Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A guest post by Gavin Boughton, Librarian at the MOD.

I sit on the Standing Committee on Official Publications (SCOOP) and I'm often amazed by the variety of roles undertaken by my fellow information professionals and that is why I've asked Gavin Boughton to write about his role within the MOD where he is the only member of staff in their DCG Library Information Centre!

During 2001, I started working in the Library Information Centre (LIC), Defence Geographic Centre (DGC) a department of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). To meet the criteria of qualifications required in the LIC, I enrolled on an NVQ 3 in Information and Library services, which developed into a degree (2:1 BA (HONS) in Business/obtaining my MCLIP Chartership in 2012)). My dissertation was the highlight of my degree studies - investigating how Libraries alleviate social exclusion, primary research gathered in Feltham and Leeds. Social exclusion and its effects on the life chances of the vulnerable in society continue to interest me.

Because LIC staffing levels have “changed”, I could see opportunities for combining personal and service performance. Selected by management from an original nine staff to remain the Library’s sole representation (Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown), encouraged my familiarisation with a wide-range of geographic resources. I identified two new aims and objectives to be exploited, thereby promoting the LIC as a valuable resource (open for business-“under new management”) and at the same time reflected through my own customer driven service delivery:

* Promote Liberty, the new Library Management System (LMS)

* Satisfy DGC customer Requests For Information (RFI)

To ensure and ultimately improve continuity of service, the LIC must evolve from a small, traditional provide of geographic information and therefore it follows, I must continue to investigate new research role opportunities to increase usage within DGC/wider MoD. Greater RFI can be achieved through innovative LIC exposure to all Defence staff, as the LMS has recently migrated from CAIRS cataloguing system to Liberty and its new desktop Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC). Library information services are generally intangible and perishable. For example, services are offered and used at the same time – an on-line search during a quiet period in the LIC cannot be filed away to await an enquiry. However, despite intangible limitations, other Defence Library cataloguing systems are fully searchable to staff on the wider MoD Intranet. I have already examined with MoD HQ whether it would be possible for Liberty to join other catalogues already uploaded, thereby increase the LIC’s presence. Although the Liberty OPAC reflects many classified items, such a proposal is entirely feasible. The result would be two-fold, promote Liberty and increase RFI access to customers.

Increased digitisation, as outlined, will also be necessary to improve service delivery: For example, fostering external partnerships with wider information stakeholders: Having already applied for the online British Library Document Supply Service (BLDSS), the British Library invited little ol’ me to become the account manager at DGC. With enhanced functionality that this role brings, I am now able to control British Library online access together with providing DGC staff with the ability to order their own documents. This service has been a breakthrough, because items are now loaned to DGC researchers, a significant cost saving initiative when compared to the old and prohibitively expensive book ordering system used by my predecessors (bless). A very large proportion of the LIC budget was historically associated with a small, yet expensive proportion of the total number of RFI items held (madness, no more, no less).

Because DGC staff continue to travel extensively on business, requesting documentation to be sourced and collected abroad now supplements the LIC with ordinarily difficult to obtain items at cost price, improving DGC staff research capabilities. Purchasing second hand items from Amazon reduces occurrences of non supply (What is the preoccupation with “new” in these enlightened times - a dog eared copy is better than no copy at all?) and still ensures a consistently high quality customer service experience. Adopting new information harvesting methods allows LIC holdings to compare favourably with research material obtained from other government departments. Comparisons are conducive to influencing wider DGC management audit reviews to the need and importance of LIC services.

Marketing and promoting the LIC has always been important to me. For example, stopping journal circulation on the DGC site increased Library “footfall”, reduced copies going astray and provided the opportunity to promote LIC services and author talks, as well as provide access to Liberty to staff who ordinarily may not have visited the Library.

An article published in Defence Librarian, on my secondment to two Libraries, subsequently circulated throughout MoD Whitehall definitely increased personal confidence. Attending meetings, researching and writing the Standing Committee On Official Publications (SCOOP) news for Refer, the CILIP Information Services Group journal, has also provided the necessary confidence and involvement required for attending discussions on the future of the LIC (Demise? Over my dead body), I do what I can, where I can. For example, the sourcing and purchasing of relevant second hand and inexpensive material refreshes the LIC, reversing a trend for it to become an archive: MAKE IT LIVE is my clarion call! The increased autonomy of being a sole practioner has allowed me to promote and improve my role. Despite demands on my time, I have managed to widen my corporate profile, representing the Library at the London Book Fair. I have also met LIC suppliers at Frankfurt Book Fair, both officially and more recently in a private capacity, because many companies do not attend the London Book Fair.

Finally, managing LIC stock could be further enhanced by recognising how, if items are lost, damaged or severely overdue by a member of staff, the introduction of a nominal fine may become necessary to maintain the integrity of the collection for the future of the LIC and the wider good of DGC. Onwards! Onwards! 

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