This summer saw the publication of a new book on librarianship: Personalising Library Services in Higher Education: The Boutique Approach. It is edited by two Cambridge Librarians, Andy Priestner and Elizabeth Tilley, and contains a case study ‘Boutique at the Faculty of Education’ written by our Librarian, Angela Cutts. The ’boutique library’ may be a concept that librarians are familiar with, but what does it actually mean in practice? As far as the Faculty of Education Library is concerned, it means taking into account the different needs of all our groups of users and tailoring our services to each accordingly. Central to what we do is our determination to ensure that students’ experience of studying in the Faculty is as fruitful and rewarding as possible. Everything we do, from cataloguing a book to creating information on CamTools, we do with our students & staff in mind. The Faculty Library service really is all about you!
Our approach involves working with our Library users, both students and academic staff; for example, we liaise with academic staff so that sessions introducing the Library service form an integral part of each course. These are followed by training in online research skills and the use of electronic resources. In all these sessions we take the opportunity to actively engage with students and encourage them to ask us any questions they may have, however simple or complicated. We want to learn about their needs and we’re keen to use our expertise to help them in any way we can.
So how do we tailor our service to the different student groups? The key to this is the Library CamTools site, with each group of students and also academic staff having their own site designed specifically with their needs in mind. We want CamTools to be a one-stop shop for users so we have provided information which is directly relevant to individual courses. For example, there is subject-specific support for assignments on the Early Years & Primary PGCE site & subject-specific resources for each type of Secondary PGCE taught in the Faculty (Art, Mathematics, Geography etc). We create interactive reading lists for most courses with links to ebooks & ejournal articles wherever they exist, or scanned material if it falls within copyright regulations. For Master’s and PhD students there is help on how to conduct a literature review, plus subject resources specific to each thematic route. For undergraduates we have provided detailed information and advice on how to conduct a Research and Investigation project.
How else do we cater for our wide range of readers? Flexibility is at the heart of much of what we do so, for instance, we alter the allocation of books that PGCE students can borrow and tailor the loan period according to whether they are studying in the Faculty or are on school placement. Our flexibility means we can very quickly respond to individuals’ requests – from the speedy purchase of a book not held in stock, conducting a one-to-one training session on how to use the education databases, to carrying out a subject search on behalf of a member of academic staff. And flexibility underlies our ongoing evaluation of the service as we constantly examine what we do and reflect upon how we can improve.
All of the above involves a lot of work on the part of Library staff but the reward is the evident satisfaction of students and academic staff, and the fact that the Library Service is highly valued by all groups of users. This is just the spur we need to maintain our high standards and find new ways to further enhance the service. Do please get in touch if there is anything else we can do to help you (firstname.lastname@example.org)