CAUL Advisory Committees

CAUL Study Tour: TU Delft and Leiden University

Day 1 CAUL Study Tour 2014 – 26 May

Our first destination was TU Delft. On arrival the cone topped grass hill belies the library that lies beneath. Climbing the ascending shallow stairs we enter a light filled, spacious building with the most amazing blue painted (Meccano Blue) walls holding the suspended book shelves. This building is only 15 years old, and despite being revolutionary for its time, it soon lost favour with its clientele. Like most of us have experienced, just when you think you have the design nailed, it quickly becomes dated in terms of how people want to engage with spaces. Now, after some modifications, numbers of visits and occupancy have reached and continue to overreach previous benchmarks. The library is open 365 days of the year (yes including Christmas and New Year).

The vision and philosophy of the library is captured in the following statement: ‘We let knowledge flow freely because we are convinces that you become more successful if you use other people’s knowledge and share your own’. This mantra pervades every business function, for instance, only full text content is accepted in their repository. Metadata records on their own are excluded. This is why they host 40,000 open access publications, 29,000 photos and videos, 5,600 3TU datasets (all datasets are OA). There are 10 repositories in total with 5 million page views.

The library administers APCs and has a budget of 40K (Euro) per annum to facilitate OA publications. Strict criteria apply. TU Delft library is in the early stages of investigating their role in OA books and they are working to a target of publishing 6-7 books per annum.

Their approach to refreshing learning spaces is heavily instead in design theory. A recent model is premised on the development of ‘personas’ to better understand space, engagement and utilisation requirements over the life cycle of a life long learner. Participants in the research were required to record diaries of how they used their time, energy and resources during academic and personal pursuits. The participants were also asked to envision their future 5 years hence. From here the personas were created to inform the types of spaces that would appeal and deliver optimal learning environments.

To sum up: a vibrant library, open to new ideas, student centred, living centred learning spaces. Funky, while functional. The aim is to have optimal engagement with learning spaces.

Our second destination was Leiden University, the oldest university in the Netherlands. The University itself is spread across a beautiful campus integrated town, which includes the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands. The surrounds are picture postcard pretty. The main library was opened in 1983 and design was heavily influenced by the concept of shopping malls and you clearly get a sense of the axis that are meant to encourage the flow of traffic throughout the building. Although that was the paper design, in reality it just didn’t work. The priorities since 2005 have been to reinvigorate services, introduce new developments such as specialised research services (e.g. Virtual research environments [using Sharepoint], reassessment of the roles of subject librarians, develop and unlock their special collections. The re-profiling of structures, staff competencies and roles began with earnest with one third of positions released to allow for the introduction of new staff. Alongside this, a 6 year building refurbishment exercise commenced to refresh the shopping mall into learning zones. Interestingly, their equivalent of the Reserve Collection (about 1M items) are on open shelves, but aren’t loaned; whereas their loanable collection is in closed stacks. An interesting retrieval model is in place whereby books are placed in lockers from which the client collects the items while simultaneously loaning the materials. They have in place a university press, of which the University Librarian has stewardship. The model for publication supports both traditional and OA formats as well as paper outputs and print on demand.

Key learnings from today: Culture and vision (two very different cultures supporting aspirations for high performance, although perhaps different priorities pervade); space design and and reinvention is vital to ensure fitness for purpose underscoring learning and research needs; research services, particularly e-research and data management are well advanced.

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