March 29, 2021

NAG Award Winners 2019

In late 2018, the Acquisitions Team at the University of Derby were merged into a wider team – the Content & Discovery Team. If getting used to new titles were not enough; 2019 introduced a raft of changes to the team.

  • Significantly reducing the amount of fund codes
  • Introducing a new student led purchasing scheme – “Books For You”
  • Purchasing inter library loans
  • Expanding the reservation scheme – “Multiple Reservations”
  • Introducing shelf-ready
  • Introducing reading-list driven acquisitions
  • Moving to an e-first policy

All of this was achieved whilst being downsized with a vacancy being removed from the team structure. This meant support for subscriptions had to be shared across the existing team rather than a dedicated post.

The Library is now part of the Centre for Student Life – bringing together the Careers service with the Student and Graduate Experience Team as well. This resulted in a new philosophy of co-creation, which is core to everything the team does now. Introducing and expanding on existing co-creation schemes was now key where students are viewed as partners. One of the first initiatives to be tackled was introducing a new scheme where students could suggest books to be purchased, which would be added to the collection. Workflows and criteria were agreed with co-creation from the Academic Librarian Team to ensure the service was responsive and flexible. A form was introduced on the Library website to allow students to make the requests which would come directly to the acquisitions team. Finally, the name for the scheme was chosen by students via a student poll which resulted in “Books For You” being chosen.

Introducing Books For You was a positive move for the team. The feedback from students was extremely positive due to the books being added to the collection very quickly. To publicise the initiative and promote the extra investment; book plates were added into any print books being purchased.

Expanding the multiple reservations scheme, which was an existing co-creation scheme, was also undertaken.  This initiative is where more copies of a book are purchased if there are a certain number of reservations for the item. The expansion was twofold, by lowering the threshold of reservations needed to buy more copies, as well as ordering more copies in total. In addition, to align with the new e-first policy an eBook was purchased immediately to help satisfy the reservations quickly.

The decision was also taken to introduce purchasing inter library loans. The view was taken that why “loan” a book if instead it could be purchased for a similar price which could then be added to the collection. This ensures future students can also benefit from the expanded collection.  Introducing the right workflows for this was essential to keep the process simple for the team.

Reducing the fund codes was a personal ambition of the Acquisitions Team Leader since joining the Library. Talking to colleagues at NAG showed institutions had a range of fund codes from 4, to 7 to 21. Derby at that time had 137 fund codes which was somewhat higher in comparison!  Adding in aggregate fund codes as well took the total close to 200. Colleagues across the Library had concerns around reducing the subject level funds due to the depth and analysis that having the fund codes afforded. However, the work for the Acquisitions team in managing all the fund codes was considerable. Close liaison between the Content and Discovery Team and the Academic Librarian Team helped ensure the reduction to just over 30 fund codes was successful, and indeed the amount of fund codes have been reduced even further since.

Moving to shelf-ready was a key change. This would help create capacity for the Academic Librarians to liaise with academics and students by removing the focus of subject curation. It was felt that it was more efficient for the Library to lose the pre-classifying and to move to the suppliers for a very small nominal cost. It was another big shift for the Content and Discovery Team, with the Cataloguer and Metadata Librarian taking on additional workload to lead with exceptions to the criteria and introduce tweaks to ensure shelf-ready would work for the collection. Moving to shelf-ready meant close liaison with suppliers in the setup, and this was the longest step in the change. By introducing shelf-ready another added benefit to students was ensuring the books would get to the shelves in the Library quicker as there was no processing needed from the acquisitions staff.

Preparing for reading-list driven was also a key change. Previously at Derby most items being added to the collection were items requested by the Academic Librarians. Many of these items would be from reading lists, but also ensuring the Librarians were using their subject knowledge and expertise in driving the collection forward and suggesting key items to purchase. However, the decision was made to move towards “reading list driven acquisitions” (RLDA) where items would be purchased directly from reading lists based on criteria and workflows to ensure all items on reading lists are then in stock. This was a substantial change – the most challenging of all the changes – as the team had no experience of ordering in this way. To create the necessary workflows took much co-creation with the Academic Librarians in creating automated criteria and it is fair to say moving to RLDA took longer than anticipated. Talking to other institutions across the sector was key in helping to understand the processes involved.

Behind all these changes was a core philosophy of being e-first.  Ensuring the books budget was spent predominantly on eBooks as well as ensuring an eBook would be preferred to a print book, due to accessibility and increased access issues, was introduced.

The pace of change at Derby in 2019 was rapid. Introducing shelf-ready and preparing for reading-list driven purchasing was no mean feat with years of workflows and processes already established needing to be untangled. The pace was a challenge to manage; but ultimately all the acquisition changes helped streamline the service and thus benefit students.

About the Authors

Matt Cox has a background in Quality Enhancement, before moving to a finance role, and then joining the Library sector in 2017 when he joined as the Acquisitions Team Leader at the University of Derby. Matt is now the Content and Discovery Manager at Derby and is also a member of the NEYAL Books Group. Matt spends his spare time being woken up by his 2 young children several times on a nightly basis.

Alexandra Marshall joined the University of Derby in 2016, after a brief spell in the public library sector. She started as a Subscriptions Assistant and has subsequently held several positions in the Acquisitions Team. She has recently moved into the role of Discovery Librarian and is now responsible for developing the library’s electronic resources and systems. Alongside her work, she is currently studying a Library and Information Services Management masters at the University of Sheffield.