Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Do you know the impact of your service? Customer Services Practitioners Group #CSPG #Libraries

Last week I attended an event 'Do you know the impact of your service?' at University of West of Scotland, Ayr Campus.  It was organised by the Customer Services Practitioners Group which consists of people who work in University Libraries / Information Services.
The keynote/discussion was delivered by Gordon Hunt, Director of Planning & Management Information Services at the University of the West of Scotland and entitled Odious Comparisons? The value, use and abuse of league tables and national surveys.
It was a very interesting presentation and and highlighted many aspects of university league tables and student surveys that everyone is aware of and form an important part of the activities that we do.  In advance everyone was asked to look at their
 institution’s league table position on the following websites plus your institutions NSS results.  

The Times one seems to be the one that has most impact, that most people look at.  
Gordon made the point that different Universities have different priorities and focus on different aspects but these are not reflected in the way that the league tables are constructed.  e.g. UWS have a strong widening access programme and have a below average entry tariff.  League tables don't recognise HNDs and there is a conflict between the entry tariff and widening access.  
Any improvements take time to manifest - it's cumulative and it takes time but sometimes you have to convince senior management that the improvements that you're making will impact on the position in the league table.  It is also possible that when you improve, you increase points in the table but don't go up places.
Institutions use peer grouping to compare and benchmark with similar universities to address the problem that you're not comparing like with like eg UWS v Edinburgh.  There is no scope to explain the background.  
It's possible to use other statistics such as Unistats with Key Information Sets http://unistats.direct.gov.uk/
As far as the NSS is concerned....well it's a 'blunt instrument' and the library question is almost meaningless.  It's based on what we think students value.
But it is what we've got and we have to make sure that we get the best results from it as possible. Participation is a challenge and each year, at each institution, various persuasive methods are used in order to encourage students to respond.  I think we tread the line between survey fatigue and putting other more useful surveys or feedback on hold so that they don't distract from the NSS.

There is also the NSSE National Survey of Student Engagement which is focused on student engagement.  http://nsse.iub.edu/
We then had a discussion in groups to talk about league tables:  
Do they reflect your reality?
What impact do they have?
Should we ignore them?
And surveys: NSS
Does it reflect your reality?
What would you change?
Some points that were raised were:
How do you know why or what makes you go up or down.
QS star ratings - how valid is a rating you pay for
International Student Barometer - unrealistic expectations by students?

The first of a series of case study presentations of the day was by Marion Kelt, Senior Librarian: Digital Development & Information Literacy, Glasgow Caledonian University
Making an impact through information skills SMILE @GCU.

This was a very good and informative presentation about SMILE@GCU an information and digital literacy training package for students.  Marion explained how it was created and the information brought together into units that the students could work through.  She talked about the need for qualitative feedback from staff and students as well as usage statistics.  I was interested to hear about her use of Google forms for feedback as this is something that I have been using for a variety of purposes.  
There is also a mobile version of smile called smirk :)

The next presentation was also about information skills and was by Marion Kennedy and Catherine Ure who are Subject Librarians where I work at Heriot-Watt University. 
Making an impact through information skills Power Hours @ Heriot-Watt
They explained that the Power Hours are about a variety of topics and delivered by staff across the University as well as in the Information Services.  They are advertised in a variety of ways including leaflets and handouts, the website and via social media.
The impact is measured by attendance statistics and by anecdotal evidence.  There is a feedback form at the end of each session which is analysed. 94% of participants agree /strongly agree that the Power Hours are useful to studies and research.  This evidence is used to raise the profile of the sessions.  Staff direct students to the sessions, academic staff request tailored sessions and also academics deliver some sessions.  

The next two sessions were case studies based around Making an impact through space.
Firstly Margaret Buchan, Associate Director of Library Services, Robert Gordon University spoke about the new library at RGU.  She explained what they used to do and how they had planned in advance to do things differently when they moved to 'The Tower'.  There was no room for a traditional service / issue desk so they have a welcome desk instead which is staffed by reception staff.  The reception staff were recruited for customer service skills not library skills experience.  There are library staff on each of the other floors to help students on that floor and they communicate with staff in different areas via wireless headsets.  There is no space for group study areas but they do have some provision for groups in another building.
An interesting aspect was that the staff area is 'hot desking' and this seemed to work well for them.

The next speaker was Laurence Bebbington, Acting University Librarian & Director, University of Aberdeen.  He explained the concept of the Aberdeen Library with flexible spaces that are technology rich.  It is a building of architectural merit with public spaces and a very impressive atrium.  There is one dewey sequence throughout the library and plenty of study spaces with power and data on desks.  There is a strong emphasis on self service including self collection of reservations.  
The impact is that there has been a great increase in visits by UGs,  PGs,  staff,  academics and researchers as well as visitors and the wider community.

During lunchtime there was an opportunity to look round the library.  It is a very nice building and some great group study rooms.

The first session of the afternoon was a presentation by Graham Stone, Information Resources Manager/Senior Research Fellow, University of Huddersfield Library analytics: understanding impact and value.  
It was a very interesting talk and I have read about the work that has been done on these projects.  (My notes don't reflect how useful and informative the talk was).
Graham talked about how library data has been used at Huddersfield to improve existing services and how library data is 'linked' to student attainment.  They found that there is a statistical significance between the final grade achieved, number of books borrowed and number of times e-resources were accessed.
In phase 2 of the project they are looking at library data and student demographics, discipline, retention, on/off campus and the breadth and depth of e resource usage.  They are also looking at library usage by age and by country of domicile and how this affects retention.  Does the depth and breadth of the library collection have impact on attainment?  Non usage of library resources could indicate disengagement with workload and lack of performance.
Analytics are becoming a strategic priority within libraries / information services / universities.
Their current project is Jisc LAMP http://infteam.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2013/02/01/jisc-lamp-shedding-light-on-library-data-and-metrics/
They are looking for benefits of scale with future work and a shared library analytics service.  Analytics dashboards and engines are the way forward with compelling visualisations.

The final two presentations were about Making an impact through resources.   Robbie Ireland, University of Glasgow talked about Reading lists @Glasgow. 

The reading list system is based on Talis Aspire and he used an evidence based case for adoption.  'Reading list as teaching tool'.  The background to the change was that they had a  paper system for print books but a move to eresources needed an online system.  The aim was to improve the relationship with academics, and not make the idea / implementation too library oriented.  There was a focus on academics meeting the needs of students.  

Then Lisa Haddow, Team Manager, Library Liaison & Development and Valerie Wells, Senior Subject Librarian, University of Stirling talked about Resource Lists @Stirling.  Again they use Talis Aspire but the lists, and all the work, is done by the library staff.  Students have dynamic up to date accurate lists.  The list appears in the Blackboard course (as a resources list ).  Academic staff don't have to manage the resource list but get statistics to show usage. The librarians use the list as a means of showing library resource usage and effectiveness. Their information strategy expects more than 80% of modules to have resources lists.  
Should it be compulsory for items to be on reading lists? 

The whole day was great and I very much enjoyed it.  It is organised by Dilys Young (Librarian and Assistant Director, University of Strathclyde) and Sonya Campbell (Customer Service Development Manager, GCU) who ensure that there are interesting speakers and well facilitated discussions.  The pace of the event was quite fast, as there was lots to talk about and do, which suits me well. The last event in Edinburgh was also a very useful day and the attendees are all interesting and easy to talk to - great networking opportunities.  If you are a library / information services person in Scotland, interested in customer services, i would recommend joining the group and attending an event. 

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