Open Access – nearly?

I am member of a project group about mobile learning and social media. The work for that and also thoughts about my work objectives for the coming year have brought some new ideas about the space I work in and that I manage.

The library where I work keeps most of it’s materials behind the counter. The counter forces/enables (both words valid) staff to interact with the users (mostly students but also tutors and other university staff). This can be beneficial to users as they get personal treatment but also can also potentially hinder usage as browsing lets users explore resources that they might not have found by searching the library catalogue alone (if they even bother with it). Just think how many books you have read in the past because they were next to the book you originally came for. Yes, that last point might be more common for fiction or broad (initial) research and not focussed learning where you mainly use things from your reading lists.

I am not suggesting a complete overhaul at the moment but am hoping to test my open access idea with our dvd collection and see if the issue figures change much. This means that the dvd cases will live in the reading room (free to see and be picked up), but users still have to come to the counter and get the discs there to take away. This idea also involves changing the policy for dvd use, meaning that dvds will be able to be taken away by users, when before they could only watch them in the library. Being able to see what’s there and being able to take stuff away – I hope it’s not too much excitment at once 😉

Pros for open access:

  • usability, increased visibility of materials -> can push certain collections/usage
  • immediacy -> no queues, no need to interact with staff unless users has a question or needs an item to be issued
  • serendipity when browsing


  • costs and inconveniences created by defacing, destruction or loss of materials
  • costs for security measures
  • staff might need convincing and instructing, might be worried about their jobs because of less user interaction (one step closer to self-issue?)

Questions to explore:

  • guidelines about fines and replacement costs to refer users to -> need consistency
  • cost for security gates, potential loss
  • user and staff views
  • best classification systen for open access and usability (our stock is shelved chronologically at the moment which isn’t the most intuitive system, to be fair)
  • need to think about which materials need to be reference copies, which ones we might want duplicates of

For loyal readers: this space discussion is about a different space than previous spaceplanning posts.

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