It seems a long time ago now that we met with Cambridge library staff at Wolfson College to talk about this project, putting heads together to come up with a (incredibly useful) SWOT analysis and discussing what would happen next. Since then we have:

  • Heard from over 50 academics around the University about their experiences of library services related to print material
  • Conducted interviews and workshops with students at Homerton, Girton, Lucy Cavendish and Murray Edwards colleges
  • Witnessed the rise to fame of the Sidgwick book drop (dubbed ‘Sidgbox’ and now with well over 100 followers on Twitter!), collecting usage statistics and feedback and interviewing people about their use of [it/her/him?]
  • Conducted a 4 week pilot book delivery service from the main University Library to the Education and AMES faculty libraries and Pembroke College Library, delivering over 200 volumes and finding out a huge amount about our users in the process
  • Worked with staff from the libraries involved in the pilot, starting to analyse the large amount of data that has been gathered
  • Spent time thinking and talking about which University members might benefit most from any more fully implemented services and also about how these services might operate


[Above: Analysing pilot book delivery service with staff from participating libraries]

So (I hear you asking…) what’s next?

Some very interesting findings have already emerged. We’ve learnt a lot about how print material is currently used at Cambridge; where, when, how and by whom. We’ve also come to realise more and more that there are currently a number of issues around access to this material; this has identified many opportunities for us to better support the needs of our users. In short, it’s a much more complicated picture than the question of  simply whether an item can be delivered to someone or not.

We’re now looking at opportunities for further piloting and scaling up the services which have been successful.

The Sidgwick book drop has been very useful; giving students and other library users new options in terms of when and how they return books. The qualitative and quantitative data gathered is starting to suggest that it may be helping both librarians and library users (win – win!) by helping people to avoid fines and helping material back into circulation more quickly. Very few problems have been encountered along the way. Consideration is being given to whether installing more book drop-off points around the University might be valuable.

sidgbox tweet2

The book delivery pilot service saw very good levels of traffic and raised a lot of important considerations. The service model used for the pilot was labour-intensive and demanded a lot of time from library staff; it is clear that a more fully implemented service offered across more libraries in Cambridge would require a lot of thought in terms of which service aspects could be automated and streamlined. This, however, would have to be weighed up against the value brought by the involvement of professional library staff in the process, in terms of opportunities for collection development and for increased communication and engagement with library users. Other questions were raised around which members of the University would benefit from this type of service the most, with individuals’ existing schedules and commitments playing a large part in how, when, where and to what extent they are currently able to access print resources.

It really has been a fascinating few months! I look forward to keeping you updated with any more developments as they happen.

David Marshall

Futurelib Programme


Header Image: ‘Deliveries’ by Sean T Evans, via Flickr CC –