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An example of how #processimprovement and #technology choice helped a university #Library and its patrons.


In the time I have been working at the University of Canberra I have seen significant change across the institution. The environment the university operates in continues to though new challenges up from COVID to tougher government higher education policy. My role in all this has a lot to do with applying new technology and processes to help the university meet these challenges.

One of the areas of campus my team supports from a technology perspective the Library Services. I manage a team that has supported the learning and library systems since 2015. It's a unique situation compared to structures at many universities, since Learning and Teaching teams don’t usually manage Library systems. This organisational structure was setup deliberately by senior managers who have since departed for one reason or another. Their goal was to realise an improved experience for students and teaching staff by bringing the library information systems and learning and teaching systems closer together and they used organisational structure to achieve this. The Library has since moved to another part of the organisational structure but my team continues to support the systems working closely with Library staff and vendors.

At the time the Library had been using the same systems (iLMS, repository) for many years and their needs had outgrown the systems. This was exacerbated by a shrinking work force, each time a staff member left and was not replaced their workload was distributed to the rest of the remaining team members. As this went on it became clear that we needed more efficient processes and systems that automated more processes. With Learning and Teaching and the Library working under the same director a procurement process emerged that looked not only at the needs of the Library but also at the overall student experience across the two domains of Library services and learning and teaching. We asked questions specifically designed to elicit responses about how the experience should be from the point of view of resource discovery, assessment, connection with others, etc, in the educational process. The project sought to improve ease of use and processes, increase efficiency and reduce workload for all users.

This process gave us a rich picture of how students and staff wanted to experience their learning environment and workflows and it was a fusion of library services and other TEL platforms that was required achieve their learning and teaching goals. For example completing an assignment required access to the assignment details, lecture recordings, reading lists, search engines, peers, teachers, library support, academic integrity support, ICT literacy services etc. To create a teaching site for the next semester staff needed to create their resources, bring in useful lecture recordings from previous offerings, access resources created by others, review usage of existing reading list items, submit requests for the latest literature, review feedback on resources and experiences from past iterations of the unit, etc.

The procurement process sought the best environment to meet these needs, taking into account how systems work together not just the merits of the individual systems, we ended up with an experience that on the whole matched what users wanted and most importantly expected. Finding out what people expect took asking the right questions, both of the affective and functional domains.

Working closely with Library management and staff as key stakeholders we identified the pain points that any new environment needed to help resolve. These included the large amounts of time and effort required to generate reports, and needing a better way to work with faculty to create and maintain reading lists and provide resources.

In the Library, prior to the new environment, Millenium, Summon and Equella were used. Summon was an excellent search engine, and Equella was somewhat of a Swiss army knife performing many functions including open access, dark repository, ERA, past exams repo, past outlines repo, and reading list tool. 

The Library now has as it's tools Alma, Leganto, Primo and PURE (procured and run by the Research Office). These tools automate and streamline many functions the library uses every day such as reports, data flow between systems, various library functions from acquisitions to deselection, while Leganto supports a relationship between academic staff, library staff as well as students helping to create reading lists that are available in a timely manner, relevant, and support adherence to copyright requirements. Having a dedicated reading list tool has improved how people work together and learn together.

Finally,  the introduction of PURE has resulted in a single purpose built system to handle all things research from output reporting to individual researcher profiles to ERA process support to dark and open repositories and handling of our thesis collection.

The result of our review of our needs and choice of environment designed around the needs of Library staff and stakeholders has provided an efficient and streamlined toolkit that lets people get on with learning, teaching and working. Our goal was not just to gather the needs of discrete stakeholder groups but find out how those groups need to work together. In many ways the new environment has reduced existing workload, giving people time to do more value add activities than they could before. Tools like Leganto and PURE also distribute workload with dual benefits – freeing people to value add and also allocating work to the most appropriate stakeholder. For example researchers input their own research history into PURE (once done by library staff), and teachers manage their own reading lists in Leganto in cooperation with library who check copyright and procure material (library staff used to have to manage the lists as well). While students can give feedback on reading list material (can include any type of resource now including video) directly to teachers, and teachers can see how often material is used.

Overall the last 5 years has seen a lot of change for our Library services and they have faced many challenges but it is a highly valued service by our staff and students. Helping to create a seamless and natural user experience between services like reading lists and discovery and the Learning Management System so that resources are easy to provide as well as easy to find has been a high point in my career as it helps everyone from students looking for information to those passionate about curating and providing that information.



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