Thursday, 26 February 2015

Woodlands and The Ash Tree: a fitting tribute to Oliver Rackham

Following the death of leading historian and ecologist Oliver Rackham, Stephen Town pays tribute with the donation of two of Rackham's popular environmental titles.

Rackham, O, Woodlands and The Ash Tree, coming to the University Library soon

By Wozzy25, CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0
via Wikimedia Commons
Oliver Rackham died last week at the age of 75 after a lifetime’s contribution to the understanding of woodland and landscape. The Guardian newspaper featured an obituary summarising some of his most prominent work.

Rackham's work and writing was not only influential academically, it also informed modern woodland management practice, and challenged the received wisdoms about the history of forests in England. His approach brought together knowledge from a number of disciplines, including archaeology and history, and his first work was informed by Bishop’s archives from 1251, requiring a level of Latin not always common among scientists.

His view of woodlands as antiquities in themselves and an integral part of our civilization imbues his writings, and helped lay the foundations for a more scientific and meticulous approach to woodland conservation. His work extended to broader areas of natural history, ecology and landscape, and the Library has several copies of his History of the Countryside at XC 9.42; clearly on someone’s reading list at some point.

Photo: Woodland path by Mike and Annabel Beales
Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence
The Library, in fact, already has most of his works, including the majestic (and substantial) Ancient Woodland at XB 7, hidden amongst the science quartos behind the lift on the top floor of the Morrell. So, as a tribute I am donating two books to complete our collection of Oliver’s work: his last large scale book ‘Woodlands’, volume 100 in the New Naturalist series; and ‘The Ash Tree’ published last year, about one of this country’s most popular but now threatened  trees.

Monday, 23 February 2015

High Tech human touch 1961-2011: a concise history of the University of Twente

In a move away from science and religion, Stephen Town's next book donation documents the trials and tribulations of a young university finding its feet in 20th century higher education.

De Boer, J., Drukker, J.W, High tech, human touch 1961-2011: a concise history of the University of Twente, in the University Library at K 8.492 DEB

The University of York celebrated its
50th Anniversary across the 2013-14 academic year, and the
Information Directorate celebrated this with a historic timeline in the Fairhurst Building.

In its final year of being under 50, York was also ranked (in the Times Higher Education 100 Under 50) 1st in the UK, and 7th in the World, amongst these relatively young institutions.

The University of Twente is of similar age, welcoming its first students in 1964, and this bilingual book reflects on its history. Compared to the apparently smooth and placid growth of York, Twente’s history is packed with incident, drama and dispute, from the original competition between cities to found the University through to internal debates about the appearance of condom vending machines; all being described in this book in a disarmingly honest and open style (in both Dutch and English).

University of Twente campus by wytze
Reproduced under a Creative commons licence
The book was given to me from a delegation from Twente who visited last week, seeking advice on bringing together their Library and ICT units into a single service. One of the pleasures of academic life is the opportunity to share experience and knowledge with others internationally, and it is also pleasing to be seen by one’s peers as exemplary in some way.

The title of the book ‘high tech human touch’ is very much the motto of this kind of enterprise, so the gift was apposite and there is much of relevance in their story for any University, particularly around research focus and excellence. Through the donation of the book to the Library I hope we can share the valuable insights and knowledge gained from another young and advancing institution.

De Boer, J., Drukker J.W, High tech human touch: A concise history
of the University of Twente, 2011. K 8.492 DEB

We want you to complain...

Joanne Casey explains why we don't mind you moaning.

Your complaints are the life-blood of our service improvement. Getting feedback from you - whether it's positive, negative, or a suggestion for a new facility - is our best opportunity to find out more about more about what you want and identify how we can make improvements to our services.

Last year, we were accredited with the Customer Service Excellence (CSE) Award. One of the elements of CSE is a continual process of review and improvement - the award is re-assessed annually. Our assessor suggested that this year we should review our processes for accepting and dealing with complaints.

In response to this we have:
  • Created easy to find feedback pages on each of our service's web sites making it simple to submit both complaints and comments
  • Worked with our staff and provided them with updated training in complaint handling and responding to feedback
  • Revised our complaint-handling policy, and made the language more user friendly

Our aim is to to deal with complaints informally wherever possible (for example, a member of staff at the Help Desk will refer your complaint to the appropriate team) but we also have a formal process in place which you (or we) can invoke when a complaint is really serious, or when the informal process hasn't worked to your satisfaction.

Once a complaint has been resolved, we now follow it up with you to check that you're happy with how it was handled and with what we did in response. So far, we're doing well - in our first three months of checking we saw 100% satisfaction with our response to complaints!

The way that we handle your complaints links to our overall approach to you as our customers - we want to hear your views, and we always encourage you to get in touch, whatever your concern.

Find out how you can complain (if you need to) or simply pass on your feedback:
Read about our responses to recent feedback:

Friday, 20 February 2015

Lockers, language support, and more - we’re acting on your feedback

Joanne Casey summarises recent changes made in response to your feedback.

Learning what you think of our services is the best way for us to find out how to make them better for you. We gather your comments and suggestions together, whether they arrive by email, in person, on cards, or via Facebook and Twitter, and see how we can act on them. These are some recent developments which grew from your comments.

Library feedback


You've been asking us to provide more lockers, so we've added more - there are now 122 lockers available on the ground floor of the Morrell - that’s an extra 102 compared to last year.

We've also added two accessible lockers on the ground floor of the Morrell - these lockers are designed to be accessible to wheelchair users, like those provided in the accessible study rooms. They're primarily intended for temporary storage, but we're happy to discuss your specific needs, and let you use them on a longer basis if necessary.

Lots of people complained to us that lockers were locked but empty, so we consulted with both YUSU and GSA about what we could do to ensure they were used more effectively. Locker keys are now issued as flexible loans, just like books and other Library items. You can renew your locker key unless it’s been reserved, and fines are chargeable on overdue requested locker keys.

We carry out regular lockers check as we still find that some people leave un-issued books in the lockers - we scan lockers to detect whether there are any unissued items. If there are, we remove the items and return them to the shelves.

Please remember that the lockers are for everyone's benefit - only use them if you need to store items temporarily, don't borrow the key and leave the locker empty just in case you need it at some point.

Postgraduate space

Availability of study spaces remains one of the hottest issues in the Library. We're at capacity, so we can't add any extra study spaces in our buildings, but we can do our best to ensure that all our spaces are used to their fullest.

An examination of usage statistics showed that keeping a small number of individual study rooms for booking by postgraduate students only was not an efficient use of space - in terms of anecdotal evidence, we also got lots of complaints from users who saw them regularly left empty. At the same time, we were getting feedback from surveys and comment cards that postgraduate students wanted more quiet space to work in, and we were aware that the silent study space in the Humanities Reading Room (Burton) was one of our least-used spaces.

We consulted with both GSA and YUSU, and decided to make all of our individual study rooms available to be booked by all users. At the same time, we transformed the silent study space in Burton into a study space specifically for researchers - this came into use at the start of the Autumn term, and is proving increasingly popular.

We'll continue to review use of our space, as it's vital that it is well used. If you're looking for a space in our buildings, it's worth checking our seating availability app - we've now made it available during term time all year round after receiving lots of positive comments about how useful you find it:

IT Services feedback

Google Chrome

Lots of you have asked for Chrome to be installed on PCs in our IT classrooms and study areas, and now it's there - this means you can choose between three web browsers (Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer) to access the web.

Start of term

The start of the autumn term is the busiest time of year for the IT Support Office. Last year we saw queues out of the door for much of the first week, with new students keen to get their laptops, tablets and phones connected to the university network having to wait a long time to be seen.

We understand that arriving on campus can be a stressful time for new students and we didn't want to make the same mistakes again. We sought feedback from students and from our own staff in order to identify the problems from last year and to make arrangements to reduce them as much as possible. Key issues were waiting times, difficulty in finding the IT Support Office, lack of support on Heslington East, and problems for speakers of other language.

This year, we:

  • emailed all new students in advance of their arrival with details of the help available and of how to connect to the network before coming to York
  • offered support on both arrivals weekends, with IT Help Points at Heslington East and at the Library
  • offered Chinese language support (Mandarin Chinese is the second most common language at the University after English)

This worked well, with shorter queues, minimal complaints, and generally good feedback on the service we offered. We intend to do the same next year.

Find out how you can let us have your thoughts: