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UCL Library Services Staff Summer School 2018 – Bookings now open

Angela Young24 May 2018

2018 sees the launch of the UCL Library Services Staff Summer School, which replaces the Biomedical and Health Information Summer School. The Summer School is a series of training and development sessions, events and online activities aimed at library staff from across UCL Library Services, to support their ability to answer enquiries and to provide support, training and advocacy to library users and stakeholders.

The programme this year has a wide variety of sessions, pitched at a range of levels, running throughout June and July:

  • 30 day ‘get searching’ challenge (11 June – 20 July): An online only challenge, with a choice of pathways to get you to improve your searching skills or understand what works in online library skills training.
  • A selection of sessions from Special Collections (5 June all day and 19 June 10.00-11.30): Get to see some of our treasures and learn about the work of the Special Collections team
  • Information literacy frameworks (6 June 11.00-13.00): Learn about IL frameworks and help frame how they can help inform library skills training and support at UCL
  • How open notebooks can support open research (21 June 14.00-16.00): An exploration into open approaches to scholarship.
  • The Audience Engagement Factor: Introduction to making online videos for library inductions and outreach (26 June 10.00-11.30): A practical session focussing on the creation of online videos using Powtoon
  • Bibliometrics at UCL (3 July 15.00-16.00): An exploration into library support for bibliometrics.
  • Building an Outreach Project (12 July 10.00-11.30): Learn about what is involved in delivering outreach projects for Library Services.
  • Evaluating information: From fake news to academic works (16 Jluy 14.30-16.00): Learn why and how to evaluate information.

Full details of the programme are available on the Library Services Moodle Course. If you do not already have access, please email library.skills@ucl.ac.uk for an enrolment key. Sessions are open to all UCL Library Services staff, with the permission of your line manager.

Please email library.skills@ucl.ac.uk to book a place or for further information. Please include your name, site/team, telephone number, email address, and the session(s) you wish to attend.

Angela Young, Head of Library Skills

CSGUK: Inspired ideas from the sharp end: a knowledge sharing event – Morning presentations

Sharon A James10 April 2018

Part One: Sharon’s feedback on the morning

On Thursday 22 February I attended a Customer Services Group UK (CSGUK) knowledge sharing event aimed at front-line staff with another UCL Language & Speech Science Library Assistant, Jon Siah. At this event we had the opportunity to hear from other Library Assistants about the projects they had created and implemented. Before they provided us with lunch there was also a guided tour of the University of Bedfordshire’s spacious new library at its Luton campus but the day started at 10am in a relaxed way with drinks, pastries and a chance to chat to the other participants, some of whom had come from as far as Cornwall and Swansea.

Luton campus library’s cloud foyer

The first presentation was ‘Managing Student Demands and Delivering Student Demands in a Converged Service’ by Louise Bailey from the University of the Creative Arts who talked about how the Library and Student Services (which includes academic support, finance and careers advice) are converged. This Gateway service comprises a mixture of Desk staff who provide students with a variety of academic and personal information and advice. For example, they are able to book a tutorial in person, by phone or by email with two Learning Development Tutors from the Library who are embedded in students’ courses and available to help in areas such as reading, writing, language development, assignments and lesson plans.

However, at busy times such as the weeks before dissertation deadlines, it was found that these tutors were fully booked but some students did not show up and others missed a chance to receive assistance. Because of this, Library Assistants developed a live Google spreadsheet that updates instantly from a waiting list of students if there are any no-shows. Staff on the Gateway Desk manage student expectations and explain the need to be flexible and students on the waiting list provide their deadline date and agree to be on campus during the relevant week so that they are on hand to attend a session. It was found that students greatly valued this collaborative arrangement as they felt involved, more assisted by staff and the system, and that they were taking responsibility for their own learning.

Playing library Snakes & Ladders

The second presentation was ‘Innovative Ways of Promoting the Library to New University Staff: Making Library Services Memorable’ (Monika Koziel and Martina Xenia Baldi, City, University of London). The presenters explained that at City there is a procedure in place to introduce all new staff, including admin and academics, to the university. This Welcome to City event includes a World Café at which eight university departments give regular 10-minute introductory presentations. Last year, one of these presentations was a Snakes and Ladders game created by Library Assistant Monica that also included a booklet with further information about the questions on the board and provided links to library resources. Because City has design standards, certain rules were followed such as using the Library colours and changing the font so that it was more readable. Copyright issues meant that Monica created all the images herself. This game was very popular with participants who enjoyed it so much they returned in their lunchbreak to play it again. Monica is currently adapting the game for another university who want to use it and, after conducting a feedback group with colleagues, it is also being considered for use in student inductions. Overall, it was found to be a less tiring way for staff to facilitate inductions and a more fun and interesting method for users to learn about the library.

The I’m Taking a Break card with space for students to fill out the time they left

The last presentation of the morning was ‘#thatsbetter – The I’m Taking a Break Card Story’ led by John Mason and Tim Spring who explained that, because Birkbeck University runs most of its courses in the evening, the library is always busy from 4pm onwards. In the past, various schemes have been tried during exam time to stop students reserving spaces by leaving their possessions at unused desks for long periods but these were not always successful. In this recent project, as well as having staff roving the library, an I’m Taking a Break card was created saying that the student would be away for up to 30 minutes and with a space for them to write down what time they left.

The back of the card has tips for students

Due to the popularity of the project and student demand, several batches of this card needed to be printed because users coming into the library quickly got into the habit of picking them up from the entrance desk. As a result, the I’m Taking a Break card is now being considered for the next round of exams because the project produced better seat availability, fewer complaints to staff and positive feedback from students who felt more involved in monitoring themselves, others and the library space.

Each floor has a Library Info Point

Before lunch we set off on a guided library tour, starting from the Cloud training room on the sixth floor all the way down to the electronic stacks in the basement. We were all impressed with the amount of room, the great facilities the users have access to and the variety of spaces and study areas. Above all, the day was inspiring because seeing the projects these Library Assistants had devised demonstrated the hard work, skills and talent front-line staff bring to the running of university libraries. My colleague Jon continues this blog by reporting on the afternoon presentations and library tour so keep reading for more interesting info.

Part Two: Jon Siah’s feedback on the afternoon

Sharon and I were led on a tour of the impressive new library building, spiralling down through the concrete cavern until we were in the basement trying our hands at operating the electronic rolling stacks. If getting them to work was an intelligence test at which we failed miserably, then once we had finally figured out the controls, testing whether or not there was a safety mechanism by standing in between them as they slowly closed in was a test of bravery in which we redeemed ourselves. Although that said, acting out the garbage disposal scene from Star Wars, was perhaps not the best display of intelligence either. Importantly, no one was hurt, since as predicted, there is an ankle level buffer that detects humanoid forms. So we continued on the grand tour, making our way back up through each light and airy level and beginning to feel a little sleepy after the morning’s exertions. Fortunately, a state of the art place like this has a solution, which we found in the shape of the grand union between the dentist chair and a giant motorcycle helmet (see pic below).

Jon in the Bed Zzzone

So, after a few minutes in the Bed Zzzone, visor down and ambient music 4 playing through the speakers, one felt rejuvenated and ready for the next task of the day – lunch. It was a generous spread, but alas, there is no photographic evidence of this, since it was devoured before we thought of capturing the selection of quiches for posterity.

Laura Harvey and mannequin

On to the afternoon sessions, beginning with a talk addressing the elephant in the room, the newly dressed mannequin (modesty restored over lunch in full matron style), as an example of the types of costumes that Bedfordshire University has in its Teaching Practice Collection. Laura Harvey’s insightful talk started with the history of the institution, which began its life as Bedford Physical Education College, founded in 1903 by Mary Stansfield (who was encouraged to teach whilst a school pupil in Bloomsbury, of all places…), enrolling 12 young women to study the remedial and educational values of gymnastic exercise. Laura then went on to describe the development of the institution up until its present day status as a centre for teacher training. This involves having a large lending collection of materials and resources that budding young pedagogues need for their lessons, including topic boxes, story sacks and historical and multicultural costumes. The latter of which the team at Bedford do a great service of mending themselves by hand, whilst the collection itself is even kept in a mock-up classroom!

The next presentation was by Marina Burroughs from the University of East London, who talked about gaining the Higher Education Accreditation for her work as a Library Assistant. Knowing that the job involves a large teaching and learning component, she thought like many of us, that the work we do deserves proper recognition. Therefore, it was great to hear her talk about how she and her colleagues worked towards and gained the accreditation, since this is something that many of us at UCL have been thinking about doing or have begun applying for.

Jon uploads onto the cloud 

Rees Arnott-Davies and Iraj Sheni Mansouri rounded off the day with a discussion of the recent change to a Full Service Model for Evenings and Weekends at Birkbeck. Their team had identified a number of issues for a while, including the tendency of students to approach Shelvers (with those wielding metal trolleys often being the most visible) to ask for assistance; only for them to be directed towards the Issue Desk, then perhaps redirected to the Help Desk, and that this pinball system was probably not the best customer service. Therefore, they decided to do away with Grade 2! Thus promoting all Shelvers to Library Assistants and others to Supervisors and ensuring that every member of the team is trained to do all aspects of the role and share each responsibility. It is certainly an interesting and bold move, and nicely encapsulates the spirit of the day – “Ideas from the sharp end.” Showing how innovation led by those who actually interact with library users on a daily basis is not just possible, but judging by the positive feedback they have received from students, also highly successful.

If you would like to read up more about any of these presentations, you can find all the slides on the CSGUK website: https://www.customerservicesgroup.co.uk/ideasfromthesharpend1 

University of Bedfordshire, Luton campus library: https://www.beds.ac.uk/works/projects/lutonlibrary 

CPD25 Games without frontiers: Enhancing engagement, interaction and reflection

Gillian Mackenzie22 May 2017

I recently attended a CPD25 workshop, which was run by library staff from Middlesex University. At Middlesex, they have increasingly been using games and other play related activities to enhance information literacy teaching, training and in staff development. This so-called ‘gamification’ introduces elements such as decision making, teamwork, competition and problem solving into sessions, making lessons less about traditional teaching and more about learning by doing and supporting discussion.

During the workshop, we were invited to try out some examples of games they use at Middlesex, including one which aims to encourage students to evaluate information sources in terms of their currency (how up-to-date they are) and authority (how reliable a source is).

Currency and accuracy sorting game

Currency and authority sorting game

We were also introduced to the Lego Serious Play method, which encourages participants to think creatively using metaphor, problem solve and communicate ideas. For example, in our first task, everyone was given the same eight Lego bricks, and we were asked to use them to build a duck in two minutes. This exercise was to encourage us to have ownership over what we built (in other words, even if it didn’t look like a duck, it was a duck if we said it was) and to show that individual variations on a theme are almost endless (as there were multiple different ways to assemble the eight bricks). In small groups, we also attempted to build the tallest Lego tower in two minutes – a simple team building exercise to demonstrate the importance of group cooperation.

My Lego duck

My Lego duck

Building a Lego tower in teams

Building a Lego tower in teams










In the last part of the workshop, we were invited to try and develop our own games. I found this task quite challenging, as I couldn’t see exactly how we could incorporate these ideas into training sessions at UCL, but the course has given me things to think about. Treating students as learners and not the taught, encouraging engagement and discussion, are all elements that I would keep in mind when developing training courses in the future.

Finally, I also attempted to use the PechaKucha presentation format (20 slides, 20 seconds per slide) to talk about this course in our most recent team meeting. My effort was a little shambolic, but it was an interesting, informal way to give brief feedback to the LaSS team on what the course was about, and it seemed to be well received.


Weekly Dante readings begin today – Mondays 6pm

Tabitha Tuckett30 January 2017

Readings from Dante’s Divine Comedy in English and Italian

Mondays 6-7.30pm, The Warburg Institute, Woburn Square

(Admission free)

Is a passage from Dante’s Inferno just what you feel like after a day’s work on a Monday? Or have you always wanted to know what all the fuss was about? Today you can find out, for free, at 6pm at the Warburg Institute off Gordon Square/Woburn Square with an introduction to Dante’s life and works, followed by readings on subsequent Mondays.

The annual collaboration between UCL Special Collections, the UCL Italian Department, the Warburg Institute and the Italian Cultural Institute has proved popular enough to resume this year, with a slightly different selection of passages and the chance, later in the term, to view some of the treasures from UCL Special Collections’ outstanding early and rare editions of Dante.

If Mondays aren’t a good time for you, try the themed Dante sessions on alternate Tuesdays at the Italian Cultural Institute in Belgravia. The next is tomorrow, 7-8.30pm.

Passages will be read in both English and Italian and illustrated, together with talks from UCL’s Dante Professor, John Took, on what to look out for in the excerpts. You never know: you could feel inspired, as this former member of the audience was, to cook the entire poem in biscuit form:

Dante & Virgil with sins

Dante’s Divine Comedy in edible form, created by audience member Leon Conrad.

Photo copyright David Ward.

30 Day Research Support Challenge – winners announced!

Angela Young18 July 2016

trophyIt is my gretrophy namesat pleasure to announce the winners of the 30 Day Research Support Challenge virtual trophy. Congratulations to Sue Adams, Nicola Bell, Desta Bokre, Julia Garthwaite, Sui Jing Ly, Ed Lyon, Antony Njuguna, Sophie Pattison and Miriam Rice, who all managed to complete the challenge by undertaking all 30 ‘days’ within the six week period, which ended at midnight on Friday 15th July. Gold medals are awarded to Heather Chesters and Ma’ali Khouri; a silver medal goes to Katie Abranson; bronze medals go to Vicky Robertson and Andrew Thompson.

The challenge is an online course which took place over six weeks from 6th June – 15th July 2016, and is an opportunity for colleagues to find out more about all the areas in which UCL Library Services provides support to researchers. Now the challenge is over, it remains available as part of the Biomedical and Health Information Moodle course. The challenge is still available for anyone to view and has now been opened up so you no longer need to complete one ‘day’ before moving on to the next, but can dip in to whatever topic interests you. If you have difficulties accessing the course or have any questions please contact info.skills@ucl.ac.uk.

Well done to everyone who attempted the challenge. You will soon receive your certificates by email.

Best wishes,


Reminder – 30 Day Research Support Challenge

Angela Young20 June 2016

Would you like to be better able to support our researchers? It’s not too late to start the UCL Library Services 30 Day Research Support Challenge. Running from 6 June to 15 July, this online challenge looks at all the areas in which we can support out researchers. Each ‘day’ consists of a short video and then a few quiz questions in Moodle for you to complete. You can work towards earning a virtual medal, or even getting your name engraved on the Challenge trophy!

As the 30 Day Research Support Challenge is part of the Biomedical and Health Information Summer School, during the first couple of weeks the Challenge focused on study design and critical appraisal, which are specifically biomedical in their focus. It’s not too late to catch up with these ‘days’, but if your field is not biomedical you might like to know that the Challenge moves on to a new topic today, Citing and Reference Management, and if you’d rather skip the biomedical days then let me know and I can give you access from today onwards. Future topics include open access, research data management, bibliometrics and more!

To find out more or start the challenge simply go to the Biomedical and Health Information Summer School Moodle course and start the challenge! If you don’t currently have access to this course you can self-enrol with the enrolment key l1brary.

So why not challenge yourself! Good luck!


Are you up for a challenge?

Angela Young6 June 2016

You may have come across 30 day challenges in relation to fitness exercises. Today sees the launch of the UCL Library Services’ 30 Day Research Support Challenge. It’s not about exercise, it’s about making library staff fit to support our researchers. The Challenge, which takes place completely online, is being run as part of the Biomedical and Health Information Summer School, but is open to all library staff and covers all areas of research support. Over 30 days we’ll be looking at the many areas in which Library Services provides support to researchers. We’ll give you an understanding of these areas making you better able to support our users or point them in the right direction to get support.

30daychallengepictureHow does it work?

Over 30 working days, from 6 June to 15 July, daily activities will be made available on Moodle. The activities consist of a short video to watch and then some quiz questions to answer, and should take around 10 minutes per day in total. Why not challenge yourself to work towards a virtual reward? Completing 15 days gets you a virtual bronze medal, 20 days gets a virtual silver medal and 25 days a virtual gold medal. Anyone who completes the 30 day challenge within the 30 days will be rewarded with the champion’s award, and their name will be engraved on the 30 Day Research Support Challenge virtual trophy!

In the spirit of flexible working you do not need to complete each activity on the day it is released, feel free to catch up when you can, but for a chance to win the virtual trophy you need to complete the 30 daily activities within the 30 days, so you might prefer not to get too far behind! If you don’t manage to complete it within the 30 days don’t worry, the Challenge will remain available on Moodle once the 30 days are up.

How do I register?

There’s no need to sign up, simply start the challenge on the Biomedical and Health Information Summer School Moodle course. You may need to self-enrol on the course using the enrolment key l1brary.

Are you brave enough to take the Challenge?

eXperience eXchange: bookings open

Angela Young4 April 2016

eXeXWe are delighted to announce that bookings are now open for the 2016 UCL Library Services eXperience eXchange. All library staff are invited to attend.

When and where?

Tuesday, 10th May, 10.00-12.30pm in the Library Teaching Room, Newsam Library, UCL Institute of Education.

What happens?

Library staff come together to share ideas and good practice about our liaison and information skills/literacy training activities. In this year’s eXperience eXchange we will be focusing on training and we’ll be exchanging our experiences through short presentations and other group activities. You are invited to make a 5-7 minute presentation to your colleagues. Tell us about ideas you have tried or are thinking of trying, report back on inspiration from a conference or training event you have attended, or simply tell us about something that has worked for you – or something that didn’t! Maybe you’ve been exploring innovative ways of delivering or promoting training, or you’ve created new learning materials or ways of getting feedback from your users – we want to hear about it! Perhaps you would like input from colleagues on developing a training idea that you have, or you’d like to try out that training idea, then this is your chance. The success of the session depends on contributions so please consider presenting. It will be informal and fun!

If you’d rather not present but still have some ideas, thoughts or questions you’d like to share, then why not write a short paragraph that we can put into the ‘ideas pool’ instead? We will put these on display during the break and they may form the basis for further discussions during the afternoon.

As in the previous eXperience eXchanges there will be a break for a cake and biscuit exchange. This too is a chance to share so please bring some cakes or biscuits if you can (bought or home-made).

Signing up

Email Angela angela.young@ucl.ac.uk or Dan daniel.o’connor@ucl.ac.uk if you would like to come along and say whether you would like to contribute a presentation or email a paragraph to go into the ‘ideas pool’. We look forward to seeing lots of you there.

Contributed by Angela Young and Dan O’Connor