I attended the Academic Libraries Seminar last Friday at University of Manchester which was part of the IAML (UK & Irl) annual study weekend (of which more to come). About 20 people were in attendance from various academic music libraries and conservatoires and now is an opportune moment to thank Geoff Thomason of Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) for organising the event! The seminar theme was library users, getting feedback from them and training them.
First up was myself giving a short talk on my dissertation research as part of my librarianship qualification at Northumbria University. I will be exploring user resource format preferences at Leeds College of Music Library and used the opportunity to start a discussion with participants about any trends they’ve noticed in their institutions in this area. Themes that came out were: music students’ format preferences are nuanced, for example CD issues are generally down, print books still preferred, and some students prefer digital scores for their portability; promotion and lecturer buy-in is a massive key to online resource success; online resources can potentially address complaints about opening hours since the virtual library is open 24/7.
Next, Anna Wright (RNCM) shared about their experience gathering user feedback via annual surveys. The current survey aims to gauge user satisfaction with library services and resources, user confidence in using the library, what type of resources they prefer and what they use from both library and, interestingly, free resources (e.g. YouTube). However the conservatoire as a whole is facing ‘survey fatigue’ and low response rates, so they are wondering how to improve this situation.
Richard Chesser (British Library) shared about their researcher training programmes. An important theme in his talk was the benefit of these programmes not only to the researchers, but also to the library since they generate evidence on user engagement and collection use, validate what they’re doing in terms of the custodianship aspect of their mission (i.e. our stuff’s being used!) and contribute to advocacy since the programmes are explicitly linked to one of the BL’s core purposes, research. The BL runs music research days for postgraduates which are very successful and intentionally made open to multi-disciplinary researchers. They also have initiated AHRC collaborative doctoral programmes, which Richard said were also a feedback exercise (finding out about current research and research methods in order to inform services) and also part of being visible and relevant.
Geoff Thomason (RNCM) talked about library inductions and the challenges we face in making them effective: timetabling (RNCM timetable theirs in induction week), making a good impression because it could be someone’s first visit, and what to cover when students are facing information overload. Geoff then shared an innovative approach they tried this year of using a giant-size snakes and ladders game to deliver library inductions. We also gave it a go! Geoff said gamifying their induction has been a successful experience because it got students involved when most of the other inductions had been lectures, it created a relaxed atmosphere so students contributed more especially international students, and the Q & A format provided opportunities to cover various issues, e.g. asking “Can I photocopy scores in the library?” opens it up to address a bit of copyright.
Finally Karen McAulay (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) gave a short talk about promoting collections and the idea of ‘performing your archive.’ She asked people to share examples and I’m afraid the only one I can remember in detail was Royal College of Music doing an annual concert using material from special collections and promoting is as such with the original items on display for the concert AND get this, no white gloves!