In Exeter College’s seven Learning Resource Centres, we work hard to create an ethos that uses both staff and student views to develop our service. Last year, the ‘Your Library: Your Imagination’ project was formed, led by Simon Bowler, Learning Media Services Manager. The aim of this project was to gather user feedback in as many forms as possible, including focus groups, comment systems and some more unusual ways such as post-it note walls, where students were invited to leave comments.
Post-it note walls were a fun and engaging way to gather user feedback
The ‘Your Library: Your Imagination’ project was very successful and in response to the comments we received, several sub-projects were formed with the aim of innovating our Learning Resource Centre services. One of these projects explored the reoccurring user need for a comfortable and quiet reading space together with requests for a wider variety of fiction for reading for pleasure. Comments we received from students included:
“Somewhere to curl up and read would be goodJ”
“A relaxed quiet place to read for pleasure not study – nice chairs”
“A quiet place to sit and read”
“A place to sit comfily and read”
“More books I reckon. (Fiction ones please)”
“Larger fiction section e.g. HG Wells (Sci-Fi) and Stephen King (Horror)”
“Bigger fiction collection”
It was clear from this that it would be incredibly positive to design and create a space for reading for pleasure within one of our Learning Resource Centres. An additional benefit was that it would also support wider college aims of promoting and supporting literacy for all students.
Jude Fleming, Library Services Co-ordinator, led this project supported by Tori Gower, Subject Librarian and Tammy Whyte, Learning Centre Supervisor. Following discussions about what would make a welcoming reading space for our student users, we identified a corner of our Hele Learning Centre that could be used. Through a ‘Dragons’ Den’ scheme run within our Information and Learning Services Department, Tori was able to pitch a plan for the project and subsequently secure funds to renovate it into a bright comfortable area.
This linked with another approved ‘Dragons’ Den’ proposal named ‘Fresher Fiction’ by Cathie Strover, Information Services Assistant. This project focused on rotating our fiction stock between our Learning Resource Centres, actively seeking feedback to inform our fiction selections and building a collection of graphic novels to engage our 16-19 year old student age group.
So, with a few tins of very purple paint, bright green beanbags, a new sofa, shelf rearranging and a Dr Seuss quote, it was relatively easy to create the space the students wanted. To continue the emphasis on student involvement, we ran a competition asking students to suggest a name for the new reading space and after many entries, ‘Book Nook’ was chosen as the winner with ‘Reading Retreat’ and ‘fREADom’ as runners up.
Name the Reading Space competition winners
The new Book Nook has been both well received and well used by our students. It has helped us to promote participation in the Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead scheme. We are expecting to see an increase in our fiction lending statistics and there has been positive interest in the new graphic novels. There were some initial issues with behaviour management and maintaining the space as a quiet reading area, but this is improving.
Successful Reading Ahead participants
We have recently started using ‘positive posters’ for behaviour management and this seems to be working well.
An example of a ‘positive poster’ used in our Learning Resource Centres
Overall, this has been a successful project and we are looking forward to continuing to promote literacy and reading for pleasure, as well as aiming to improve user experience informed by engagement and feedback from the people we work with here in the Exeter College Learning Resource Centres.
Tammy Whyte (Exeter College Learning Centre Supervisor)