Library comes up with creative solutions
UBL, Leiden University Libraries, is doing all it can to continue to offer its services. Even now the motto is, ‘work from home’. Who is doing want and how are things going?
For once, other University buildings are quieter than the library. Although the library has many digital resources, people are still borrowing printed books. And this looks set to continue. Leiden University Libraries (UBL) was also involved in the swift introduction of Kaltura Live Room, the system that lecturers can use for interactive lectures.
Hugo de Krijger, Head of Digital Services
Hugo de Krijger is responsible for the regular information systems at UBL as well as for LUCRIS. In LUCRIS researchers use metadata to describe their publications. Another part of LUCRIS is the Graduate School Management System in which PhD candidates keep track of their progress.
One of the first things that UBL arranged for was more access to publishers’ information systems through the catalogue. These were initially accessible to 10,000 visitors at a time but that has been increased to 20,000.
Digital teaching us suddenly booming business. ‘The University purchased Kaltura Live Room, an interactive digital teaching system, around two weeks ago and it went live three days later,’ De Krijger explains. ‘We played a significant role in that. The main aspects were preparing the infrastructure and arranging for the rights.’ He emphasises that they worked closely with ICLON and the Centre for Innovation to achieve this. ‘The introduction was and is a huge step for many lecturers, although it is easier for some than for others.’ This makes good support for lecturers and students essential. The ISSC helpdesk answers the basic questions, and the more complicated ones go to the Centre for Innovation, the video coordinators and the functional managers in De Krijger’s team.
Library and teaching?
When you hear teaching systems you don’t immediately think of UBL. Why is it playing a key role in this? De Krijger: ‘The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences was the first faculty to use streaming video. When other faculties started to use this service, it had to be managed centrally. This management proved the best match for our digital experience at the time. That’s how we became involved. Since then we’ve been facilitating and managing the lectures that are recorded.’ The video coordinators at the faculties also play a crucial role. They plan the recordings and are the contact person for the lecturers when it comes to video.
No more childcare duties
De Krijger is married to a massage therapist who has had to stop working because of corona. Their children have grown up and flown the nest. De Krijger himself now works at UBL two days a week and works from home the other two days. ‘That’s going well,’ he says. ‘My wife is painting the house and there’s a range of IKEA cupboards that need to be assembled. We do miss the day that we look after our grandson. A second grandchild is also expected, but then in August. Hopefully coronavirus will be beating a retreat by then.’
Koen Marijt, information desk for Public Services.
‘He’s more or less the face of the department at the moment,’ says Anneke Dirkx, Head of Public Services at UBL, of Koen Marijt, who works at the service desk. Public Services does everything related to client contact, including providing information and issuing books. ‘We are continuing to issue books as usual,’ Marijt explains, ‘but without any physical contact: we fetch the requested books from the shelves and put them in a locker. The person who has requested the book receives an email telling them the books are there and providing the code of the locker.’ At the moment, three staff members are manning the information desk at the University Library. They answer questions by phone or email and fetch books that have been ordered.
As we now know that coronavirus can survive for some time on smooth surfaces, returned books are placed in isolation for 24 hours before being returned to the shelves. Marijt: ‘Students, lecturers and researchers are very appreciative of our efforts to continue offering our services as much as possible.’
Another area that required a creative solution was what is known as course reserves. These are course materials that lecturers place in a particular location in the library. In principle these are reference books: students can use them in the reading room. Marijt: ‘But that’s no longer possible now those are closed. We have therefore come up with a number of alternatives. If it is a small group of students, we let them take the books out on loan and they can then arrange to rotate them among themselves.’ Another option is for the University Services Department (UFB) to make copies of the books. But that’s only possible if it is a limited number of chapters from a limited number of books, and the copyright also needs to be arranged. UBL and UFB do this together. ‘Sometimes there’s an online version of a book. Then the librarian purchases that. For students it’s great if they can receive online material at home.’
What Marijt likes best about his job is the direct contact with people, but now they aren’t there in person, he is enjoying finding solutions to the problems that are presenting themselves. Of the four days that he works, he is physically present at the library for three of them. The other day is spent answering emails from home. ‘My girlfriend is doing a PhD in law and is working from home every day,’ says Marijt. ‘I don’t really have a problem with being at home a lot. Obviously, it’s a shame that you can’t sit at a café terrace, but I studied history and that’s still my hobby. I come from Noordwijk and am reading a few books about the place. I also give lectures and walks in Leiden and Noordwijk, but those have now been cancelled. Instead, I’m now making free podcasts about the history of Noordwijk. With my own business, Koen van Toen, I do research on request, for instance into events that happened in Indonesia that someone’s family member was in. Or I help people find things in archives. I can keep myself occupied.’
To be continued… In the next article, we talk to two library staff.