Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Study spaces and seats - this week's hot topic

Last week, much time, effort and discussion, in our department and across the university, was focused on study spaces for students. Spaces within the library building and elsewhere on campus .
The library at Heriot Watt University Ednburgh Campus is popular, it is well used and is at capacity much of the time. There are 4 floors - the main entrance floor, which is floor 1, is general purpose. There is the Service Desk, individual study spaces, group study tables, study booths, bench tables and seats, soft seating and also the cafe. As we don't have a foyer area then there is also a tendency for groups to congregate and it is also a thoroughfare to other floors. The ground floor is silent study and journals and dictionaries and is the most clearly defined space. The second floor is the book floor with quiet study spaces around the perimeter, some individual study rooms, group study rooms and two quiet PC labs. The third floor is mainly group study tables but not exclusively as they are big tables on rows and can be used by individuals, small or large groups. There is also a large PC lab.
Looking at it objectively , it is a good mix and we all, including students, make the best of it.
It has a really good atmosphere but there is not enough space and it is not very modern (definitely 70s). Students want and need more study space. We have more seats than study tables which is ok from a social learning perspective but these should be extra to the quota not instead of.
We manage and monitor the space well and always find spaces where and when needed.
Last week students via the student union began a campaign for more places to study and the university have responded by opening up the conference centre and some teaching rooms. We've been advertising and promoting these additional spaces so hopefully this will ease the situation. What we need, of course, is a new library.....

Monday, 23 March 2015

Semester 2 More than half way...

Semester 2  - Week 10 or, in more general terms, Mid March or '2 months done 2 months to go' :)
Semesters as opposed to terms mean that it feels like a long haul between January and end of May - and it is a long time to keep going for 19 weeks.  But then the summer.  However, before anyone mentions that it is quiet in libraries and universities over the summer, it isn't - it is just a different rhythm and a different focus.
So, back to week 10.  We're increasingly busy in the library building - we seem to have become the 'destination of choice' on campus and consistently have an occupancy of over 550 from 12 noon until late afternoon.  If we count every single study space we possibly have, we have just 613 so there is a high demand for spaces.  The noise levels have also been creeping up and our main floor which has the Service Desk , group spaces, study pods, individual study spaces, social learning seats and a cafe, has become a noisy hub of activity.  We will continue like this until after Easter and then will re-introduce the 'Making the Most of the Space' initiative when we monitor the library learning space. The aims of the monitoring are to reduce noise levels in the library and also reduce the practice of students reserving spaces by leaving unattended items.
Our online booking system for individual and group study rooms is still in place and going well. Students have embraced the opportunity to book the rooms online in advance and the prime slots fill up quickly.  We have a few improvements that we can make to the procedure and also we need to monitor how students are using the system - with the group rooms there is potential to book for more than the maximum 3 hours and we are relying on students being fair.
Collecting and collating statistics is ongoing.  We are now in a situation where we are collecting most of the data that we need and can present it to those who need it.  But we need to make it much more relevant and timely (more time needed to be timely....)
From a staffing point of view we have been busy with PDRs (Appraisals) and hopefully these are complete now.  I have spent sometime looking at the objectives to make sure that staff in the Customer Services Team feel that the objectives are relevant to them.  I need to map them to the action plan more effectively in order for staff to be clearer how they can work towards their objectives in a practical way.