Friday, 30 September 2011

Keping in touch

For the final post this week we'll look at how, and when, we contact you and where you can get information about the library.

The majority of our messages to our readers will be via email and in general we only write to you concerning items you have borrowed or requested. It is very important that you keep your email address up to date on your MyBirkbeck student profile if you are a student, on the HR database if you are staff, and by telling us if you are an external member of the library. One thing we did over the summer was to overhaul our email notification system so that it runs every day rather than just weekdays. The emails also go out at the same time each day, just after 9 rather than the slightly variable system we used to have. For purely administrative purposes the notice informing you that there is an item to collect go out a bit later.

As mentioned at the beginning of the week we do send out a reminder two days before your books are due back so do please act on this to renew them, or bring them back. We also send notices when they are overdue. If a book you have out is requested we will write to you to let you know that it cannot be renewed and has to be returned, and if you request a book we will email you when it arrives. If you borrow a One Day Loan item we'll jog your memory by sending you a message that it has to be returned that day.

You may occasionally get an email drawing your attention to something, such as the annual survey, but these are very few and far between.

Other ways you can find out about new or changed services include the library website, Twitter, Facebook and of course our blogs. A lot of our news and blog postings also feed into Twitter. If you contact us via Twitter or Facebook we will try to respond but for important matters please go via the library Help Desk, either by phone or by email - or even in person. We also put news on our catalogue front pages, especially if there is going to be any downtime or unexpected closures - thankfully these are rare.

And that's that for this week. Good luck next week, don't forget to come on a 5.30 library tour if you are a new student, and enjoy the sunny weekend ahead.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Moves and relocations

As well as taking all the books off the shelves to tag them this summer we have also moved them around so returning students amy find that they have to learn new locations for their subject areas. The important things to note are that more art and art history books are now on Level 2 and that all history plus a chunk of literature has moved up to level 3. This means that we have been able create some space in order to get material off the overflow trolleys. This space was created by squashing up the Bliss sequence on Level 3. If you have ever had to look for a book with an alphabetical shelfmark rather than a numerical one (Dewey calssification)  then you have used the Bliss sequence! We are gradually coverting these to the Dewey sequence. We are also gaining some space on Level 4 by reducing the runs of print journals up there, especially where we have electronic holdings. We have added some more study spaces up there. Some back runs will move down to a new storeroom we are getting. Please make sure that you study the signs around the library or refer to the plan on the website, and of course if you get really stuck ask a member of library staff for help.

Returning students will also find that the Seminar Room has a had a bit of makeover. There are now 30 Windows 7 PCs in there along with new desks, caprpet and repainted walls. As proviously mentioned we have lost access to room 402 due to pressures on space elsewhere in the college, but are adding additional PCs in the Open Area. Our colleagues in IT Services manage the PCs for us and are converting them all to Windows 7. Library users will also be able to make use of the new large IT lab being constructed adjacent to the library when this is not in use for teaching. Look out for more information about this in due course. Students are also reminded that there is access to the Birkbeck wifi network throughout the library, but please do not use laptops and other devices in the Reading Room which is designated for silent study.

A final word of warning - if you do bring a laptop into the library please do not leave it unsecured. Sadly we do have the occasional theft of laptops. Treat yourself to a good lock, or simply carry it around with you.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

RFID and managing the library

Yesterday we looked at the use of the RFID tags and how they can make using our self-service units easier to use. Today we'll have a very quick look at how we are going to use RFID to improve our services. To be honest, this may not be most exciting feature on this blog but indulge us for a moment.

The RFID tags can be thought of as electronic barcodes, but of course these are barcodes that can be read without having to open the book. What this means for us is that we can scan items quickly and will be able to use RFID to issue and return items at the Issue Desk as well as in back office functions. Perhaps of more importance for our readers is that we have a Digital Library Assistant (or "wand", although as you can see, it looks actually nothing like a wand, or at least not one in the Harry Potter sense.) which can be used to scan the shelves and trolleys.

This will help with getting the shelves into order, and with finding mis-shelved items and also those that readers have reported missing or that have got back on to the shelves without being properly returned. Our use of this is very much at the experimental stage at the moment but this will undoubtedly have plenty of benefits as we discover more ways of using it. So if you see a member of library staff scanning the shelves with a device that looks like a gadget from Star Trek, you now know what they are doing! 

Tomorrow we'll see why this device might come in handy as we look at what we've done with the books this summer.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Self-service update

As promised here is the first item in a short series looking at some of the changes that took place over the summer.

The big project during July and August was the tagging of over a quarter of a million items with RFID tags. This was achieved ahead of schedule and brings several benefits to the library and its users. The most obvious to users is that it makes issuing and returning items on the self-service units a great deal easier. All you need to do to borrow an item is scan the barcode on your ID card and, assuming that you haven't done something horrendous that blocks you from using the library, place each item in turn in the V shaped slot and remove it when instructed. When you have done all your items choose to print your receipt, or go the green route and have it emailed to the address we have for you. Returning items is even easier as you don't need to scan your barcode, just choose the "Return" option and then place each book in the slot and then in the bin. Collect your receipt and you are done.

You can also use the self-service units to check what you have on loan and to renew items using the touch screen. The process is very straightforward and there are clear instructions.

An additional feature, and one that we hope you won't need to use very often, is the fines payments process. If you owe a fine this will be displayed as you scan your library barcode. You can pay by cash or by debit/credit card depending on which machine you use. The process is very simple and you get a receipt. The fine is taken from your library record immediately. If you pay by cash you can pay as much or as little as you wish. If you choose to pay by card it will take the full amount. Remember that if you owe more than £25 you won't be able to borrow anything until the level is reduced. However, do remember that we email you before your books are due back so please get in the habit of clicking on the link in the email and renewing your books to avoid the risk of a fine.Either that or write a big sign to remind you to return your library books and stick it on the fridge!

Tomorrow we'll have a quick look at what else the RFID project brings to the Library.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Another new academic year

Well here we are again, another academic year is rapidly approaching, and for some it has already started. As usual at this time of year we welcome our new students and welcome back those of you who are returning for more! There have been a few changes and developments throughout the summer so over the next few days we'll be looking at some of these in a bit more detail.

One thing to note is that today the Library Seminar Room reopened with 30 Windows 7 PCs. It has also had a makeover in terms of furniture along with a coat of paint and a new carpet. regretably due to space constraints we have loss the use of Room 402 on the top floor of the library but we will be getting some new PCs in the Open Area and there will be access from the library to the new large IT lab when it is not being used for teaching.