1 Mar 2017

Staff mobility as part of Erasmus+ programme

Guest post by Joelyn Galea and Melissa Galea Library Assistants at Junior College Library at The University of Malta

Our library exchange to University College Cork (UCC) library during October 2016 has been a very rewarding experience. Both Melissa and I work at the University of Malta (UoM) Library branch, catering for pre-university students (16-18 years old). We have always wanted to learn and discover how other foreign academic libraries differ from our own academic library. This was our first experience abroad job shadowing another academic library. Upon our arrival we were given a very warm welcome from all the UCC staff and throughout the two weeks that we stayed there we had the opportunity to see and work with almost all of the UCC library departments and its branches.

During our first day at the library we were given a detailed tour by one of the liaison librarians. A lot of the services offered at the UCC library, also known as Boole Library, are very much similar to our own main library at UoM. Several services include the circulation desk, short loans section, photocopying service, exhibitions, study areas, special collection, archives, acquisitions, cataloging department etc.

Since UCC caters for approximately 20,000 students, the main Library building is much bigger than that of UoM. In fact, it spreads over 5 floors. They have the space not only for meeting rooms offered to students which can be self-booked but also other rooms which provide business advice to students and staff of UCC.

Unlike the UoM Library, all books at UCC have the RFID system, which permits the users to check out and return books through the self-issue machines. This is something which our management is planning to do in the future. Also, each student has a UCC pass which allows him/her to make use of the library by entering through a security threshold, unlike the UoM Library, which is open to all patrons, from University students, staff and external visitors.

On our second day we were invited to attend a talk by the director of the Boole Library, Ms Colette McKenna regarding the library operational plans for the coming years. We have noticed that the main problems which the UoM library faces are also encountered by other libraries abroad. Space and finance are two major problems. In fact, electronic resources have increased in cost especially by publishers and this has put a lot of pressure on the UCC library. The library is also planning to collaborate with 10 leading hospital partners as it is the leading university that helps with nursing and medical teachings. Eduroam has also been expanded to hospitals. Furthermore, there have also been discussions on creating virtual reference (live chat) interaction with students. The UCC library is expanding its services from physical to more digital by using their Institutional Repository – CORA (Cork Open Research Archive). Their target is for UCC academic staff to be more involved in CORA. This is also aligned with our own library, which is trying to encourage UoM staff academics to do the same, within our own institutional repository – OAR@UoM

The UCC Library operation plan is to optimize more library spaces. In fact it wants to start the laptop loan station (chrome book), where laptops can be rented for four hours and this can be done by self-issue and return. The library is also aware that their website is important to attract more visitors. Therefore, they have issued a library web redesign project to make sure that the library is being kept up to date with the current situations of the UCC. Overall, The UCC library’s mission is to deliver high-valued, responsible services that promote best practices relating to Open Access, Research Data Management, and Digital Collection Management.

At the circulation desk, we were welcomed by Ann Byrne. We must say that she answered all of our questions very professionally and showed us how to use the library IT system, called Sierra. We had the opportunity as well to attend to some of the students’ queries.

On our 3rd day we were introduced to Ronan Madden who heads the acquisitions department. The staff here takes care of all the monographs, serials and journals of the library. Most of the yearly budget goes for the subscriptions, and the rest of the budget goes for books. The staff told us that UCC library is also a legal deposit library but not obligatory. In fact part of their work is to run after material that has been published recently to acquire a copy of it. They currently possess over 889 e-Journals. The Irish Research eLibrary (IREL) also helps the UCC library with the payment for databases.

In the afternoon we went to the Mercy University Hospital Library (MUCH) which is an evidence based clinical practice. This branch library keeps people up to date with newly developed research. This branch is not visited by many people as less and less are making use of textbooks; however there is a high demand for online subscriptions of journals and articles.

On our 4th day we went to another medical branch library called Cork University Hospital (CUH) which basically offers the same services as Mercy University Hospital Librar, but at a larger scale. Later that afternoon we visited the Electronic Resource department. Here on a monthly basis, they input the list of newly acquired books on the website.

Our 5th day consisted of learning about the library’s Collection Development and Management. This department is rather new and has been open since January 2016. Ger Prendergast, the CD&M librarian, main work is to look at loan period usage of books in the last 5 to 10 years. This is done by using the IT system Sierra. For example, some books which have not been used for years are taken off the shelves and put in the library’s store. Duplicates are mostly thrown away and with regards to the damaged items, it depends on whether they have been used recently or not. The library has also taken off physical journals off the shelves for those which are accessible online.

On our 2nd week in Cork, we were taken to the Institutional Repository Department. UCC has no technical support in IR and so they use a support company Atmire, a Belgian Company, for any difficulties that they might encounter. Unlike what we do at the UoM Library, this department does not do any digitization of material to be uploaded on the IR, but search for articles and dissertations that are already available online and can be put in Open Access. Their mission is to try to persuade the UCC academics to deposit their academic work as much as possible. Currently, they are requesting policy mandates for publications. They have to introduce a policy in order for researchers and academics to input their works in the IR. We have noticed that the subject headings inputted on CORA are written and decided by the student (in the case of e-dissertation). There are no regulations with subject headings, but all keywords inserted have to have the first word capitalized. At our UoM library, we stress a lot on the uniformity of subject headings and we follow the Library of Congress Subject Headings list, when cataloging material on the cataolgue and on the IR.  The department has a weekly meeting called “Harvesting articles pilot project” or HAPP. The project’s aim is to know how they are getting on with the IR.

The staff here makes their utmost to search for UCC materials online. They email UCC authors to see if they want their work to be put on the repository if the work is not found in Open Access. If on the other hand, the articles are already in Open Access, they inform the author that their work has been put on the IR. The staff is hoping to find an increase in CORA and also that within a year 50% of the material would become Open Access.

On our 8th day we visited Boston Scientific Health Sciences Library where we were warmly welcomed by all the staff there. BSHS library is another Medical branch library of UCC Library. Our experience there was very similar to the other branch libraries of UCC. However, they also check every new book that they receive from the Boole Library whether the books have been inputted in the Sierra. Then, they note the date the book arrived at the floor. There is a subject librarian, who creates reports on the usage of books. As with the other libraries, Brookfield library also weeds material that hasn't been used for many years. They also provide information literacy session to students.

On our 9th day at the UCC library, we went to the Special Collections department. Elaine Harrington told us that they organize exhibitions and most of their exhibitions are booked up to 2 years in advance.

There is also the archive section, a storage section, an archive reading room for students and a restoration room of old Journals. Students can make use of 1 room for newer material and another room for the older material. Here the student makes the request by filling a form and then the librarians search for the material themselves. At our UoM Library we have a special section that works in this manner. It is called the Melitensia section. The books found in this section have to have something that refer to Malta. It can either be written in Maltese or in any other language, about the Maltese Islands, or written by Maltese authors.

General reference books, folios, etc., are found in the Special Collection department. They mostly have printed materials, but also other items such as CD’s. They have a room specifically for microform. Students can come in and make use of this room. There are 4 reader printers and 2 scan pros. They are like PC’s but students can scan microform reel images and make a copy on their pen-drive for free.

In the archive section you will find all sorts of old materials. They are put in a low temperature room in order to preserve the materials. Most materials are stored as seen in the images above. Materials stored at the archive section range from 18th century dresses and men suits, to old maps, personal diaries, manuscripts, newspapers, census, state papers, parliamentary papers, etc. The date range of collections starts from the 15th century to the present day. There are approximately 52,000 items in the Special Collections. We were very lucky to see some of these special items that are carefully stored in the library for exhibition purposes as well as for research.

Through this experience we have learned that the UoM library is taking the same direction as the Boole Library, in terms of going from a physical library to more digital. Both libraries face the same problems, which are both trying to deal with. At the moment, both libraries are trying to encourage their respective University academics to publish their material on the IR. This is in fact the next step to going digital.  Furthermore, there were some tips that were given to us which were beneficial, like the Information Literacy sessions, which we attended as well, as we both deliver the same sessions at our library branch in Malta.

This mobility programme has been a very successful experience to the both of us. As our stay was for two weeks, we were able to visit a lot of departments and branch libraries situated in Cork. We even had the chance to visit the stores, situated outside the campus, which was going through a ‘spring cleaning’ phase.

Through these two weeks we got to know almost all of the staff at Boole Library and we were amazed by their very warm welcome, and we wish to tell them thanks for their help and  hospitality. We will surely recommend Cork University library to anyone who wishes to visit or job shadow a foreign library, where the staff is very helpful, and since everyone speaks English it is a plus. We also recommend touring the area and beyond, which is amazing!


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