The Futurelib programme is currently involved in an exciting new project, ‘Intraloan’, which is looking into the current use of circulating library material at the University of Cambridge. The project is investigating various aspects of the use of printed material, focusing on what is used when, where and by who, and how related library services fit into and affect the wider lives of our users.

So far the project has had a largely attitudinal emphasis and has employed a number of different research methods:

  • Email and face-to-face conversations with Cambridge University academics, leading to a large and varied amount of feedback
  • Activity based workshops conducted with students, at colleges both in and outside of the city centre
  • Interviews with library users about their current use of printed books and journals., and their experiences of related library services
  • Conversations with representatives of other academic institutions, focusing on existing services related to the movement of circulating library material
  • Examination of existing services at the University of Cambridge

As always with Futurelib research it is important that we do not stop at the feedback gathering stage. Although we must always talk to our users about their views on our services and their suggestions for improvement, it is also crucial to gain an understanding of what they actually do, and how library services fit into their working lives. With that in mind we have now started to gather behavioural data to complement the invaluable insights we have gained during the initial stages of the project. This has again involved a number of methods:

  • Capturing data from the trial book drop box on the Sidgwick site (read more here)
  • Increasing the promotion of existing services in order to measure any changes in usage (an example is a service where users of the Engineering Department Library can order material from the Betty and Gordon Moore Library to the Engineering Library, and vice versa)
  • A digital diary study with students from across the University, focusing on their use of services relating to print material and how this fits into their schedules
  • A trial intra-library loans pilot service, which offers members of the Education Faculty and the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, along with academics of Pembroke College the opportunity to order borrowable items from the main University Library to their faculty or College library

This trial, conducted over four weeks during full Lent Term, will hopefully provide some important information about whether similar services may be feasible at the University in the future. We will find out who uses the service, what material they request, when they use the service the most, and so on. Importantly we are not just interested in the numbers, we are also keen to talk to users at every step of the way about their experiences of the pilot service, and how (if at all) it changes their approach to their work or studies.

This is a fascinating project which could have very positive implications in terms of what we can uncover about library user behaviour and need in Cambridge, and also in terms of increased collaboration across Cambridge libraries. I look forward to keeping you updated with how it progresses.

David Marshall

Futurelib Programme

Header image: Jonas Tana – ‘Delivery’ (cropped). Flickr CC –