Making digital materials more visible in an academic library

What can be done to increase the visibility of digital materials in a physical library?

Raising the profile of digital holdings

In the autumn of 2010 my colleague Cecilia Petersson contacted me.  Cecilia works at another unit of Uppsala University Library.  She wondered if we could work together to improve the visibility of the digital material holdings in our library.   For many years there had been lots of talk about how to improve the library catalogue and we are still waiting for an enterprise search engine.   But even if we could offer improved search, what could be done about borrowers who do not bother about the catalogue and go straight to the shelves?

So, Cecilia and I met to discuss what we could do in a relatively short timeframe.  We hoped that our project, as well as being successful in its own right, could set a precedent and become an example of how to work in a different way.  We decided we could round off our project perfectly - and ensure that we made a real difference in the time frame - by arranging to speak about our project at a national conference.

Involving users

At the beginning of our project we agreed that we could not manage without meeting our users face-to-face.  We involved students, lecturers, researchers and employees in different ways and at different stages of our project to check that we were on the right track.  We were also in contact with librarians in other libraries, some via social media and some in person.  

What we hoped to achieve

Not only did we want to explore ways of making digital materials more visible to our users, but we also wanted to find ways in which the physical library could become both a social and a learning space. 

We wanted to use skills and technology - QR codes, TV monitors, photo frames - to add value in the physical library.  We also wanted to link together the academic courses with textbooks and other relevant materials, using streaming lectures and electronic online courses for students.

Our aim was to highlight and bring digital resources into a context where our visitors work and study and we wanted to involve both users and staff.  It gave us the opportunity to work from a beta-culture and think ‘fun at work'.

Our project had many other positive outcomes.  We were able to try new methods of creative encounters, new ways to share documents and we also made new contacts with other libraries and librarians. 

You can hear more about the results of our pilot project at Internet Librarian International 2011 on Thursday 27 October. 

Linda Vidlund and Cecilia Petersson work at Uppsala University Library, Sweden

Image courtesy of Christiano Betta via Flickr.