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An interview with Hazel Woodward

Interview by: Margaret Adolphus

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Photo: Maurice Line
Hazel Woodward is university librarian and director of the University Press at Cranfield, a post she has held for over seven years. Previously she was head of Electronic Information Services at Loughborough University.

Hazel has a PhD in the area of electronic publishing and scholarly communication, and has also written several papers on digital library issues. She is on a number of professional committees including UKSG and JISC.


Can you tell us what is going on at Cranfield?

Quite a lot! I suppose the thing that’s at the top of my mind is the relocation of our Silsoe campus over to the Cranfield campus, including the whole of the library, which creates a whole lot of issues! We are rather like a building site at the moment – in fact we are a building site! Because of the need to create the space to bring over the stock from the library, we are having to integrate the stock into a new structure. So that’s taking quite a lot of time, but it’s been raising some interesting issues for us in terms of our holdings. One of the things that we have done is to rationalize the back-runs of journals so we’ve actually discarded quite large numbers of printed journals and purchased digitized back files to create the space to bring in essentially the books from the Silsoe library. So, that’s been a major project.

Can I ask you about a point raised by T. Scott Plutchak, which is about the virtual library versus the physical library?

I think it’s fair to say that we took the lead quite early on at Cranfield in actually moving towards digital libraries, about seven years ago. At that time we had virtually all printed journals, just a handful of electronic journals, whereas now we have approaching 9,000 electronic journals, and a lot less than 1,000 printed journals. So wherever possible electronic is becoming our prime format for providing journals and they are very heavily used. You have to remember that Cranfield is a very research intensive environment – a postgraduate only university, so our students will be masters or PhD students.

How does the fact that you are a research university affect the way you operate?

Hugely. Firstly, because we are a research university we have smaller numbers, we are not catering for vast numbers of undergraduates, so we provide a much more tailored service to our community. When I first went there, I thought that there was almost more resemblance to a commercial library. We have teams of information specialists who have very targeted community groups that go out into the schools and departments, and work with them. That is the context in which we deliver information literacy, so it’s actually embedded within the curriculum, and that we find is the most effective way. We do huge amounts of training in information skills and information literacy: one to ones with the PhDs, who each have their own identifiable information specialist; we go out and work with the masters students in the curriculum; we run a lot of courses in the library for hands on experience of very specific resources; we have an open programme of lectures and tutorials, and are developing some elearing modules.

Can you say a bit more about how you work with the master's students in the curriculum?

They are developed in collaboration with the course directors that we have in all the schools, so the information specialists work closely with them, in particular to ensure that they can support all the individual assignments that come up, and identify various sources that they can use. We also talk to them about what we might call the commercial resources that we have, such as journals and databases, and increasingly the electronic books, as well as how they can effectively use things like Google Scholar, because that’s becoming to many people a first port of call, so it’s not something that we can ignore, and we shouldn’t ignore.

With 9,000 e-journals, how do you go about managing that?

A high proportion of them are acquired as big deals, off the top of my head I would think that about 70 per cent of our journals are acquired in this way. For other, more specialized areas which are fundamental for the engineering, technology defence areas we research in, there may not be the consortia deals – for example the SAE digital library or the IEEE – we then have to go out and do our own individual negotiation.

Is displaying blogs an important part of the librarian’s role?

Well, that’s a difficult one, within the formal part of the library we don’t really display blogs, because it’s something to do with the quality issue, and while there are obviously some fairly good blogs out there, we have to be very careful. What is more interesting is to think more generally about things we can actually utilize. I can give you an example: something we are doing at Cranfield at the moment, using wiki technology. We actually look after the archives, so the archivist sits within the library. We have been asked to update the publication on the history of Cranfield and produce a new edition, and we are using wiki technology for contributions. We find people who are often retired professors with a very detailed knowledge of one aspect of the university, maybe say the College of Aeronautics, they put their contributions on the wiki and the archivist will edit all of this once it has come in. But no one person has all the information so that’s wonderful technology which allows us to collect what we want, rather than having really time intensive things like people going out and doing interviews.

There are lots of applications that we can use, we’ve submitted bids to three JISC programmes and we’ve been successful in all three, which is a bit of a shock as we’ve had to rush out and recruit staff. One of them is called TicToc, led by Roddy MacLeod. That’s something which you as publishers would be interested in, with its Tables of Contents and RSS feeds.

Could you tell us about EThOS?

Yes, we were original partners in EThOS, which is the Electronic Thesis Online Service. The original ETHOS project was creating a proof of concept for a national store for all UK higher education institutions. EThOSnet (the new one, a follow on from EThOS) is now in existence and scaling up the proof of concept into a proper feasible workable service encouraging electronic submission of theses. I think that’ll be hugely helpful, because theses have been in the area of grey literature, they’ve been very difficult to get hold of particularly in the case of overseas theses, so this is going to make UK research much more visible and accessible. I think it’s a very important project.

Where do you feel UKSG is going in the next five years?

Now that’s an interesting question! I actually think the UKSG is going from strength to strength. One of the interesting things is that we have a name which actually belies what the organization does. We’ve got UK in it, and we want to work in an international market, and we’ve got serials in it, but we are not just about serials, we are about e resources, and yet UKSG is a very powerful brand. So there’s quite a lot of thinking that needs to go on in that area. It may be like OCLC, you use the letters but then have a strapline which talks about other things.

But in terms of what we are trying to do in the group I think we have some great ideas. Serials is doing really well, we’ve got Serials-eNews which is very well received by the community and which is just about to be relaunched with a lot more comment rather than just press releases and so on. We’ve got the e journals list, and we’ve got LiveSerials, which is the blog, and we are working now to create a seemless way of moving between all these publication formats. Some of them it’s instant information, like I bet you now that this morning’s session is already on the blog, we will do some commentary on some of the more interesting presentations the next issue of Serials E news, and some of the papers will appear as papers within Serials. So you get a nice publications progression, and I think that’s providing people with some of the things that they want.

How do you see the future role of the business library?

It’s interesting, there are so many things happening at the moment. Let’s start at what we might call the foundations. I think for the foreseeable future there will be a role for the library as place which Scott was talking about in his presentation. We undertake the LibQUAL survey every two years which is a web survey of user satisfaction, and one of the things that comes back very strongly from our clients is how much they value that space. One of the reasons is that it’s perceived to be a quiet, studious environment, and they also find our building particularly pleasant to work in, but it’s also a safety net in that they know that they have information specialists there if they need them. That’s why they go there rather than into a computer lab where they will still have the same access to information. Libraries have become much more social places as well, providing things like cafes, study rooms, group study rooms and so on, so I think that that for the foreseeable future will be important.

I think there will also be a continuing role for the library in purchasing materials – it’s a cost effective way for an organization to do it, and all the consortia agreements that have been happening have helped libraries enormously to gain value for money. We are also just about to complete and open a management research institute, and we will have a space in that in which we are going to be creating services to support management research. We are looking at things like electronic social sciences research, and at how we are going to help the academics not only in their traditional role of publishing in peer reviewed journals, but also what do we also do about all the underlying data that’s collected, how do we store that, is that an additional role for our institutional repository, which we are already building up quite effectively?

So, there are many areas in which we can operate, but in all of them we need to work more and more closely with our academic colleagues rather than just being focused on what we might call library management issues. There’s all sorts of ways in which we can outsource the boring stuff. Take cataloguing – why do individual libraries need to catalogue everything? It’s just not a very good use of resource, when they could be out there providing good customer service and support and so on. We just buy in our catalogue records. And that’s just one example of what you might do.