Reflective Log: Monday 8th July 2013

Hello all, last week was rather good, as predicted.

Monday and Tuesday were relatively normal. Having reached a point the week before where I’d pretty much run out of tasks to do, I’ve been given another big box of peace pamphlets from Special Collections to sort through and take down details of. I spent both afternoons doing this, and am probably around halfway through the box. They’re all old Commonweal stock, mostly donations, but I don’t think they ever made it onto the shelf – fairly sure they’ve been sitting around in boxes for a very long time. Anywho, this particular box is mostly pamphlets about pacifism and anti H-bomb etc. etc. I haven’t stumbled upon anything that massively sticks out yet, but if I do I’ll be sure to take note!

In the mornings on Monday and Tuesday (no idea why I started talking about the afternoons first!) I was down in the basement taking notes on which journals have been moved into our rolling stack – these are journals that we have insecure electronic access to, so we’re holding onto instead of chucking them out. We’re going to keep the rolling stack locked, because in the year or two that it’s been accessible for students to use, they have managed to do a fair amount of damage to it. So I was writing down the title, dates and bay of each journal, and then transferring onto a spreadsheet when I got upstairs. I made very slow progress with this on Monday, so on Tuesday I used an iPad spreadsheet app to note it all down, and then just needed to e-mail it to myself and copy and paste into Excel. This was a lot quicker than handwriting it all and then typing it up afterwards!

On Wednesday I was up at our Management library for the day to help with the journal discards at their end. The entire day was spent pulling the doomed journals from the shelves, suppressing them on the system and then dumping them in crates to be taken to the skip by porters. Between two of us, we managed to get through all of the management journals by the end of the day (just!!), with only a short list of law journals leftover to do the following day. I found the whole day quite fun – it was nice to have a change of atmosphere, and the management library was so incredibly laid-back and quiet – we only had half a shelf of returned books in the entire day!

On Thursday morning I had my time with acquisitions (who had completely forgotten that I spend time with them every week and had no idea why I was walking into their office). I spent the morning bib-record checking new books, as they had quite a pile up, presumably from having been spending a lot of time reclassifying the 306s.

In the afternoon, well, what a treat! I went to Manchester with the graduate trainees from Leeds and Leeds Met. Penny, knowing pretty much every librarian in the world ever, had kindly arranged for the 4 of us to visit Manchester University’s Alan Gilbert Learning Commons. The whole building was stunning. It is such a shiny new building that it was only opened in October 2012, and cost £24m to build. A library building with absolutely no books or journals, it could well be the future of our university libraries. The entire building dedicates all 5 of its huge floors to study space – boasting 1000 study spaces, with 400 PCs, 30 bookable group study rooms, and group study spaces everywhere you looked. At the beginning of our tour we were told to try out any chairs that we wanted to sit in. We all laughed when our guide said that, but along the tour we really did get excited at taking it in turns to sit in each different type of seat – there were so many, and each one more comfortable than the next! There were sofas, armchairs, padded chairs with wide arms to rest your study materials, PODS!, tall chairs, short chairs, pretty chairs… I did think at one point that we were walking around the McDonalds of the library world because of all the colours and shapes, and the particular bench we were trying out looked exactly like somewhere you would sit to eat in a Maccy D’s. My word, the building was gorgeous. There were pictures and quotes about Manchester written and drawn by students printed on the walls and glass panels, which looked really cool. There are a lot of big windows both to let the light in and to let students look outside – there are actually glass boxes sticking out of the building that students can sit on chairs in and just look out around them ‘to be inspired’. It really was quite something. The group study rooms were extremely well equipped, catering for between 2 and 12 students each, all with interactive screens built into the walls complete with a camera in the wall for Skype and conference calls! I couldn’t believe my eyes! The technology in the place really was great for students – these big screens with cameras could also be found in sofa areas elsewhere in the building – and all the sofas had ample plugs fitted into them, too. On the ground floor there were even charging lockers, where you could leave your technology locked up charging. And all of the signs around the building were touch-screen interactive maps, letting you view floor plans, maps of the city, availability of group study rooms and you could even read the news!

In ways, the building could just be seen as a giant common room. We discussed this with our guide, who told us that for this reason they have to do very regular patrols to make sure that the space is being used correctly. In term time, the night guards are constantly waking students up – not surprising given the number of places you could stretch out! In the months that they’ve been open, there has only been 1 piece of graffiti found, which is someone’s name written on the inside of a pod-type space. I imagine if Bradford students were let loose in such a space, that would be the last of our worries.

I’m sure there was a lot more I had wanted to say about the building, but nothing I write in a blog will compare to actually walking around the place – our tour took over an hour, and we definitely could have spent much longer looking around. The experience certainly made me realise that universities like Manchester are in a *totally* different league to Bradford – the study space in our beloved J. B. Priestley Library has absolutely nothing on the Learning Commons. Granted, the Learning Commons didn’t have physical resources, but the main library is literally about 20 metres away across a path, so students barely have any distance at all between the two. The whole tour was certainly an eye-opener and a great experience, and I’d highly recommend to anyone to go and see how Manchester have used this space.


Graduate Trainees on tour (at McDonalds??) Photo courtesy of Sean 🙂

Photos of the building can be found in Manchester University Library’s flickr folder.

And that leaves me with Friday. I had a day’s leave. It was grand.

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