15 Dec 2014

Semesterisation - observations from the Library

Last week the national press  reported on sit in protests at UCC Library. This protest was organised by UCC Student Union over what students saw as the less than adequate opening hours of the main Library building in the wake of the recent semesterisation of the academic year at UCC.

Though these protests attracted the attention of students and media they are, for me as a librarian, the least interesting and least surprising aspect of the switch to a semester based model.

UCC Library has always been very much used as a study space by students. Particularly at peak times of the academic year.  Our students flock to the library when they have deadlines. The more deadlines they have the more flocking they do. With semesterisation students have more deadlines and the time between deadlines is reduced. Ergo, more flocking. Therefore no surprise.

But there are other aspects of this change that could be of more interest to other librarians whose institutions might be moving over to a semester based model. A number of these are probably obvious but as the sit in protests show - not all of us think of the obvious things all of the time.

The number of information / reference queries being handled from undergraduates has significantly increased this year.
Students are under more pressure. Both time and resource pressure. As there are more students doing more assignments at the same time there is greater demand on our hard copy resources. Core texts are being checked out quicker, earlier and more often. There are also more holds / requests being placed on these checked out items.
This has provided an opportunity for us library staff.
Students are needing, and actually seeking assistance, from frontline library staff at an earlier stage of the year. They need to find material as their recommended reading material is more often not available. This puts us in a position of influence - they need us to show them how to maximise their use of our resources to find equally relevant material. It allows us to introduce them earlier to our e-resources. This has the added value of increasing the use of our e-resources.
A happy side product, hopefully, is that we instill good research practice in undergrads from the very start of their academic career.

The amount of items being shelved has increased. The increase in students using the library as an information resource, as opposed to a study space, has led to increased usage of our hard copy resources. 
In recent years we had found that the number of items needing to be shelved had reduced significantly, year on year, This slide has been halted. And gone swiftly the opposite direction. The number of items being circulated and requiring re shelving has shot back up. Obviously this means that Library Staff and Student Help are all busier as regards shelving.
Shelving is taking up more library man hours.

We are requesting more items from the store.
Every summer we relegate items to the store. This relegation is based on usage. When an item has not been checked out for a number of years we tend to relegate. This year we find that more of these relegated books are being requested as students seek alternatives to the items on their reading lists.

There is more browsing of the shelves by students. 
As students cannot find the actual book they are looking for they browse the Dewey area more. Thus leading to different materials being borrowed. I imagine that lecturers will be marking papers with plenty of 'unusual' / different items / material being referenced.

Many books with historically low circulation stats are now being circulated.

Undergraduate student help are finding it harder to stick to rosters due to assignments.
We in UCC Library hire a number of student assistants every year. They work twelve hours a week and most of them spend their shifts helping with stock management. To put it more plainly - they shelve books and tidy the shelves.
This year we find that undergraduate students are finding it difficult to commit to rostered times due to the amount of assignments they are working on at any one time. This means that it requires a flexibility on our side to work around their schedule. We have had to work on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis to ensure that the student help can work on their assignments and work their required hours. A number of students have had to give up their hours or pull back on their hours due to their study commitments

In conclusion, as  I see it, Semesterisation has been a good thing for UCC library.
The physical building is much busier.  Students are using the library more and earlier in the year.
Our information sources - both physical and virtual are being utilised more.


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