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No substitute for RFID!

The call came in mid June. The team at Burnley Football Club needed help!

I understand that for some, this wouldn’t be newsworthy but for a lifetime supporter, albeit from a distance in recent years, it brought intrigue to what was just another rainy summer working day.

Oh… the fantasies of my youth – stepping out in front of adoring fans at Turf Moor, scoring the winner against Rovers, there’s an endless list of unfulfilled footballing dreams.

What’s particularly galling is that two of my school team-mates – obviously more naturally skilled than I was went on to live the dream. One played for England and Burnley and the other became Chairman of the club.

Daydreaming over and a couple of months later I find myself standing outside the impressive claret and blue entrance to UCFB!

And this is where the real story starts: a football club hosting UCFB, a pioneering higher education institution offering undergraduate degree courses, with a college library overlooking the pitch and terraces.

UCFB, in partnership with Bucks New University, offers courses in the operational and business facets of football and its associated industries. The degrees have been created specifically to support their undergraduates through to a career in the exciting and universal business world of the football industry.

Backed by the leading media, clubs and professional football organisations UCFB’s first year proved a great success.  The location not only provides an inspirational and relevant environment, but also allows students to experience the practical challenges of management at ground level.

Some, instead of just watching the games, participate as paid stewards on match days. This must be a welcome break from the intensity of the academic elements of the degree courses, which include core modules in business, international finance, strategic management and marketing, with options in football law, politics and brand strategy.

So why the call to 2CQR in June? The library is a key learning area at the college. The IT-led courses and a virtual learning environment place heavy demands on staff, and students need fast access to information.

Jonathan Barnes, the IT & Library Officer, outlines the issues. “The student intake doubled after the first year and library functions had been managed by student services.

“One major issue was the library opening times, with the library having to close at weekends to facilitate the live matches. If there were no staff available when the library closed students couldn’t remove items, often hindering work that needed attending to over the weekend. “

Jonathan previously worked in IT and library services at Brooklands College, one of Surrey’s largest providers of vocational training and further and Higher Education.

“Prior to joining UCFB, I had visited a number of academic libraries running on RFID and the challenges I found here seemed to suit a self-service application. I wanted to introduce an automated library catalogue with a self-issue system to empower students to borrow and track academic resources themselves.”

The Provost and Chief Executive, Philip Wilson backed the proposal.

He said: “We needed to resolve both the immediate problems, meet the anticipated demand and also provide technology which offers us future-proofing.”

After reviewing proposals from a number of companies, 2CQR were chosen to implement security, stock management and self-service.

“I particularly liked the simplicity of the interface, the students are very independent and appreciate being able to manage things themselves. It gives us a valuable, easy to use resource, and the look of the “Baby” self-service unit enhances our library,” added Philip.

Jonathan was impressed with the delivery: “It needed to be ready for the new term, and it worked from day one”.

Now the library virtually runs itself and Jonathan can concentrate on other important areas, such as the ongoing development of the Virtual Learning Environment (my.UCFB.com), expanding the PC provision, managing the server environment for two separate networks, and providing IT support to students and staff.

It was certainly an eye opener seeing the other side of the football business, and nice to see there’s no substitute for quality.

I can also say UCFB, Burnley FC and 2CQR are in a league of their own.