Tools and Techniques Workshop, London, July 2013

Earlier this month the LMS Change synthesis project team were in London for the Jisc Library Systems Programme event where they ran a workshop which focused on sharing the tools and techniques were gathered in the course of the project.

The embedded Storify below collates together the twitter discussions which took place during the workshop which ran twice during the day. You can also see the wider discussions which took place throughout the day by visiting the Jisc Library System Programme Storify.

Guest Blog: Personalisation at the Open University

In the blog post below Richard Nurse from the Open University shares the work they are currently undertaking to involve students in the development of library service personalisation tools.


The Library Services department at The Open University is currently undertaking some work to establish student attitudes towards personalised library services.   The work will be asking students about their views, prototyping some personalised tools and then getting students to review the tools and give feedback.

OU Library Services has recently set up a panel of 260 students to use to test ideas, provide feedback and generally help shape our services to ensure that they remain relevant to student needs.  We recently invited 201 members of the student panel to complete a survey asking about tailored services. The survey had an excellent response rate of 67% from a good range of students across all age groups and study levels. The Arts and Social Sciences faculties were the most heavily represented, while the faculties of Health & Social Care and Business & Law were least represented. 20% of respondents have a declared disability.

85% of respondents indicated that they find the sorts of personalisation seen on retail sites such as Amazon somewhat useful or very useful. Respondents showed some very clear preferences for particular types of services. Tools for finding resources and keeping track of found resources were particularly popular.

The table below shows a list of tools students were asked about in the survey, and the percentage of respondents who marked each tool as useful.

Tool as described in survey questions and percentage of respondents who considered it potentially useful.  
Your favourites – journals, authors and ebooks you’ve bookmarked, which allow you to return quickly to the most recent issue of the journal, return to the ebook or see all works by the author.


News for you – new ebooks or articles that are related to items you’ve viewed previously.


Skills for you – recommendations for skill building activities and online training sessions, based on what you’re studying, what stage of study you’re at and which skills resources you’ve already used.


Recommended for your course/module – selected resources chosen by Librarians. (Lists of recommended resources chosen by Librarians are already available through the Selected resources for your study pages on the library website.


Your recent items – a list of full text articles, ebooks and other items you’ve viewed.


Course bibliography/ My course resources – list of resources from your module/course.


My References – save references for books/articles you’ve read and will want to reference in your assignments.


Your recent search items – a list of search terms you’ve used for searching library resources.


Read later – bookmark search results you want to come back to later.


Library users who viewed this item also viewed . . .


Recommended for you – articles and ebooks that other students on your course/module have viewed.


Preferred sources – select preferred databases and subject headings to show in search results and recommendations, e.g. JSTOR, Web of Science, Academic Search Complete.


Library news preferences – select what type of library news items you’re interested in e.g. Online training sessions, journal titles/ebooks, news about particular databases, changes to opening hours, etc.


What other students on your course/module are searching for/reading right now – list of ebooks/articles being looked at by others on your course/module.


Reviews and ratings – review and rate materials and see reviews and ratings by others.


Share this – share useful resources with others through Facebook, Twitter, Course/Module forums.



Two students suggested a “library shelf” in the open comments. This has led us to think that the “library shelf” could incorporate the functionality of Your favourites, Your recent items, Read later and New titles for you.

We asked students whether they would be happy for Library Services to store and make use of data about them, e.g. their modules studied.  As can be seen in the chart below the responses were largely positive with only a very small minority of respondents indicating that they may have concerns about use of data.


Because the OU is a distance learning institution and we mainly provide electronic resources to students the focus of their interest is around how they manage those resources. Students tend to need to prioritise their time around what they need to do for their course so it is interesting but perhaps not surprising that the tools they favour are focused on what they are doing and what they need and are not so interested in recommendations based on what others are doing. Student willingness to allow us to use the data we hold about them and their enthusiasm for engaging in the development process has far exceeded our expectations.

The next step in this work is running two focus groups with students who offered to take part. We will ask students to help us flesh out the functionality of the six tools with the highest rating from the survey. These tools will then be prototyped and students will be invited to test the prototypes through a private blog. The blog will also be used for further discussion of new personalisation ideas identified through the comments on the survey.

The Library Services Platform Context – Key resources

We have just made one of the key project documents freely available on Googledocs. ‘The Library Services Platform Context – Key resources informing the JISC ‘LMS Change’ synthesis project’ paper positions the trends in library system development in the wider context.  It takes the form of a review to inform the work of the LMS Change synthesis project. The narrative summarises trends under five broad headings:-

  1. The Big Picture – Underlying Themes
  2. Higher Education
  3. Library Technology
  4. Library Systems
  5. User Experience & Behaviour

It focus higher education (HE) libraries and specifically ‘back-end’ resource *management* systems – the ‘library service platforms’ as they are increasingly becoming known, in Higher Education. The document began life as a simple resource list for the project and has evolved into a kind of bibliographic essay. It’s mostly ‘big picture’ stuff (after all my role is as a member of the team  working on the ‘synthesis’ part) but it also has illustrative detail from some of the specific projects in the JISC programme. It’s not intended to be comprehensive but we hope it will be useful in illustrating a coherent argument with some select, and we trust, well chosen references.

I certainly think it’s important to see the development in library systems in context. There was a time when people spoke of ‘stand alone’ library systems but those days are long gone. Library system vendors (almost all now owned by or part of much bigger enterprises) are working to reflect in their offerings major technology trends such as the cloud, big data/analytics, social media and the changes in consumption brought about in part by devices such as smartphones and tablets.

This is a challenging and fascinating time for libraries and library technology and I hope the document will help make better sense of what is going on. We’d love to have your comments

Ken Chad. Ken Chad Consulting Ltd

Pathfinder Blog and Twitter Digest – Dec 2012

Updates from the Pathfinder project blogs:

Updates from the wider world of the LMS Change programme:

Andrew Preater blogged about the strategic significance of the Bloomsbury LMS Consortium’s selection of Kuali OLE as their next library management system. The Bloomsbury LMS project posted an in-depth report on the horizon scan that contributed to their procurement decision making process. Andrew also tweeted this link to an interesting blogpost from the Kuali Ole project:

In addition to that, Richard Nurse blogged about the SCONUL Kuali OLE seminar he attended. And finally, just as I was about to hit publish on this blogpost, a video message has arrived from the future Ben Showers revealing what the digital library user experience will be in 2020.

Selected highlights from the past month on Twitter:

New Skills for a New Era?

The SCONUL Winter Conference (7 December 2012 – London) was provocatively entitled ‘New Teams for a New Era’. That’s a very relevant headline for the LMS Change project, which is concerned about the skills implicated in new generations of library management systems, in pressures for enterprise scale integration and in interaction with the wider information landscape and its service platforms. So here is a relevant snapshot of the debate at the conference …

This post was jointly authored by Oliver Pritchard (Asst Director for Student & Learning Support at the University of Sunderland) and by David Kay (LMS Change project). Whilst touching on themes explored more widely in the conference, it draws principally on the discussion that took place in the ‘Boundaries of the Library’ workshop.

Core Questions?

The workshop identified some headline discussion points which given time constraints and the wide ranging nature of the discussion, were not all addressed in detail. However there was considerable value in charting them to aid future thinking and discussion.

  • Identifying trends affecting skills, currently and prospectively on the horizon
  • Mapping the landscape of our services (supply and demand, within the institution and beyond)
  • Understanding who has a stake in ownership / operation of our services, and in particular whether these services are local to the library / elsewhere in the institution / outsourced / shared
  • Ascertaining whether it makes sense anymore to talk about ‘library’ skills – and, if so, defining the distinguishing characteristics and articulating the reinforcing advocacy
  • Consequently defining where / what are the skills gaps – recognising that whilst these may be technical (driven by the pervasiveness and cadence of technology change), there may be other ways of addressing this problem space, even when focused on library systems

A free flowing discussion challenged the framework for the workshop and moved to identify and address broader, but valuable themes.

Trends – What are the key trends that might determine or influence our landscape?

A wide-ranging discussion centred on two key examples:

  • Outsourcing: by example – distributed and hosted services, services direct to the user, beyond our management or control (e.g. Google search; MOOCs), services with user input and choice including “crowdsourcing” (e.g. Patron Driven Acquisition; recommenders and networks such as Mendeley). This trend may broadly be described as “disintermediation” to capture that varied and distributed model of service type and delivery. The group concluded that there were in fact, probably, degrees of disintermediation at play, though not yet complete or wholesale and rarely beyond the reference frame of the library in terms of mission and skills.
  • Student Experience: the learning journey was identified as a key driver and one in which libraries played a central part and could be/are key influencers and stakeholders. There was some debate regarding validity of adopting a customer/consumer/retail model, based on differing views on the nature of the student/learning transaction and whether this was truly a consumer model. However, there was some agreement that more thought should perhaps be given to the needs of our service users, and the means of listening to their voice and understanding their preferences and behaviours.

Skills – What are the skills that our services need to manage a changing landscape?

There was broad agreement that, in terms of critical success factors, these crystallised around a set of attitudinal and behavioural attributes, typically borne of a core responsibly for the mediation of information working with a considerable range of users in a variety of settings and involving the creation of critical links with a wide variety of internal and external stakeholders. A set of key attributes emerged from the tenor of this discussion:

  • Brokerage
  • Facilitation
  • Mediation
  • Agency
  • Collaboration
  • Bringing order to innovation and opportunism

These were identified as key ways of working which place the library team in an important position in the institution vis a vis both ‘customer’ service and corporate enablement. These were therefore expressed as differentiating characteristics for the library service that needed to be imbued in our leadership and in the approaches adopted by our teams.

This offered an important perspective on technical skills (perhaps a wrongly assumed focus of this debate). Whilst such skills were seen as significant to service success and corporate agility, it was suggested that technical skills will always change (sometimes rapidly – consider such as web frameworks, metadata transport formats) and might be bought in rather than as a default developed “in-house”.

In conclusion – A 2020 vision?

Let us assume, perhaps within the decade, that the primacy of buildings is ultimately challenged by the potential to distribute and personalise learning at scale and that print collections become largely specialist legacy concerns. In such a landscape characterised by the greater distribution of learning and support services, what knowledge and skills will remain as relevant, as core and potentially as premium for our library-like services?

It was argued that the skills characterised in our discussion – a set of complex attributes, higher level skills intertwined with core professional values – can help optimise our opportunity to survive in and crucially to shape an increasingly uncertain and fast changing world of teaching, learning and research. In the context of these fundamental observations about the ‘library team’ in a new era, the enabling technology skills required to manage and evolve library services were understood to be crucially important, almost a given, to be identified and developed as a part of core business.

Guest Blogpost: BIC’s Battle of the Library Systems!

Highlights, lowlights and what next
Guest Blogger: Sharon Penfold, Bloomsbury LMS Project Manager (Project website:
Report from BIC’s Battle of the Library Systems, 28 November 2012 

The House Motion: “Open source is about distributed innovation and will become the dominant way of producing software”

Over 40 delegates were presented with a well-paced set of cases for and against using open source software.

There were no surprises, and this wasn’t so much a battle as a mostly civilised debate. Overall, excellent points were made by all parties, and all appeared to have fair floorspace.

The open team was fundamentally higher education related; the proprietary team fundamentally public library. A more equal balance of academic and public, open source and proprietary will be needed to robustly explore the themes raised – but I suspect would add little new at a high level apart from equal representation.

As more of the content is covered elsewhere, I would just like to highlight a few more strategic aspects – and flag the question, what next?

Public libraries v Higher Education

An interesting division condensed during the ‘Battle’ – nothing to do with technology, everything to do with public library and council culture compared with that of higher education.

Public libraries were presented on the proprietary side as truly driven by risk avoidance and the legal safety net of Service Level Agreements and contracts.

A culture of innovation and responsiveness in higher education was the strongest theme on the open source front.

Does this imply a very simple market shift so that providers and suppliers most sensitive to public library drivers make the most of their market strengths there – and similarly for higher education?

Badges and solutions

A particularly constructive proprietary angle came from Jim Burton of Axiell, emphasising that the important decisions should be made based on the system doing what you want and meeting your needs – not on badges of open source or otherwise.

At the other end of the scale on the proprietary side was the illustrated limerick “William McGee and the car built for free”. This likened OSS to the result of a bunch of enthusiasts building a car, so ending up with a multi-coloured ad-hoc monstrosity.

Said limerick however did highlight an important point. Development of open source systems does require robust underpinnings to mitigate the risk that it traditionally brings.

photo of the BIC LMS Battle event


However, where proprietary suppliers are concerned, the risk argument is a double edged sword.

Building their customer base purely on fear, uncertainty and doubt aligned with extreme risk mitigation is not a 21st century partnership way of working.

It’s certainly not a 21st century higher education way of working.

It’s even less about the driver that really matters in universities in the current climate – student experience.

Successful risk management is understanding the appetite of the organisation in the first place, and working within that strategic and operational context.

Where next?

Simplistically, confusion reigns at present. Votes before and after the battle were significantly split between for, against and undecided. Many would have spoiled their ballot papers in their uncertainty. They are not remotely alone.

Constructive and balanced approaches to selecting fit for purpose solutions will be needed to support the organisations seeking next generation library technology. Proprietary or open source in that context is irrelevant.

For a wider viewpoint, recommended are:
Mick Fortune’s summing up:
Andrew Preater’s commentary:


Open Team
Nick Dimant (PTFS)
Mark Hughes (Swansea)
David Parkes (Staffordshire)
Andrew Preater (Senate House)

Proprietary Team
Will Blackburn (Civica)
Jim Burton (Axiell)
Paula Keogh (Capita)
Anthony Whitford (Capita)
Brad Whittle (SirsiDynix)

Mick Fortune (consultant)
Karina Luke (BIC)
Martin Palmer (Essex County Council)

LMS Change at halfway

Time passes quickly and we’re now half way through the JISC LMS Change project (july 2012 to February 2013). You’ll remember, of course, that the project is undertaking three activities that we hope (as if by magic) to bring together in the second half of the project:

  • Synthesis of the landscape and associated developments in library systems and the wider world of access to scholarly information; this is being tracked in an evolving paper edited by Ken Chad of which Version 2 will be published here this month
  • Identification of key findings, approaches and developments arising from the programme’s Pathfinder projects, assisted Helen Harrop’s blog posts
  • Development of a ‘framework’ / ‘model’ that will help libraries to think about and plan around potential changes in library systems and associated processes – the main subject of this post

The project has active support from a Collaboration Group of eight universities (intentionally diverse in terms of mission, size and location) in steering this course – for which our thanks go to Birkbeck, Cambridge, the Open University, Stirling, Swansea, UCL, Westminster and Wolverhampton.

The eight libraries (and associated consortia such as Bloomsbury and WHELF) are currently helping us test the emerging ‘change framework’ using a simple experimental method … Each library has posed a particular systems change issue or ‘challenge’ that they are currently facing (from a complex detail to whole LMS replacement) and we’re meeting together to see whether the proposed approaches to problem scoping, solution modelling and thought provoking are helpful.

The selected issues for testing the framework have included

  • Authentication challenges
  • Cloud-based library system issues
  • E-resource license management
  • LMS implementation
  • Next generation LMS points of integration
  • Reading / resource List processes
  • Web-scale versus local search indexes

On Wednesday 21 November, the Collaboration Group will be meeting to test the ‘framework’ with a challenge of interest to a large number of libraries – the implications for institutional library systems of adopting the KB+ shared service ( We’ll he joined in the discussion by Huddersfield’s HIKE project ( – for which KB+ is a core interest) and by JISC Collections (leading KB+ service development). Look out for our blog post on the meeting!

We’re also grateful of support from the US-based Kuali OLE consortium. Their interest is to identify thinking and planning approaches that will help any library in considering large scale systems change ( Kuali partner, the University of Chicago plans to put our approach to the test in the new year as (like the UK Bloomsbury group) they’ll be an early implementer of the Kuali OLE platform.



Pathfinder Blog and Twitter Digest – Nov 2012

Updates from the Pathfinder project blogs:

And a roundup of news from further afield:

Pathfinder Blog and Twitter Digest – Oct 2012

Some highlights from the blogs of the Pathfinder projects over the past month:

A few items worth highlighting from Twitter:

Pathfinder Blog and Twitter Digest – Sept 2012

Here are some highlights from the blogs of the Pathfinder projects:

A couple of recent future-gazing items from the #jiscLMS twittersphere that are worth sharing: