Westminster Kingsway College is a general further education college with four sites over London and caters for approximately 15,000 students at any one time. About eighteen months ago, the college at its Kings Cross site had a fairly traditional library with a big desk that all the librarians use to sit behind.
Wanting to change this to allow the library team to interact and work more closely with the students, they decided it was time to automate their library book loaning service and at the same time they thought, ‘why don’t we extend this service beyond books and actually look at loaning laptops and other devices as a self-service model as well’. So the team looked at deploying a self-service laptop loan service alongside the other changes to their library service.
Drew Keavey, Head of Information Learning Technology at Westminster Kingsway College talks to LapSafe® about the college’s decision to automate their library with self-service.
When we decided to go down the self-service route it was really important that we involved the library team and so the key decision makers as well as myself from a technical standpoint were: The Head of the Library, who wanted to do self-service across the board and her line manager, The Head of Learners Experience which ensured that the decision took on a broader view of the student experience.
The college across all its sites had about sixty different devices; Kings Cross had about thirty laptops initially and that rose to about fifty by the end of 2014, then we decided to do self-service on top of that which took the overall number closer to one hundred.
The college has used Heritage for some time and it was really important that any system we used for self-service matched in with Heritage and didn’t require the library team to learn anything new.
I’ve previously used LapSafe® in other colleges and Westminster Kingsway also had a few LapSafe® trolleys which we have been really pleased with. We had tried another manufacturer’s storage and charging trolley but found that it broke too easily and we especially like that the LapSafe® Mentor™ is fitted with LapSafe®’s own ultra-safe SmartLine™ charging system which other manufacturers cannot offer. SmartLine™ is hassle free, no messing around with cables as the trolley’s come pre-configured for the make and model of device and are also fitted with PowaSave™ which saves on power. Considering all this LapSafe® were a natural choice to look at in terms of delivering the self-service.
When we were looking for self-service the key point for us was that it was really easy to use, something that the students would pick up straight away and wouldn’t require the library staff to learn anything complicated or new outside their normal remit.
When we were looking at what was on the market for self-service laptop loan lockers, the LapSafe® product was clearly head and shoulders above anything else that was out there. It offered more functionality and it was soon clear that this was the only choice to make.
As part of the selection process we were very keen to see the self-service in use so we actually went along to two different sites with the library team so they could get a feel of the product, ask their colleagues in other libraries, how it worked, what worked well, what issues need to be resolved from the outset and that proved to be really helpful in the decision making process.
Having done the initial research there wasn’t really any competition that offered the same range of services with the same integration with Heritage and ease of use that LapSafe® offered, so we didn’t actually go and see anything else other than the LapSafe® Diplomat™ LMS.
The LapSafe® process was really good, it was very smooth, all the information that we needed to provide was clearly documented and it was really easy to complete and send back. The whole process went without a hitch and delivery was flexible.
One of the benefits of going with LapSafe® is the Account Management is really well handled. It is not intrusive, they are not constantly on the phone to you but they are there when you need them and are very helpful. Our Account Manager even came on the installation day to make sure that everything went smoothly. We’ve now had the unit for about twelve months and so far we’ve found that every time we’ve needed some help or advice LapSafe® have been there for us and been really supportive.
Over the first year we actually had a member of staff sat outside the library, which was more to do with the management of the area. The actual self-service works so easily that it didn’t need any staff intervention. We’ve found in fact that students tend to come in early to make sure they secure a laptop and they use them throughout the day into the evening as well.
The implementation of the service was surprisingly easy, there were a few technical issues that we needed to address between Heritage and the unit itself but those were quickly resolved and since it has been up and running it has actually run very smoothly and with very little intervention from my team in particular.
I think the biggest feedback we’ve had is the sheer usage, the devices are in use from 8.00 am in the morning through to 7.00 pm at night and in fact we’ve needed to provide more. The service has been so heavily used and quite often the laptops are all out by 10.00 o’clock in the morning.
The students really like the self-service because it enables them to grab a laptop when they need it rather than having to go and queue at the library or wait for a member of staff to be available. It also helps those students who are here out of normal hours; evening students for example, as when the LRC isn’t open, they can just get a laptop and use it as any other student can.
The library team have found this of real benefit as it has allowed them to get out from behind the desk and actually be with students, teaching them more important study skills and this has really added value to the library service.
When we set out to do self-service we obviously had some aims in terms of getting those library staff out and about and helping students out. I think this service has really delivered and the feedback we’ve had from the students is that they like how the new library works both with self-service books and now with self-service laptop delivery. It is certainly something that we will look to do more of in the future.
The service has been so successful that here at the Kings Cross centre we’ve just ordered another three towers (36 bays) which will be going live around about October/November 2015. We’ve also just ordered a further five towers (60 bay) for our Victoria Centre where there is a whole new LRC being developed and this will be a key part of that process.
I think if any college is looking to go down this route then the best thing to do is to get your library team involved from the outset and take them with you to the site visits to see it in action. Talk to other sites about what impact it has had, what things have worked well, what things may be needed a bit more attention and really get the library input from the start.
I would definitely recommend the self-service products to other colleges and in fact I’ve already spoken to several of them about our experience with the product. I think the ease of use and the benefit that it delivers to learners and the new way of working for the LRC team is a real plus that all institutions could benefit from.
We would also recommend the Mentor™ trolleys, and SmartLine™ charging. We bought another eight trolleys back in July of this year and now have twenty four in total. They are widely used around the campus.
Part of their digital strategy was to increase mobile device use within the college.
Introduce self service in their collaborative study areas and across all three campuses.