I’ve been attending the LILAC conference this week in gloriously sunny Newcastle. Despite the fact that this means spending all day inside, there has been lots to enjoy and huge amounts of stimulating ideas. But before all that I did something I hardly ever do – went on a library tour of the Walton Library – the library of the Medical & Dental School of Newcastle University (aslo see their LibGuides pages and Twitter pages: https://twitter.com/ncllibmed).
Linda Errington was a hugely helpful hostess – very generous with her time, and patiently answering all my pesky questions. There was lots to admire in this library and the services they offer, but here are the bits I found most interesting:
- the short loan collection – the “student text collection” (offering 4hr loans, with overnight loans available if you get the book in the last 4 hours of the library being open) had a tOPAC – touch screen library catalogue which I thought was pretty fancy
- while the Walton is not open 24 hrs, the nearby Robinson Library is – there’s a copy of every text in the Student Text Collection. Stats are being gathered at the moment to see if medical/dental students are making use of this collection.
[NB correction: STC copies in Robinson Library are essential texts for Biomedical Science students only, we haven’t yet done this for medics and dentists but it is something we will consider if issue stats show it was used by the biomedics – thanks to Linda]
- The Walton have 3 different study areas – group, silent and quiet study – seems like a good idea, and the group study spaces have a mix of tables – including big shared screens. There are even standard sized screens on angle-poise arms, which I thought was a good idea too (didn’t get a good picture of this)
- the Medicine in Literature collection is hugely popular. This year was the first film festival and they’ve also got a book group. They get a specialist in to talk about the issues raised (eg neurological plasticity on the basis of watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) Sounds like a great idea to idea that has proved to be hugely popular. The only downside was having to restrict attendance to University staff and students.
- Clinical Skills equipment is also borrowable from the library. At certain times of the year, “patients” can be seen lying on library desks being hit, proded, poked, and generally examined by their peers. Again – sounds like a great idea that I’ll be investigating for Cambridge.
- In terms of teaching that took place, there was a really impressive programme that was compulsory for all undergraduates: the library teaches medline searching and endnote; the IT department teaches formatting of Word docs. The students are then set a task of turning an ugly text file into a beautifully formatted .doc which contains correctly inserted references which have come from an endnote library created by the student, it contains pictures and also a graph from an Excel spreadsheet. This brings all the “theory” into relief as a practical exercise. Brilliant.
While it’s true that some of the students completely forget this exercise by the time their first assignment comes round, it’s a good and very practical start. (the Medical Librarian Erika Gavillet runs the postgraduate teaching, and wasn’t available to speak to us, but I hope to follow this up at a later date).
- The University also provides a Pop-Up Library 3 times a year. 250 extra study spaces and PCs. I was amazed that the equipment (chairs, desks, IT etc) was purchased specifically for this facility, and is stored inbetween times. The art work and advertising is fantastic, and the feedback is all hugely popular. The Pop-Up library is staffed by existing staff till 12midnight every night, although apparently there are relatively few enquiries, the work is more that of invigilation. Given that the University is increasingly using hotels and conference venues to house the exams, it seems to make a really good use of space and provide a great facility for students.
- Finally, they Medical Library has 15 laptops that they loan out.
The University will be installing an additional laptop lending unit in the library, but this service is hugely popular amongst the students.
Thanks again to Linda for giving up her time – I learned loads, and might well become a convert to visiting other libraries!