It seemed appropriate that it was graduation day when we visited Swansea University’s Bay Library. We wanted to review how the self-service solution had performed over its first year and it appears 2CQR had received top marks.
Key open issues
The new library is at the heart, both physically and educationally, of the university and with a remit to provide both student and public access it has a very demanding role. More so as it is committed to 24/7 opening hours.
With so much focus on open libraries it was exciting to see how the library was coping both with open access and such a broad user base.
The Bay Campus, situated on a 65 acre former BP Transit site in Neath Port Talbot has the distinction of being one of the few global universities with direct access onto a beach and its own seafront promenade. The Campus provides academic, student accommodation and research space.
Whilst development work will continue up until 2020, the majority of the works has been completed during this first phase of construction and was opened in September 2015.
Colleges based at the Bay Campus include the College of Engineering and the School of Management, with construction planned for Maths and Computer Science departments at the end of 2016.
Facilities alongside the Bay Library include: the Tower Information Centre, home to central support services for students, the Students’ Union, facilities and meeting rooms, Great Hall which houses an auditorium for 700, lecture theatres and a cafe offering magnificent views across the Swansea Bay towards Gower and Baglan Bay.
Karen Dewick, Customer Services Co-ordinator described the location, between the powerhouse industrial areas and the beautiful Mumbles headland as “pretty perfect” and “one of the calmest places to work”.
When the new buildings were commissioned the Welsh Higher Education Library Forum (WHELF) was tasked with placing the tender for library management, self- service and security. The library management and discovery systems Alma® and Primo® from Ex Libris were chosen with 2CQR’s supplying and installing gates, self-service kiosks and sorters.
Karen was involved with the product demonstrations and found functionality so much better with the 2CQR equipment than the competition. “My views were confirmed when students began using the systems… the self-service babies are very intuitive, the sorter is simple to use and the security gates straightforward. For staff and students 2CQR’s equipment and service has been seamless, everything works fine. It does what it says on the tin…and does it well”
The Bay Library is a great example of what an open library should be: open all hours and open to students and public alike.
The library is part of the Libraries Together scheme which allows any current member of Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire public library services to have free borrowing access at all public libraries covered by these areas along with free borrowing access at Swansea University, Swansea Metropolitan University, Swansea College, Neath Port Talbot College, Gorseinon College, Pembrokeshire College and Trinity Saint David.
Opening hours for all users are 24/7 with only Christmas, Boxing and New Year’s day closed. Library staff are available in term time 8am to 12 midnight, 7 days and out of term 8am-10pm Monday to Friday and 8am-8pm Saturday and Sunday.
When unstaffed there is security supervision by Customer Service assistants or security staff from the Estates team. Karen explains “all the staff, both library and Estates have a great relationship and it all works really well. Similarly with the self-service and security equipment… We have had no problems”.
Although not “open” in the sense that the library market is using the term i.e. totally unstaffed , it is physically open more than most. For 2CQR it is an excellent example of their FlexABLE library solution…meeting customers and users needs rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all system.
The library environment
The Bay library was designed to be a desirable place with individual and group study areas across one floor and space for over 650 students including: over 400 open and social study spaces, zoned silent study areas for 150 students, print items stocked for the two academic departments on site , Postgraduate study and computer rooms, one-to-one interview rooms, helpdesk covering library, academic support employability and computing.
Being open 24/7 the library is a great for group study at any time and with a 24hour self-service Starbucks Café and takeaway delivery service the students make the most of the congenial surroundings. Karen believes group study is what the library does best; “Students are very committed and with international students throughout the year you see students regularly working ‘till 1.00/2.00 am in the library. There’s a great vibe as they work through the night individually or in teams planning projects or brainstorming whether in the large groups rooms or on the more intimate, soundproofed seating areas. I could not believe a year ago that I’d would be working at quarter to midnight on a Saturday night in the library with a queue!”