Interviews were conducted with a total of 30 library experts over a period of 2 weeks. Interviews lasted 60-90 minutes and focused on the purpose of the library, the role of the librarian, perceptions of library users and how libraries might change in the future. 

The following major themes came up during these interviews:

Consistency vs. Uniqueness

The diversity of libraries, collections and spaces available at the University is almost unique. The variety should be celebrated and preserved. It has genuine user benefit too: students, researchers and academics have options about where they like to work, what resources are available and choose libraries to suit their needs.

However, navigating this variety of services, resources and spaces is not made easy for people in any way and the design research clearly shows that all types of users struggle. They often end up with less than their ideal solution. Fortunately, good design and appropriate use of technology can help.

College Libraries within the Library Ecosystem

College libraries are independent and administratively separate. However, they play an important role in the delivery of library services and a key part of the library experience of many people at the University, particularly students.

Those interviewed believed that it should should be possible for the relevant students from each college to search resources,

work spaces, services and expertise from a single point of access. This in no way impinges on the independence of college libraries.

Increased Use of Library Spaces

The number of people coming into libraries has gone up. Some of this increase is attributed to lack of group teaching space in some faculties which leads supervisors to book library rooms for 1-on-1 or small group teaching. Librarians are happy with this situation. It’s positive because it gets students into the library and exposed to library services.

Faculty and department libraries are also an important study space for students between lectures; particularly those whose college is distant from their faculty.

Management Data

More information about users and data about their behaviour would help librarians make decisions about services and resources. Many librarians expressed a desire to move towards evidence-based librarianship: an approach of testing whether initiatives work then proving why in a rigorous way.

Spaces for scientists

Lectures and supervisors in Natural Sciences feel that there is a lack of useful communal space for science students. They assert that there is no space in the centre of town for scientists to go to between lectures. Their experience is that a lot of students go back to their rooms or colleges which doesn’t help support their learning.

Digital Scholarship

More and more scholarly material is being born digital. This provides a challenge for libraries – how will they collect, curate and provide meaningful access to born digital material? It also provides an opportunity – how could they be involved in assisting in the creation of such material? The challenge will require new skills but also leverage traditional librarianship too.

Jenny Willatt
Modern Human