Library of the Week: 6th March: We are very excited to share this post from the University of Surrey Library and Learning Services! Find out more in this amazing new post written by Catherine Batson, Associate Director (Student Experience) at the University of Surrey. Thank you for taking part!
The Library, with its instantly recognisable gold and glass building, is the home of Library and Learning Services (LLS) at the University of Surrey, bringing together spaces, expertise, and collections that support our University community and beyond. With a beautiful and thriving campus, the Library sits at its heart, supporting learning, teaching and research journeys.
We are open 24 hours a day during semester time, and offer a modern study experience, arranged over six floors, with distinctive collections and diverse individual and collaborative learning spaces. Improving the student and researcher experience is central to what we “do”. This is reflected in our student satisfaction rates with library services in national surveys at 88%, moving Surrey Library’s ranking to ninth in the country.
Library as ‘space’
Continuous improvement has seen our study space grow. Our “Space for Thought” refurbishment projects have delivered more than 300 additional study spaces and the complete transfer of all collections into mobile shelving to make the most creative use of our building footprint. Group, individual and silent study with flexible furniture accommodate diverse study preferences; the locating of Learning Development (comprising the Academic Skills and Development, and Maths and Statistics Advice services) and the Disability and Neurodiversity team within a ‘Learning Development Zone’ near the entrance ensures the accessibility of these services to our learning community.
“I really like the gradual, but steady modernisation efforts of the Library every year, making me feel that the Uni listens and respects our feedback” [UG Mechanical Engineering student]
Library as ‘collections’
For several years, the Library has championed a digital-first approach to collection provision. We continually drive to ensure all essential reading on reading lists is available digitally and have adopted a large personal digital textbook scheme using the BibliU platform to enhance equitable access to a selection of core textbooks.
“My personal digital textbooks are modernising my learning and it takes out the cost. Books are expensive, so free access is crucial to reduce learning barriers.” [UG Law student]
We have also been supporting born-digital PhD theses since 2015, showcasing Surrey’s doctoral research in the Open Research repository.
Our print collections are still extensive with over 300,000 volumes, including specialised collections such as the musical theatre vocal score collection, anthologies, and libretti, and a significant hospitality and tourism collection supporting University of Surrey’s pioneering world class reputation in the field since 1966.
The SurreyReads collection, is a student-led leisure reading collection, designed to encourage reading simply for fun. Curated lists reading lists help Library users explore the collection with a focus on bestselling fiction, biography and memoirs, award winning black, LGBT+ and female authors, fiction in translation and wellbeing books.
Library as ‘Archives and Special Collections’
Our Archives and Special Collections host over 100 collections, including the University’s own institutional archive dating from the foundation of Battersea Polytechnic in 1891. The archive not only highlights our heritage as an organisation, but captures student experiences from their social life, sports competitions, student accommodation, student societies and activities such as attendance at harvest camps to provide farm labour during wartime. We also hold collections of the National Resource Centre for Dance including the personal archive of movement theorist Rudolf Laban – our most used research collection.
One significant archive, is the personal papers of E. H. Shepard MC. OBE (1879-1976), the renowned illustrator of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, and political cartoonist for Punch. The collection includes drawings for many publications, sketchbooks, correspondence, and memorabilia, including from Shepard’s service as an officer during WWI.
We use our archives to support teaching and learning at Surrey (an area we are working to expand further), researchers internationally, departments across the University, and for outreach and engagement activities, including exhibitions.
Library as ‘support’ and ‘development’
The Library’s Learning Development team provides advice and guidance on academic skills, maths and statistics to students, in one-to-one, small group and workshop settings. The focus is on helping students develop independent learning strategies and confidence in their abilities.
Student-centred services are integral to the provision of support and development evidenced by LLS being recently awarded the Customer Service Excellence standard.
The Library’s Open Research, Content and Faculty Librarian teams provide services, expert advice, and training to support the research activities of staff and students. Training and support are available on open access, copyright and open licensing, research data management and sharing, bibliometrics, and advanced research skills strategies. One-stop-shop webpages and an online research hub include a wealth of resources supporting research skills and open practices.
Library as ‘champions for openness, transparency and research integrity’
The Library works collaboratively with research leaders across the University and with key external organisations (UK Reproducibility Network, JISC) to foster an Open Research culture. The annual Open Research event, the Surrey Open Research case studies and, crucially, the Open Research in practice online module, all aim to embed open practices in research and develop communities of open researchers.
The Library also contributes to shaping scholarly communications through the adoption of innovative OA publishing initiatives and participation in consultations around transformative agreements.
Library as ‘partners’
LLS is proud of the work undertaken in partnership with our students and academic colleagues. The Learning Development team runs an innovative interdisciplinary ‘Journal club’ where students are encouraged to engage with varied academic literature to develop their critical, analytical, and evaluative skills alongside connecting with other peer learners.
Other student partnership schemes include the Peer Academic Writing Scheme (PAWS) and Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (PALS). Mentees are assigned to a personal fully-trained student mentor, where possible by subject of study, and can develop any aspect of their learning.
LLS continues to expand and improve collections in partnership with our community. The Student Curator project is run as a student-staff collaboration with the Students’ Union. Student curators bring their creativity, voice, and experiences to curate displays, events and social media campaigns and add to our collections. Projects have included, Navigating Neurodiversity, Colourism, LGBT+ history month, Talking about Male Mental Health, Empowering Women and more.
“It was great to see people stop and admire different aspects and perspectives of my display, that contribute to contemporary British and worldwide cultures, as the goal was to uplift and incite curiosity” [UG Literature and Language student]
In partnership with the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion team, the Faculty Librarian team have delivered a series of workshops on supporting an Inclusive Curriculum, producing a range of resources for academic colleagues.
Partnerships using our Library space are also encouraged, with a variety of pop-ups over the past two years: These have included Nightline Peer Support, Student Minds, Careers and Employability, Friends International, Disability and Neurodiversity, Alumni, Student Money team, Centre for Wellbeing and more.
The key drivers for LLS in the coming years, whilst promoting inclusive and open values and practices, will be to continue to underpin the ambitions of the University delivering a high-quality student experience, impactful research and delivering on the outstanding support for teaching.
You can explore our collections and services here
Associate Director (Student Experience)
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