Involving students in library acquisitions

At Goldsmiths College a scheme to involve students in the library acquisitions process is now in its third year.

At Goldsmiths College, part of the University of London, a scheme to involve students in the library acquisitions process is now in its third year and has garnered enthusiastic feedback and enhanced the library’s acquisitions process. Speaking at the UKSG Forum in London, Goldsmiths’ Acquisition Supervisor Marion Harris explained more about the development of the scheme.

The journey began in 2015 with the introduction of Student Library Reps (SLRs), inspired by King’s College London’s ‘Library Champions’ scheme. Student volunteers were recruited and offered a budget to choose new library books. The budget for each SLR was set at between £250 and £400, depending on the size of the department.

The library advertised for volunteers on a first-come first served basis, and gave successful applicants a one hour training session on how to use the Dawsonenter acquisition database. The SLRs were given clear criteria to work to: they must choose in-print books, spend no more than £50 per title, and choose titles that were academically relevant; their orders were checked by acquisitions staff.

In the first year, ten students (representing 12 departments) completed the pilot project, and 134 items were ordered overall – 11.2 per department. The total cost was just under £2,800 – an average of just over £230 per department. The highest spend came from the anthropology department, while the lowest was for psychology. Most items ordered were books, but there were also some eBooks and DVDs on the list. The majority of the items were new titles, with just over 23% representing extra copies of existing items already held by the library.

As the project moved into its second year, the SLRs’ role was beefed up and linked to the Higher Education Achievement Record, which enables institutions to provide a detailed picture of a student’s time at university, including academic work, extra-curricular activities, and voluntary work. As a consequence there was a more formal application process, with successful applicants expected to make a commitment of twenty hours to include job shadowing, attending focus groups and writing a report. Catch-up meetings were put in place to help avoid drop-outs during the course of the year.

In this second year, sixteen departments were represented, and 184 items ordered in total at a total cost of just under £4,500 – an average of just under £280 per department.

For the 2017-2018 academic year, Marion Harris explained that the project had been further developed based on feedback from previous cohorts of Student Library Reps. The scheme has expanded in size, with 34 positions being offered – one undergraduate and one postgraduate per department.  A project steering group has been formed, to include the Students’ Union and the Careers Service. And more ‘development and promotion’ activities have been introduced as part of the SLR role, to include user experience testing, and participation in open days and careers sessions.

Summing up the pros and cons, Marion Harris reported that the scheme had identified new titles for the library, impacted on circulation stats, and garnered positive feedback. On the negative side, there were some non-participating departments, some drop-outs from the scheme, and  the recruitment and training process was time consuming for library staff.

Marion Harris ended by presenting some student feedback which provided a ringing endorsement of the scheme from the SLR’s perspective. The project “gives you the opportunity to learn how to publicise and manage information as well as learn how to work within a set budget”, commented one, “These skills are… transferable to any challenges or work a student might face in the future when they gain employment.”

Another Rep explained how the scheme had lifted the lid on the work of the library: “through the two hours of job shadowing I realised how much time, money and effort from the staff and department it takes to run a library.”