Library news: BOOKS 2 YOU service

Since the closure of physical sites in March, the University's digital library has been open as usual, providing an essential service to researchers and students. While the team has continued to further develop the online offer, the library’s physical resources and spaces are also vital resources for our community and the team are working hard with return to campus planning. They are now starting to provide zero-contact services for postgraduate taught students, postgraduate researchers and staff to allow access to physical materials, unavailable in electronic format.

Ashley Crump

Boxes of books

Priority zero-contact services

  • BOOKS 2 YOU service: You can now request a book in the usual way through StarPlus from Western Bank Library in the first instance. Library colleagues will retrieve the requested items and they will be delivered direct to your doorstep – anywhere in the UK. We are predicting a high demand for this service during the first few weeks and would ask you to be considerate and only request items that are vital for your research and cannot be accessed digitally. Please also bear with us as we get the service up and running in the coming days.
  • Digitisation service: To increase access to digital materials, we will be offering a digitisation service later in the summer. This will be aimed at the digitisation of original and secondary materials to support research and to help academics prepare teaching for the 2020-21 academic year. The focus will be on digitising materials for the next academic session where this is feasible and copyright and donor permissions allow.
  • Free postal service: We also have a free postal service in agreement with the Royal Mail for finishing students to return books.

Online resources and services

Online resources and services have always been an essential part of what academic libraries do to support learning, teaching and research. Our well-established Virtual Advisory and Help Service (VAHS) has transitioned seamlessly to remote working and we have responded to 7,500 enquiries. Our library FAQs page has also received 15,000 views since lockdown began. From day one, students and staff have been able to speak to the Library team via live chat.


Expanding and improving our digital resources

Before lockdown the University Library provided access to an extensive collection of digital resources – including one million eBooks and 60,000 journal titles. Throughout lockdown an additional 1,500 e-books were added to the list in response to direct requests from staff and students. We’ve also given students access to thousands of digital archive documents by introducing new resource platforms and databases, helping students to complete their dissertation research remotely. StarPlus searches have been improved by highlighting the collections that are available online. The platform has seen 2,500 to 5,000 users and 10,000-25,000 searches per day, adding up to over two million searches since the start of the pandemic!


Building a virtual community

We know how important the social element of studying together is for our students, especially at that time of year when we usually see our PGT students every day in our libraries working hard on their dissertations. To help recreate this sense of community, the University Library has launched a virtual space to help students develop their dissertation skills, whilst staying in touch with the library and their postgraduate community. This enhanced online PGT support includes a series of Dissertation Masterclass Webinars, a Library Guide for Dissertations, and a virtual space (Virtual Library Commons) through Blackboard Collaborate, where students can come together in an academic community to focus on their work, as well as being able to access any help and support they need.

“I [...] just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to facilitate this session. It has been useful, and I do feel more focussed. I have been able to take a couple of hours, without any distractions, to focus on my dissertation. In a strange way, it is like being in a silent study area of a library, but in our own environments, knowing we have the presence of library support, and other students around us. It is a much needed connection and boost to the start of the week. It is a brilliant idea and I hope to join the sessions in the coming days and weeks. Thank you.”

Student attendee, Virtual Library Commons session

If you have any questions, our specialist librarians are ready to help with one-to-one support. You can chat with us online, or email: library@sheffield.ac.uk. We are also continuing to update our Library FAQs page.