    • The ‘Blue Team’ will not normally meet formally and/or regularly; instead it will be up to the chairs to engage when a particular piece of work would benefit from review or a professional view point

June Hedges

  • Aquamarine Silver 2 – Remote Teaching Term 3. Chaired by Professor Nora Colton (UCL Arena Centre) – Now stood down
  • Sapphire Bronze 2 – Education delivery. Chaired  by Norbert Pachler, Pro-Vice-Provost
  • Sapphire Bronze 1 – Education. Workstream: Teaching Resources. Chairs: Jo Stroud and Sam Smidt

Peter Dennison

  • Sapphire Bronze – Business Continuity Planning – Students

It is the work of these groupings at Silver and Bronze level which is fed up to UCL’s senior managers at Gold level and so helps shape UCL’s decisions for the future.

In shaping the Library’s contribution to the Gold-Silver-Bronze command structure, I have set up a series of committees to feed into this decision making process. I described these in detail in my previous blog post here, 

Essentially, the Library’s new committee structure for the duration of the crisis will consist of 3 layers. The Decisions level will consist of myself as Pro-Vice-Provost and Professor David Price as Vice-Provost (Research) & Chair of Library Committee. There are 3 committee groupings working to identify Recommendations to guide the Library through the current crisis. These are chaired by Ben Meunier and by Martin Moyle. Ben chairs the grouping looking at current covid-19 issues and Martin oversees arrangements for service delivery during the lockdown. I have also asked Martin to chair a series of ad-hoc deliberative groups to tackle specific questions which arise from the pan-UCL Gold-Silver-Bronze discussions. The Library’s 3 committee groupings can be supported by individual Working Groups, as required, to undertake detailed work.

In the coming weeks, both I and members of the Library’s committee and Working Group structure outlined above will be reaching out to members of staff whenever we need your advice and would benefit from the detailed knowledge which you have for the services you are responsible for/work in.

The present coronavirus crisis presents the whole of UCL with enormous challenges in the coming weeks. Of course, we will come through this and we will do that together, supporting each other, caring for each other’s well being and having the success of UCL as a world-leading university in our minds.

Stay well and safe and try to gain some rest over the weekend. I will write again as things develop to keep colleagues informed of how UCL plans to see us emerge safe and well from this crisis.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris7 April 2020

Strategic developments

In these extraordinary times, UCL is developing new structures to continue its ability to offer services and to plan for the future. This is known as the Gold-Silver-Bronze command structure. The Gold team is chaired by the Provost and meets regularly to sign off decisions affecting the current running of UCL and our planning for the future. The Silver layer is divided into 2 main components – Aquamarine and Sapphire. Aquamarine Groups are tasked to plan for now until the start of the new academic year in September. Sapphire groups have as their remit longer-term planning for the period from September 2020 onwards. Each Silver group is supported by Bronze Working Groups who look at the details for each UCL service and help to shape the immediate and long-term future. The Library is represented on all appropriate groups looking at Education, Research and Skills development & Training. In many cases, this new committee structure will temporarily replace existing UCL committees for the duration of the crisis.

Here in UCL Library Services, I have been working with colleagues to develop a temporary committee structure of our own whilst we are in lockdown, which will support the new UCL structures.

The structure can be viewed by clicking the link here as New Committee Structures

Strategic and Operational responses to the coronavirus crisis will be taken by 1 of 3 committees, supported by Working Groups as necessary. 2 of the Strategic and Operational Groups/activities already exist – the Covid-19 Group and the work undertaken to transition the Library to lockdown in March. These are chaired/led by Ben Meunier and Martin Moyle respectively. I am also establishing a 3rd grouping, tasked with looking at New Service models to enable UCL to return onsite in London.

This new committee structure for the Library will make recommendations to me as Pro-Vice-Provost, and I will sign off all major decisions supported by the Vice-Provost (Research), who will henceforth chair Library Committee. Existing committees can be asked to feed into the new structure but some, such as the Library’s Senior Management Team, will be paused. These new structures will come into being on Wednesday 8 April and last until the Library is re-established on site in London.

In terms of the New Service Models grouping, I have agreed that it should be asked to prepare a number of briefing papers in the coming weeks. These are on the following topics:

  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 research, education, evaluation, reward and engagement
  5. Optimization of learning space
  6. Research collection strategy in a digital era

These papers will help shape future developments in the Library and across UCL when we begin to emerge from the current lockdown.

It only remains for me to wish every colleague in UCL Library Services a happy and restful holiday in what is an extraordinary time. UCL is immensely grateful to you all for your commitment, patience and support in this most difficult of times. Please try to enjoy the forthcoming April break. I will share more news about developments after the Easter recess.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris20 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

Paul Ayris14 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)

 

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris29 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)

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris15 January 2020

Open Science and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

On 15-17 January, UCL Library Services is hosting a distinguished visitor, Dr Nabi Hasan, Librarian and Head, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.

IIT Delhi is one of UCL’s key emerging partners in India – just as the visitors from Witwatersrand in South Africa, who joined us in November 2019, are for that region of the world.  As London’s Global University, UCL is developing a number of key partnerships and the Library is honoured to be asked to support UCL’s work in these endeavours.

The theme of Dr Hasan’s visit is Open Science. Although the visit is only one day old, a number of Open Science themes have emerged where possibilities for sharing and development have been identified. The first is in the UCL Press OA publishing model, which is of great interest to the IIT Delhi. The second is the response which UCL has made to delivering services which support research data management in an Open Science environment. The third is in the role of the Library as an institutional Leader to deliver Open Science practice and policies across the University.

Nabi also gave a presentation on the world of librarianship in India and on the work of his own library service in the IIT Delhi. Like UCL, IIT Delhi is a family of libraries – 20 in total. At a glance, the Central Library offers the following facilities and services which are available to 10,275 students and 685 Faculty members:

  • Reader Services Division
  • Collection Development Division
  • Technical Processing Division
  • Electronic Resources Division
  • Research Support Services and Outreach Program
  • Library App
  • Faculty Profiling System
  • Exploring International Library Collaborations
  • Exploring Semantic/AI/Query based services for Ask the Librarian, eNewsClippings, Faculty Publications, etc.
  • Exploring Robotic-based Closed Access Services
  • Interactive Website
  • Marketing of Library Resources, Services and Products
  • Text Book, Book Bank and Theses
  • Humanities and Social Science (HUSS), etc.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable day. Many thanks to all colleagues in UCL Library Services, to UCL ISD and to RLUK (Research Libraries UK) who are contributing to the programme over the three days.

 

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)