Reports from the WHELF UXLibs workshop

WHELF was very pleased to have Andy Priestner run a UXLibs workshop at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen campus on 30th June 2017. Many thanks to Nina Whitcombe (Swansea University) and Sue House (University of South Wales) for these excellent blog posts about their experience of the day.

By Nina Whitcombe, Collections Services and Systems Officer at Swansea University:

“I registered for this course as soon as I saw it advertised on the enthusiastic recommendation of a colleague who had already attended training given by Andy Priestner. The course became full very quickly so I am glad that I did manage to book early.  After working in academic libraries for longer than I am prepared to admit, it becomes very easy to fall into the mind-set of assuming you have a good grasp on what users want. This training was a timely reminder that user requirements constantly evolve and in order to meet institutional aims for student experience we need to gather behavioural and attitudinal data alongside the more traditional data such as footfall, number of loans etc.

Throughout the day, Andy introduced a variety of ethnographic approaches that can be employed when gathering research data from library users. The results can then be examined to identify how our services and spaces are currently used and how people want to use them. We were given the opportunity to carry out practical examples using the various research methods and encouraged to consider how we could take these ideas away with us and apply them in our own work environments.

The final part of the day covered idea generation and prototyping based on data gathered during research. We worked through a number of practical examples aimed at maximising the value of user feedback. It was reassuring to see how quickly and cheaply user satisfaction with the physical library environment can be improved (strategically placed plants acting as privacy screens on shared study tables). We are currently undergoing a major campus redevelopment project and I am sure there will be the opportunity to try out some of the methods and ideas covered at this event soon”


By Sue House, Librarian for Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, University of South Wales:

In this slightly unconventional post I’ve tried to use reflective questions learned on a CILIP Professional Registration Workshop & Mentor Information and Support Session from CSO Sharon Cook to share with you a personal evaluative and critical summary of the day.

Why did I do this activity?

  • To learn about UX and ethnographic research
  • To find out how I could understand our library users better
  • To find out if I could use UX to help me prioritise my own workload by finding out what is important to my students & staff in humanities, social sciences and law (the answer is potentially ‘yes’.)

What did I learn from it?

I learned a huge amount from this day, the key points for me were:

  • UX is a holistic approach to giving users not just what they want but also what they ‘don’t yet know they want’ and if it is done well and services and products change for the better as a result of feedback then ‘customer service’ is not necessarily required as the experience of our services and products will be good/great.
  • It’s all about how someone feels when they use a service or product (their attitudes / behaviour)
  • It’s all about how ‘useful, usable and desirable’ a service or product is
  • Everyone in the library should be involved in UX research
  • There are several methods available – surveys/focus groups are ok if very well designed, but there are lots more engaging methods which will illicit more useful and effective data e.g. observations, mapping the ‘desire line’ through a space, in-depth user interviews, cognitive mapping, photo elicitation interviews, user journey mapping, card sorting, touchstone tours, love and break-up letters etc. Several of which we were able to experience in various activities throughout the day.
  • You can start small and scale up, you just need post-its and Sharpies!
  • You need to think about ethics and consent forms (speak to your ‘Ethics’ people before you start)

 There are lots of UX library resources available including:

Reading List:

  • Krug – Don’t Make Me Think
  • Priestner & Borg – User Experience in Libraries: applying ethnography and human-centred design
  • Schmidt & Etches – Useful, Usable, Desirable: applying user experience design to your library

How is this going to change my practice?

  • I would like to start by carrying out some 1hr observations of the space around the law collection at our Treforest library in the new academic year
  • I’m also considering using love and break-up letters as an activity in my ‘Refresher’ library induction sessions with returning students

How am I going to share this new knowledge?

  • I’m going to feedback to the team at the next available opportunity
  • I’ve written this blog post for WHELF

How am I going to monitor impact?

I will report back on the observations and inductions to my line manager with any suggestions for improvements to library space and services.

Ask yourself – ‘So what’?

The recent updating and development of classic ethnographic research methods to ‘UX’ has really energised many in the library community to gain a better understanding our users. At a time when libraries are under pressure to provide return on investment/value for money and evidence-based services these methods can relatively easily and more effectively inform the strategic and operational direction of the library service at USW. I would advocate that all USW library staff be involved in UX work. Andy was a great trainer and above all else it was a fun day out – yes, really!

Posted in events, workforce development

New Sconul Executive Board member

Congratulations to Alison Harding who has been elected to the Sconul Executive Board.  Alison was appointed to the post of Executive Head of Library and Learning Resources at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in July 2016, having previously held a number of roles within the library service of UWTSD. She is also a staff governor on the UWTSD Council. She has worked previously at UWIC (now CMU), University of Glamorgan and the University of Wales, Newport (now USW).
Alison is the institutional representative on the WHELF (Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum) Group, and also a member of the SCONUL (Society of College, University and National Libraries) Access Steering Group.
Her professional interests are library and learning space design, opening up access to resources and services, and library collaboration and partnerships. Alison is a mentor within the ‘Women in Universities Mentoring’ scheme, and has acted as a Leadership Foundation ‘Aurora’ role model.


Posted in SCONUL

Forthcoming events

September 2017
Global Library Excellence Tour – 14th September, Cardiff Central Library

More information including programme and registration:

The Library Global Excellence Tour 2017 is primarily aimed at senior leaders in public and academic libraries in the UK and Ireland. The tour, completely free to attend thanks to our sponsors, is designed to showcase global excellence and ambition in library service delivery and to inspire library leaders to achieve excellence in their service.

This is a free event and an opportunity for non-librarians too to see just what state and national library tech and infrastructure in US, Australia and Europe have delivered and to hear from the best in the UK.

October 2017

CILIP Cymru Wales have three events planned for the 9th of October in Cardiff. All three are open to CILIP members and non-members alike. CILIP Cymru would like you to get involved and share your experiences around the three themes. Places are limited- for each session, if you would like to come please book a place.

Copyright; Come and play the Game with Jane Secker. 10:30-13:00 £10 CILIP member, £20 non-member

Ethically Speaking. 14:00-16:00 An interactive workshop with Nick Poole and Guy Daines. This workshop forms part of CILIP Ethics Review and is an opportunity for those in the profession in Wales to contribute. No charge

Privacy Seminar. 16:00-17:00. Both Nick Poole and Guy Daines will present a seminar on the work CILIP is doing in this area. No charge.

Here is a link to all events mentioned

If you would like to know more about CILIP Ethics Review details can be found here:

Posted in Copyright, events

Academic Book of the Future project reports

The Academic Book of the Future Project has published the findings from its 2 year project.  The report by Marilyn Deegan states that:

the academic book/monograph is still greatly valued in the academy for many
reasons: the ability to produce a sustained argument within a more
capacious framework than that permitted by the article format; the            
engagement of the reader at a deep level with such arguments; its
central place in career progression in the arts and humanities; its
reach beyond the academy (for some titles) into bookshops and into
the hands of a wider public. It seems that the future is likely to be a
mixed economy of print, e-versions of print, and networked
enhanced monographs of greater or lesser complexity” (pg. 7)

The reports  are available in full to to read from the project website

Outputs from the research project have also been published as a BOOC (Book as Open Online Content) published by UCL Press and can be accessed here

Posted in Uncategorised Tagged with: ,

WHELF Representatives meeting update

The WHELF Representatives met on 18th-19th May, 2017 at Gregynog Hall. This was the first meeting with our new WHELF Chair, Emma Adamson (Director of Learning Services, USW). We welcomed Mairwen Owen (Head of Academic Services) from Bangor University Library to her first WHELF Reps meeting.

Also present were: Kristine Chapman (Amgueddfa Cymru); Ann Davies (OU); Alison Harding (UWTSD); Julie Hart (Aberystwyth), Mark Hughes (Cardiff Metropolitan), Paul Jeorrett (Wrexham Glyndwr), Janet Peters (Cardiff); Owain Roberts (NLW); Rachael Whitfield (WDO); Tegid Rhys Williams (NRW); Steve Williams (Swansea)


The WHEEL sub-group has done some excellent work in liaising with publishers / suppliers to investigate deals for WHELF in these areas. We discussed the possibility of a WHEEL bundle of resources. The WHEEL Chair, Mark Hughes, will look at the top 5 offers that WHEEL currently have on the table which more than half the WHELF institutions have expressed an interest in, aggregate the costs and then pro rata those for each WHELF institution to ascertain if this is an affordable solution for WHELF.

WHELF Office

A task and finish group is to be set up to scope the future of a WHELF Office. This will consider what WHELF needs for the future in terms of supporting the development of WHELF, including management of the shared LMS, WHEEL negotiation and administration requirements such as central invoicing and general administration of the WHELF organization.

Report from NLW digital preservation day and repositories discussion

Steve Williams reported back from the ARCW/WHELF Digital Preservation day organized by NLW on 28th March 2017. WHELF has agreed that its focus will be on digital collections and special collections perhaps mirroring some of the Archivematica/Arkivium work done by ARCW. It has been agreed that a feasibility study would be the best approach for WHELF and we are currently exploring funding opportunities for this.

National Library @Cardiff collaboration agreement – Owain Roberts and Janet Peters reported on that this collaborative project is now in operation providing secure electronic access to the resources of the NLW. A designated room in the Social Sciences Library at Cardiff University has been established. Resources can only be accessed on screen, no downloading or printing. The resource is available to the general public.

WHELF Shared LMS: Gareth Owen’s paper suggested a number of recommendations which the WHELF Shared LMS Steering Group were asked to approve:

  • Reciprocal borrowing- it was agreed to proceed with a sampling exercise for WHELF in the delivery of interlibrary loans.
  • National Bibliographic Knowledge Base – it was agreed to participate in this project by OCLC which will build on the functionality of COPAC but widen its scope. For WHELF this would potentially fulfil the objective of a union/shared catalogue.
  • Cambridge Econometrics report on benefits. The 2nd draft of the report has been received and the final version will be launched at the Gregynog Colloquium.

Cardiff University Library visit to North Carolina

Janet Peters gave a presentation on her visit to the libraries at the University of Birmingham and Duke and North Carolina State Universities to investigate automated storage systems.

WHELF tour

The WHELF Chair, Emma Adamson and the WHELF Development Officer are touring the WHELF institiutions as part of an exercise to get a broad overview from each institution on its focus and service priorities and as it currently stands post LMS implementation and seek input on planning for the future for WHELF.

Judith Agus

At the end of Thursday’s meeting WHELF Reps took a walk in the surrounding grounds of Gregynog in memory of Judith Agus (former librarian RWCMD) and made a donation to Cancer Research.

WHELF Reps at Gregynog Hall May 2017


Posted in Uncategorised

Report from WHELF Research support events

Thank you to Beth Hall, Research Support Librarian & Academic Support Librarian at Bangor University for summarising the findings of the 3 regional events held 8th, 9th, and 10th May and  organized by the WHELF Research Group. Thank you also to Susan Glen, Research Librarian and Subject Librarian at Swansea University, and Nick Roberts, Research Librarian at University of South Wales and Beth again for their reports from each event which are included in the blog post below. These events were supported by funding from the WHELF Staff Development Fund and Bangor’s event was supported by the CILIP Information Literacy Group.


Tran Mau Tri Tam at Unsplash

In May 2017, we organised three parallel events in Cardiff, Swansea and Bangor in order to reach out to library staff interested in the area of supporting researchers.

Our aims for these events were:

  • to bring us closer to researchers
  • to understand pressures on researchers
  • to gain a better understanding of the researcher lifecycle
  • to learn more about how other departments in the institutions support researchers
  • to explore more effective ways to promote our value to researchers
  • and to examine more effective ways to communicate to researchers what we have on offer

There was some flexibility in the way the three separate events were organised, with different speakers at each event bringing different emphasis to the discussions.

We have received positive feedback from attendees. We conducted a post-event survey and got 30 responses across the three sites; 66% of respondents agreed they would rate the event good or very good (data below).  With attendee’s comments such as:

It is reassuring for me that I am operating along the right lines. Thank you for organising this

It was interesting to hear the researchers’ side of the story, great idea to get them in

Overall, how would you rate this event?
Cardiff Bangor Swansea Total Percentage
Excellent 0 3 1 14 13%
Very good 6 5 5 16 53%
Good 4 1 2 7 23%
Fair 2 0 1 3 10%
Poor 0 0 0 0 0%


However, attendees also commented that they wanted more time for discussion and more time to catch-up with library staff who are in “new roles” supporting researchers.  They would like to know more about what their roles involve, and share lessons-learned amongst colleagues – what has worked well and what has not.

Three separate blog posts have been written about the events, which give further valuable insight into what we have learnt from these events, as follows:

Report from Susan Glen on Swansea University’s event here

Report from Nick Roberts on Cardiff University’s event here

Report from Beth Hall on Bangor University’s event here

Here follows a summary of the main learning points from the invited speaker presentations, a list of current library services that the invited researchers mentioned as being valuable to them, and a list of actions that were coming out of the group discussions.

Learning points from invited speakers presentations:

  • Defining researchers is difficult, they are a diverse population, they will have different levels of engagement (Josie Grindulis, Cardiff and Dr Penny Dowdney, Bangor)
  • It is difficult to engage with more senior staff who may not have realised that regulations/requirements/services/available support have changed (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Communication needs to be targeted and translated into different disciplines (Claire Davis, Bangor)
  • Informal links with staff in other support roles in the institution allows you to understand how the University works, catch up on relevant changes and ask those “daft questions”, and helps make sure everyone in the institution is singing from the same hymn sheet (Claire Davis, Bangor)
  • Huge number of new pieces of advice and policies coming out from research funders all the time, difficult for support staff to understand never mind researchers themselves; we can have a role in identifying these policies and if possible summarising their contents (Dr Cornelia Thomas, Bangor)
  • Researchers respond at the point of need – don’t know what they need until they need it (Dr Penny Dowdney, Bangor)
  • Challenge: Hard to support researchers if you are not connect with them – need to build networks BUT to really get embedded and be directly involved in supporting a research project – requires immersion – but too much specialisation risks transforming a library role into a research role (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Researchers are trained to be independent, “persistent confidence in their self-sufficiency” – do not feel they need direct support from library staff (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Researchers don’t just need the black and white of identifying the published literature in their field, but also use tacit knowledge of what’s happening in their sector, differences in opinion, a wider range of evidence (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Importance to researchers of external funders policies but some researchers not fully aware of all external requirements (came up at all 3 events)
  • Vitae materials and Concordat on career development for researchers are useful, also look at other sources such as PIRUS (came up at all three events)
  • It is highly valuable to build up a good relationship with, and work with, other sections of the organisation that support researchers (came up at all 3 events)
  • Make sure staff are aware of all library services at induction (came up at Swansea event)

Support that is valued:

  • Literature searching, not across the board, but where researchers are moving into new fields, or where researchers are also practitioners and therefore less embedded in a research culture (e.g. medical) (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Training for postgraduate students (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Training for early career researchers (ECRs) if they have not already picked up these skills (came up at Bangor)
  • Support for Research Data Management (came up at all 3 events)
  • Copyright and publishers permissions for OA publishing (came up at all 3 events)
  • Help with metrics (Professor Rob Evans, Cardiff)
  • Providing interlibrary loans, and contacting archives and finding hard to reach materials (Helen Williams-Elis, Bangor)
  • Digitising and making available rare books and documents (Helen Williams-Elis, Bangor)
  • Support for systematic reviews and realist reviews (Dr Siân Davies)
  • Support for rapid reviews or policy briefings, these require the most up-to-date current good quality information, and there is always a short time-line for delivery (Dr Kirstin Williams, Bangor)
  • Managing information where you are scanning a large body of evidence (Dr Siân Davies, Bangor)
  • A nice space to work in, work collaboratively with others, if meeting rooms are available (came up at Bangor)

Some ideas coming out of the discussions:

  • Targeted promotion is key, personal touch is important
  • We should update guides for researchers

We should map our training, information guides and webpages to the Researcher Development Framework (RDF)

  • We should produce targeted information – nothing too generic
  • We should produce more online materials, video guides, lecture capture and look at delivering webinars in the future
  • We should pitch training at different levels
  • Ensure that University leaders are aware of the contributions we make to supporting researchers
  • Building networks and forming relationships with researchers at your institution is important, friendly connections, rubbing shoulders, oral cultures works
  • Possible potential to offer “writing retreats” or writing groups in the library to support researchers with academic writing? (Dr Kath Maude)
  • Continue to work collaboratively with the research office
  • Use social media to communicate and promote, but emails are important too
  • Make time to visit academic departments
  • Infiltrate departmental meetings
  • We should be aware of funders policies
  • We had an idea that we would have liked to spend more time with researchers asking them what they think of the services we currently provide, and perhaps presenting them with some our marketing messages and training guides to get their feedback. Unfortunately, researchers are so busy they did not have time to do this extra work. I wonder whether future work planned in WHELF using UX and customer-journey-mapping may help us answer this question?


Posted in research, Research group blog, research support

Aber LibTeachMeet on Fake news

This event was held at Aberystwyth University on 21st June 2017 and was organized by library  trainee, George Smith. The event was well attended from across Wales and very well received. A blog post outlining the talks from the day can be read here.

Posted in Uncategorised

WHELF/HEWIT Gregynog Colloquium 2017 – presentations

Thank you to the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea University for organizing another successful and informative Gregynog Colloquium this year.  The speakers’ presentations are now available on the Colloquium website:



Thank you also to Kathryn Parry, CILIP Development Manager who has written a blog post about her experience of attending the event and that can be accessed here.

In 2018 the Colloquium will be organized by Bangor and Wrexham Glyndwr.

Posted in events, WHELF, workforce development

Report from the CONUL Conference by Beth Hall.

Thank you to Beth Hall, Research Support Librarian, Bangor University for this report:

12.06.17 I attended the CONUL annual conference, May 30th and 31st, Athlone, Ireland. CONUL is a consortium of Ireland’s main research libraries.

Recordings of the keynote lectures are available here:

The slides are available here:

I spoke at the conference on the topic of the WHELF research group and the events we have held over the last couple of years.  The slides are available on the link above but they are just photos so I have attached a copy of the talk at the end of this report.  I was in a session with talks from Dr John Cox who talked about a new staffing model to support research at the National University of Ireland Galway; his research paper on this is available at  In the session with my talk, we also had a presentation from Julia Barrett from University College Dublin about the establishment and development of UCD Library’s research services unit.  The three talks complimented each other and demonstrate a shift in Library’s staffing and organisation towards supporting researchers more directly.  We were asked questions as a panel of three, and answered topics such as “how do we keep librarians up to date with such a fast moving environment?”, “how do we engage with the research community?”, “how can we change the practice of more senior researchers who may not be aware of recent changes but won’t want to attend any briefings?”, “how important is the relationship with other parts of the University?”.  We also had a brief discussion about one of points raised during the Cardiff WHELF research group event about how far into the research a librarian should get – crossing the line from being a librarian into being a researcher.  Danny Kingsley referred back to this discussion during her keynote lecture – when she asked “is it out place to be telling the research community how they should be doing things?”  And answered herself “yes, researchers haven’t got the metaview, libraries are the neutral space where we can have those discussions”.

It seems we are all facing similar challenges.  I had very good feedback after my talk, with many commenting on how successful the shared LMS implementation has been viewed from across the water, and that they would be looking out for more benefits realisation from that project as it goes into the next stage.

I will now go on to describe some of the keynotes and talks that I enjoyed attending at the conference.  In fact, there were many more talks over the two days that I enjoyed attending, but I have just chosen a few here that are directly relevant for the work of the WHELF research group.

Lorcan Dempsey talked about the shift in research practices and therefore a need to change the way we think about library collections. Many libraries are managing down print collections, looking to share print in consortia, and using demand-driven acquisition. However, there are disciplinary differences and it is important to maintain specialist/special collections for your institution. Lorcan then described two trends, my interpretation of how he described these follows:

  • Reconfiguration of research work: libraries are managing the final product of research but not the process of research – multiple other outputs (publishing methods, data, discussion, working papers, pre-prints). Also a researcher’s identity is now linked to their output e.g. PURE portal and profiles on Google Scholar and ResearchGate for building reputation and for assessment. So this means that there is a blurring between their identity and their output. There is also a big drive in institutions to improve management of, and disclose institutional records. How does the library fit into this the ecosystem? Depends on positioning, personality, and politics. Publishers have already moved into this area.


  • Reconfiguration of the information space. Moving to facilitating collections not managing collections. We should right-scale collections. The information space in which our users work has changed. Library guides are useful to point to resources held elsewhere. Should we realise now that our value is not on the quality of our collections, but in the efficiency with which we can meet researchers’ needs. But retain specialized collections. Invest in collaborative collection building. See Lorcan’s blog for description of “inside out and outside in information practices” Also some discussion afterwards and ideas about a union catalogue.

Della Keating (National Library of Ireland) talked about archiving born digital materials and a pilot project they are current running to archive web content.  This talk reminded me of the LLGC’s Web Archive Wales project and I wondered if it is important to review which of our University webpages are being archived, if any research project websites are being archived could this help towards research data preservation?

Helen Young, from Loughborough University, talked about a UX project they have run in collaboration with Taylor and Francis.  They followed a small number of postgraduate research students, which they surveyed once a month.  They found that every student would search in a different way, and each would search in a different way every month.  They found a number of barriers that exist between the student and the resources they were trying to access.  Students did attend workshops and found these useful, but also learnt skills from peers and supervisors, and brought with them skills learnt at another University.  This reminds us that training or briefings for PhD supervisors are also important.  Students valued having someone available to them at their point of need for a face-to-face consultation.

I believe that Danny Kingsley’s keynote “Emerging from the chrysalis – transforming libraries for the future” gave us all a clear mandate to change quicker in libraries and provide support for researchers where they need it; otherwise, publishers will occupy the whole space.  Danny pointed out that often libraries do not occupy the top table with University leaders, so it is important to use champions and academics who can pass on information to make change happen. Researchers are looking for help, they want access to full text articles, they want their academic freedom protected, and they want guidance.  We should be talking to the research community about how things are changing and the way they should work in this environment.  During the discussion at the end of Danny’s talk an ECR in the audience spoke and stated that the way that senior researchers went through the academic system does not work for ECRs, still no jobs, many ECRs are displeased and open to change.  ECRs are interested in hybrid academic careers, and publishing in non-traditional means.  Danny reminded us of a number of useful blogs/sites/publications to look at including the following, she tweeted many on her account :

Jack Hyland & Lisa Callaghan from Dublin City University gave a presentation titled ‘Ask the Audience: Identifying what library services are important to the research community at DCU’. DCU has recently restructured academic support into functional roles.  They found that academic staff still valued having a dedicated contact for collection development, one-to-one consultations and for teaching support.

Frank Brady & Ciaran Quinn from Maynooth University talked about communication with the research community.   After consultation with academic staff and postgraduate students, they found that email is still the preferred communication tool.  They found that PGR students are confident in their own bubble, often self-taught and often do not feel they need any further support.  In the discussion following their talk, it was suggested that perhaps a UX project could have a PhD student or research staff member do a literature search, and have the librarian independently perform the same search and compare the results?

Simon Bains from the University of Manchester talked about a project they undertook to investigate student publishing at the University of Manchester.  They have not launched a student journal, but instead have launched other initiatives from their project:

A number of important points came up during the panel discussion on Open Access at the end of the conference, featuring Professor Robert Galavan from the School of Business at Maynooth University, Danny Kingsley, Lorcan Dempsey, John Fitzgerald Director of Information Services at University College Cork, and Professor John Costello Professor of Physics at Dublin City University.  Here are some of them as follows

  • Many senior academics still think of the quality of a library as the quality of its holdings
  • National data sharing platforms are required for open access data sharing to be a reality
  • Research funders are spending an awful lot of money on Gold OA from publishers, that money could be used in a better way to support open access, we should be looking to stop embargoes for green OA journals and stop funding hybrid journals
  • RCUK ask us to feedback compliance on OA policy with number of publications that have been made OA, but really we should be feeding back whether the publications have been read and cited and made a societal impact
  • Libraries should work together to support a collaborative approach to open access – should CONUL have a position on this? Should WHELF? Should we walk away from deals, ramp up our displeasure with the current system?
  • We should more actively support the Leiden principles
  • We should look at other measures of research impact so that we can cancel subscriptions
  • One academic has stated that they would lose a limb to get printed in a high ranking journal – that’s how important these journals are to reward
  • We are paying for a lot of journal content that doesn’t get read


Beth Hall CONUL conference presentation May 2017 – presentation script

WHELF: What is it?

  • Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum (WHELF) is a grouping of Chief Librarians and Directors of Information Services drawn from all the higher education institutions in Wales (Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff University, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Swansea University, University of South Wales, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Wrexham Glyndwr University, along with the National Library of Wales, National Museum Wales, Natural Resources Wales and the Open University in Wales
  • Chaired by Emma Adamson, Director of Learning Services at the University of South Wales
  • WHELF had its origins in the regular but informal meetings of University of Wales Chief Librarians, which were held in the 1980s, and in 1990, this was named the University of Wales Coordinating Committee for Libraries. In 1993, the membership of the Committee was extended to include the Chief Librarians of all Higher Education institutions in Wales.  In order to reflect the changed role of the group it was reconstituted as the Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum.
  • WHELF’s mission is to promote library and information services co-operation, to encourage the exchange of ideas, to provide a forum for mutual support and to help facilitate new initiatives in library and information services provision.
  • Strong culture of sharing and collaboration.
  • A successful project to highlight is the shared LMS – A single Library Management System and discovery interface has been agreed and implemented for all of the HEIs in Wales plus National Library of Wales and the Welsh NHS Libraries. Collaboration was very important in this implementation: Cohort 1 helped Cohort 2, Cohort 1 and 2 helped Cohort 3, NLW provided Welsh language translations of interface for the others. This project has now entered a new phase where WHELF examine the full benefits of the shared LMS post implementation to explore shared discovery and resources tools, a shared catalogue and cataloguing, and reciprocal borrowing.
  • In 2014 WHELF were working on a new strategy, constitution, and action plan – at the time, Janet Peters, Director of Libraries and University Librarian at Cardiff University who was leading on the actions on research – identified that it would be useful to set up a new group focusing on how libraries are supporting research and researchers.

WHELF research group

  • A new group set up in 2015 and I am a member along with representatives from the other WHELF institutions
  • Working on the broad WHELF strategy aims to: examine and enhance the changing role of libraries and librarians in supporting research and the research lifecycle through open access publishing, research data management, data curation and research skills.
  • Primarily a focus on bridging (reference to photo on screen) and bringing library staff together from across Wales who are focusing on supporting research and researchers. Provides a forum for library staff to:
  • Advise each other on relevant issues and share good practice in the support of research and researchers in Wales
  • Present issues for discussion to WHELF
  • Develop a WHELF research strategy for approval by WHELF
  • Organise events to bring staff together to learn new skills
  • Practitioner members – some with a research role, others not
  • How we communicate: video-conference, face-to-face meetings, email, Google docs

Why the collaboration works

  • An opportunity – timely – Filling a gap – roles and nervous about change
  • A desire to solve common problems
  • Shared values
  • Variety of different skills and expertise
  • Bilingual members
  • Pragmatic about what is achievable: team of 1 in some places, with collaboration small steps turn into big steps
  • Respect for differences
  • Proactive members
  • Professional trust
  • Openness and desire to learn

Projects / work packages

  • We’ve done a stack of things in the last 2 years (reference to photo on screen)
  • Initially the group focused on the desirability of establishing a shared repository across Wales, but with the transition to a new LMS and in some cases new research information management systems in member institutions, it was agreed that this was not the best time to be proposing further major system changes.
  • Understanding / benchmarking: Team structures, RDM systems and policies, repositories
  • Sharing resources: teaching slides, RDM resources
  • Digital collections: meeting recently at the NLW with ARCW (Archives and Records Council Wales), also WHELF adoption of the principles in the Ensuring the Future statement by the Keepers registry to support archiving and preservation initiatives. Looking collectively at preservation standards
  • Cross-Wales events e.g. on institutional publishing
  • Sharing solutions: email template for contact with new academic staff
  • Sharing knowledge and strategic attendance at events: pointers to where information is available from external organisations
  • Identifying training needs and booking external trainers: RDM, UX, OA Publishing
  • Informal training events “teachmeets” – May 2016 and May 2017
  • Dissemination: blog posts, conference talks, asking members to cascade at their institutions (tools for communication – webinar software)

May 2016 events

  • Three regional events- South Wales, South West Wales, and mid-Wales (all of these events involved people standing at the end of piers – not really but the new Swansea Bay campus library really is that close to the sea – and there are deck chairs in the library) (reference to photo on screen)
  • Informal – not chalk and talk, sharing, unconference
  • Share experiences
  • All three events organised in the same format: members of the WHELF research group prepared three presentations beforehand, and we asked librarians who were attending the events to volunteer to present these presentations. The slides provided bullet points that would set the scene and prompt questions and discussion points. Each presentation was followed by a lengthy discussion session on each topic.

Themes for the event:

  1. How to organise/upskill to provide support for researchers?
    • Our concerns:
      • changing role of subject librarians
      • Lack of time of capacity: taking on these new tasks on top of everything else – so what can we give up? Hoffman wrote in 2016 in the introduction to her edited book “Dynamic research support for academic libraries”: “For far too long, the mantra in many libraries has been “do more with less” – the idea that we should somehow solve shrinking budgets by creating more projects and services despite time and budget constraints. This inevitably results in a slew of half-finished projects and frazzled librarians”.
      • Lack of confidence in approaching researchers
      • Not understanding researchers’ needs
    • Can we use evidence from the literature for ideas to support us in this transition: evidence based practice?
  1. Open Access publishing – an update
  2. Researchers and social networking – an update

May 2016 events: feedback and outcomes

  • Positive feedback: “more like this please! It’s really helpful to have the opportunity to step out of the office and share experience, worries and ideas with others”
  • Gregynog conference June 2016: Susan Glen, Bronwen Blatchford and myself: brought it to a wider audience
  • SCONUL Focus article (reference at the end of the slides)
  • Want more training events and shared resources, find out what researchers want, case studies to demonstrate library value to researchers
  • Sown the seeds of ideas of more collaboration between sites and we can see the shoots of growth of new projects (reference to photo on screen)

May 2017 events

  • Three regional events: South Wales, South West Wales and North Wales
  • Aims: bring us closer to researchers, understand their pressures, better understanding of the researcher lifecycle, learn more about how other departments in the institution support researchers, explore more effective ways to promote our value to researchers, to communicate what we have on offer

Themes for the events:

  • Hear from researchers – we asked researchers to leave their desks and come to us (reference to photo on screen)
  • Hear from other staff in the institutions who also support researchers
  • Communicating with researchers

May 2017 events: feedback and outcomes

  • Positive feedback: “reassuring for me that I am operating along the right lines. Thank you for organising this.”
  • But wanted more time for discussion and more time to catch up with library staff who are in “new roles” supporting researchers – what do their roles involve, also lessons learned – what has worked well and what has not – so maybe next year when we meet we may revert back to a more “sharing – learn from peers” event.
  • This year the three events were quite different, with different speakers bringing different emphasis to the discussions. At Bangor, we organised our event as a Teachmeet sponsored by the CILIP Information Literacy Group so we discussed information literacy for researchers as one of the main themes of our event. We discussed the issue of researchers not recognising information literacy skills as core research skills, using these skills every day so don’t feel they would learn anything from a training session.  Early career researchers may not know some key concepts if they have not been part of them yet – peer review, metrics etc.
  • I co-organised the event at Bangor earlier this month with Tegid Williams, Information Services Manager at Natural Resources Wales (Welsh government sponsored body regulating and advising on issues relating to the environment and natural resources) and I co-organised this event, and despite coming from two different sectors we found there were common areas of support that we are delivering across both our organisations. We found that we have more in common that we first might have thought taking into consideration how differently the researchers behave according to the different motivations of University versus Public Sector Government organisation.
  • Learning points:
    • Defining researchers – difficult – a diverse population – different levels of engagement, difficult to engage with more senior staff who may not have realised that regulations/requirements/services/available support have changed, reach into departmental meetings
    • Researchers respond at the point of need – don’t know what they need until they need it
    • Challenge: Hard to support researchers if you are not connect with them – need to build networks (Friendly connections – rubbing shoulders – oral cultures works) BUT to really get embedded and be directly involved in supporting a research project – requires immersion – but too much specialisation risks transformation library role into a research role
    • Researchers are trained to be independent, “persistent confidence in their self-sufficiency” – do not feel they need direct support from library staff.
    • Researchers don’t just need the black and white of identifying the published literature in their field, but tacit knowledge of what’s happening in their sector, differences in opinion, a wider range of evidence
    • Importance to researchers of external funders policies – some researchers not fully aware of all external requirements
    • Vitae materials are useful, also look at other sources such as PIRUS,
    • It is highly valuable to build up a good relationship with and work with other sections of the organisation that support researchers
    • Make sure staff are aware of all library services at induction
  • Opportunities/support that is valued:
    • Literature searching: where researchers are moving into new fields, where researchers are also practitioners and therefore less embedded in a research culture (e.g. medical)
    • Students and ECRs if they have not already picked up these skills
    • Research Data Management
    • Copyright and publishers permissions for OA publishing
    • Help with metrics
    • Interlibrary loans / contacting archives and finding hard to reach materials
    • Digitising and making available rare books and documents
    • Systematic reviews and realist reviews
    • Rapid reviews or policy briefings – most up-to-date current good quality information needed quickly
    • Managing information
    • A nice space to work in, work collaboratively with others, if meeting rooms are available
  • Identified: ideas for promotion, guides for researchers, using the Researcher Development Framework (RDF), understanding where we fit into researchers skills development (reference to photo on screen), targeted info – nothing too generic, more online materials, video guides and lecture capture, pitch training at different levels
  • Unfortunately researchers are so busy it was a real coup for us to have them talk at our event, but we would have liked to spend more time with them to find out what they thought of what we are currently offering and how our marketing messages are working – an idea to present them with some materials and see how they responded. Future worked planned in WHELF on using UX and customer-mapping journey may help us answer this.

My personal gains

  • Helped me get from A to B (reference to photo on screen – Tryfan adam and eve) – new role, new direction for the service
  • Enjoy being part of a team – bouncing ideas
  • It’s fun
  • Learn so much from colleagues – informal sharing
  • CPD opportunities – helped me complete my CILIP chartership
  • Improved job satisfaction
  • Given me confidence
  • Helped me understand my place within the service and within the University and who to be working closely with (Archives, records management, research office, ECR network etc)
  • The best knowledge is to know yourself– our library team at Bangor is not as far behind as others, I can share my expertise with others
  • …..some direct solutions…(next slide)

Examples of day-to-day solutions provided by collaboration

  • Data Manager for a new large research project at Bangor – not sure how to comply with subject-specific metadata standards – Natural Resources Wales have a data manager who sits on the advisory board for the metadata standard – organise a meeting to put the two in touch
  • EPSRC funded researcher not responding to reminders of requirements to make arrangement to deposit research data at the end of the project – project is joint funded being led by Swansea University – conversation with Swansea research office – two-pronged approach to communicate with principal investigators on the project
  • Welsh translation of the Open Journals Systems front-end
  • All of this work was enabled by connections and belonging to a network of colleagues (reference to the photo on the screen)

WHELF research group – Successes

  • Greater capacity
  • More resilience
  • Sustainability
  • More collaboration – collaboration breeds collaboration
  • Increased knowledge across the board
  • A new strategy for WHELF including research support
  • New roles in some institutions
  • Raising the profile and value of library research support services in our own institutions, in Wales and beyond.
  • Raising of importance in a wider group of practitioners – more accepting that this is core work
  • Cross-over work with other teams in the libraries across institutions: preservation work with archives, working with collections teams on accessibility of research, understanding the customer journey with the customer services team, thinking about how researchers respond to research guides and training sessions with the teaching and learning group

Final words

  • (With reference to photo on screen) just as the bridge between my home town and my University town is strong, I believe our new network across Wales is strong.
  • I hope it will be a continuing supportive network – it hasn’t just popped up for one day

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.

Henry Ford



  • Hoffman, S. 2016. Introduction: a vision for supporting research. In S. Hoffman, ed., Dynamic research support for academic libraries. London: Facet Publishing.
  • Blatchford, B. et al. 2016. SCONUL Focus 67. Librarians supporting research in Wales: Collaborative staff development and capacity building.
  • WHELF website:




Posted in research, Research group blog, WHELF, Whelf shared LMS

Aber LibTeachMeet 2017: Information Literacy in the Age of Fake News

Aberystwyth University libraries are running a LibTeachMeet on Wednesday, 21 June 2017 from 11:00 to 15:00. This year’s theme is Information Literacy in the Age of Fake News and it will take place on Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth University.

Philip Strong (Unsplash)

We invite librarians from different sectors to discuss and share innovative or new ways your library engages with the challenge of fake news or promoting information literacy.
Lunch, teas and coffees will be provided.


Posted in digital literacy, events, information literacy, news