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Library Services Annual Report


The Library is committed to providing high quality library services and resources in support of the education and research activities of the students and staff of the University and of its other customer groups. This has been a year of significant challenge and unprecedented change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and this Annual Report 2019-20 reflects that as well as providing an update on service provision and development during the last academic year. It has been structured to reflect developments across the six areas of strategic priority outlined in the University’s Corporate Plan 2016-21. These are:

  • Education and Students
  • Research
  • Innovation and Impact:
  • People and Culture
  • Infrastructure
  • Funding and Governance 

The following sections outline how the Library has developed services and supported these priority areas in line with wider University ambitions.

Education and Students

Aim: To support the University’s aspiration to deliver high quality leading edge education through world class staff, focussed on the needs of society. 

Service Availability and Opening Hours

As a result of COVID-19, and the subsequent implications for the safe operation of University activities, the Library closed on Sunday 22 March.

  • Between August 2019 and March 2020, the McClay Library was open for 100% of its advertised opening hours and continued to offer extensive opening hours to meet the diverse needs of the student body
  • The opening hours of the McClay Library were kept under review and extended during the summer vacation to accommodate the needs of medical students. This included 24-hour opening for a relatively small cohort of students
  • To improve the service to post-graduate students, the Library introduced Sunday opening during the Summer Vacation. This initiative was very well received
  • Just under 900,000 people visited the McClay Library during the period. The highest occupancy level of 1,742 was recorded on 4 December 2019. The peak on the same date in the previous year was 1,553

Library Facilities

  • The project to expand the McClay Library into the adjacent David Bates Building was successfully completed. By expanding the Library’s footprint into the courtyard area on the Ground Floor and adjacent David Bates building, Library Services have been able to deliver the following:
    • Over 100 additional PCs and 9 new study rooms, including both individual and group rooms, on the Ground Floor
    • A new silent study room on the Ground Floor with 67 seats
    • Additional study seats and PCs on Floors 1 and 3
    • 2 new group study rooms on Floor 1
    • The student lounge on the Ground Floor was doubled in size
  • A package of proposals around managing demand at peak times was successfully implemented
  • The Library loaned over 132,000 books between August and March. The demand for electronic resources soared and circumstances pushed the Library into formally adopting an e-first policy for book purchases
  • A book collection service was introduced for academic staff and postgraduate students during lockdown
  • The McClay Library reopened for staff and students on Monday 20 July in line with guidance from the Northern Ireland Executive and the Public Health Agency. A number of measures to ensure the health and safety of those using the Library were put into place

Student Satisfaction

The Library seeks to make continuous improvements to services and welcomes the feedback it receives from students. There are several annual student surveys which assess student satisfaction with the Library; the 2020 results are summarised below.

  • In the National Student Survey 2020 (all graduating students), Library Resources received an overall satisfaction score of 92%. This represents a small increase on the score in 2019
  • Surveys of current students also measure satisfaction with the Library service. Library resources received an overall satisfaction score of 89% in the First Year Experience Survey and 87% in the Second Year Experience Survey. The response rate for both surveys decreased significantly from 2019 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Library resources and services are historically highly rated by postgraduate students, although there was a decrease in satisfaction in 2020, with 80% satisfaction in the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey. Many of the comments from research students indicated that Covid-19 lockdown was a factor in their response, but also expressed support and sympathy for the work of staff particularly in the Library

Support for International Students

  • 840 international students attended a Library induction session in September and January
  • The Library was represented at both the International Student Welcome Fair in September and January, and a printed glossary of terms was made available to introduce library terminology to students who did not have English as their first language
  • Subject Librarians attended and contributed experience to a talk organised by the Language Centre which addressed various issues arising from Chinese postgraduates at Queen’s in terms of their written research projects
  • A universal travel adapter was purchased to allow international students to continue to use their own equipment even if they have forgotten their own adapter

Support for Students with a Disability

  • Library staff continued to receive regular training to increase their awareness of the needs of users with a disability. This year 43 members of staff attended training that examined the issues facing students with diabetes or epilepsy
  • A small number of 1-to-1 sessions were provided for students registered with Disability Services
  • The Library received 77 requests from students with a visual impairment or dyslexia for material to be delivered to them in electronic format
  • In Semester 1, study rooms were block booked for 31 hours per week by Support Providers to use with their students. In Semester 2, this had risen to 33 hours per week, although, with the lockdown in March, only a small number of these bookings were actually used
  • Disability Services were made aware of the Individual Study Rooms and a small number of students took the option to use the Advanced Booking facility to guarantee a study room for personal use
  • 33 students registered for the Priority Seating booking facility in McClay
  • Work was carried out to improve awareness of accessible navigation when searching the shelves for material

Induction and Training

  • Library and IT induction sessions were delivered to 3,303 students, giving them an overview of services offered throughout the academic year and available support
  • Library staff delivered induction tours to 1,907 new students in September 
  • A comprehensive programme of Library training events continued to be included in the Graduate School Programme, and training was also delivered to Undergraduates and Postgraduates at School level across the 3 Faculties
  • 946 training sessions were delivered throughout the year, with attendance of 11,282
  • Training focused on understanding library resources and developing the research skills required for successful academic attainment
  • From March 2020, Library training was moved online, ensuring that students continued to receive high quality support, despite all library buildings being closed
  • A variety of online platforms were used to deliver training, including Microsoft Teams and Mediasite, with a combination of live sessions and pre-recorded content that students could refer to in their own time


Aim: To support the University’s aspiration to be distinguished by its academic strength and recognised globally for the social, economic and cultural benefit it delivers through its research.

Research Support Services

  • The Library continued to work collaboratively with the Research and Enterprise Directorate to support the University’s ongoing Research Data Management Policy and activities
  • The Library’s Open Access team provided support for Research Data Management: a workplan was implemented; a communications strategy produced and a LibGuide was published. Training was offered on demand
  • The University adopted the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)
  • The Stock Management Plan 2019-20 was implemented: a stock check was carried out on Floor 1 of the McClay Library; Russian language stock was weeded; a disposal exercise for uncatalogued books and journals was completed
  • EndNote was adopted as the reference management system and support for migration from RefWorks was provided; training and support was delivered
  • Support and training for bibliometrics and altmetrics was provided
  • Work was carried out to improve online support in line with the needs of distance and e-learning students
  • Library staff continued to collaborate with the Graduate School in relation to training for postgraduate students; staff attended the Postgraduate Forum and contributed to the Postgraduate weekly update
  • A Library guide for distance learning pharmacy students was produced

Library Resources

  • Eresources continued to be extremely well used with ebooks and ejournals being accessed over 2.7 million times
  • During the period of lockdown, users were reliant on e-access and the Library worked with publishers and suppliers to make tens of thousands of additional ebooks and ejournals available.  This free access ran from March to July and included key e-textbooks 
  • There was a marked increase in the use of our ebook collectionand we have enhanced it by taking out subscriptions to Cambridge Textbooks, Oxford Handbooks and O’Reilly Computing ebooks to support teaching.  These packages have added thousands of new books to our collection including core texts for several modules 
  • We ran another Evidence Based Acquisitions (EBA) exercise with Springer during which students were given access to 14,553 titles for ten months. This led to the purchase of the 189 most used titles.  Usage of this EBA was very good
  • Journal subscriptions were maintained despite ongoing inflationary pressures on the budget
  • Read and Publish deals were agreed with major publishers: Wiley, IOP, Sage and Microbiology Society

Open Access

  • An average of 530 new records were created each month (190 of these had full-text documents uploaded) in the Pure current research information system and approximately 733 records were checked by the Open Access Team each month
  • 82% of papers in Pure subject to the Open Access Policy for REF 2021 were recorded as REF eligible
  • The Open Access Team published, on behalf of the University, an Article Processing Charges (APCs) expenditure report for the period April 2019 to March 2020. During this period, a total of 212 articles were made immediately open access via the gold route at a cost of £236,822
  • The UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) OA block grant funding for 2020-21 was £254,905
  • The Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) award for 2019-20 was £53,976. Queen’s spent the entire allocation on COAF funded APCs and the University has therefore received an additional £10k from the Wellcome Trust (WT) to cover APCs for WT funded papers only
  • There were 562,982 downloads from the University’s Research Portal (IRUS-UK)
  • 377 full-text theses were uploaded to Pure for open access display via the Research Portal. This includes 15 theses from the thesis retrospective digitisation project
  • 789 staff and students registered their ORCID iD in Pure. An ORCID iD is a unique digital identifier that researchers can use to distinguish themselves from other researchers

Special Collections and Archives

  • Digital Collections on ContentDM had 27,657 images added, bringing digital assets to 59,422. A total of 24,500 images were uploaded during lockdown to support research. This has almost doubled the volume available in 2019
  • Further development of the map collections project took place to include online access to Maps of the escheated counties of Ireland, 1609. This collection has attracted a record 22,995 page views since then, with mentions in Irish Roots and Genealogy Ireland
  • Music programmes in Hart collection MS 15 were digitised and made accessible online
  • The RASCAL (Research and Special Collections Available Locally) directory had 19 new collection level descriptions added, 33 upgraded, and 1 new institution joined
  • A dedicated webpage was created to provide easy access to all online exhibitions
  • An alternative online exhibitions platform, SWAY, was introduced and successfully implemented for Sir Robert Hart and later Ciphers, Codes and Notes
  • A Chinese language version of the online Hart exhibition was prepared
  • Black History month was celebrated with a physical exhibition in the McClay Library
  • A new exhibition space opened in the McClay Library opened in September. 13 physical displays were curated between August and March
  • The Thesis Copy Supply service continued to be supported with 22 orders processed and over 6,000 pages scanned
  • Special Collections processed 51 image requests to provide 6,340 images from print, manuscripts, theses and map collections for publication and private research
  • Outreach events included Bunting: Achill International Harp Festival; Harpers’ Escape (USA); Remembering Bunting Festival (Belfast), a physical and online exhibition was created for Queen’s participation in this event
  • The first entirely online workshop by SCA was delivered in July in collaboration with the Widening Participation Unit
  • The author Maurice Leitch donated his collection of manuscripts to the Library
  • Verner Papers relating to the sale of the Donegall Estate (1840-1860) were purchased using funding from the Friends of National Libraries
  • A collection of glass slides from early 1900s with scenes of Ireland was purchased, extending the Library’s holdings for early Irish photography
  • Early 20th century Irish journals were purchased at auction
  • Queen’s Foundation was awarded a grant of £234,600 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and a gift of £14,612 from the Steel Charitable Trust towards the Friel Reimagined project. This will enable an important selection of the Friel archives to be digitised, in collaboration with the National Library of Ireland (NLI), who hold the archives on behalf of the Friel Literary Estate.
  • Significant transfers to the University Archive included: the first tranche of born digital files from Academic Affairs; archival holdings of Audio Visual services and QFT programmes collection
  • Cataloguing of the University Archive collection continues, with QUB Senate and Academic Council records added

Innovation and Impact

Aim: To support the University’s goal to enhance and expand its impact on wider society through innovative education and research, and through collaboration with a diverse range of partners.

Digital University

  • Library Services moved to a fully online environment from March to July
  • The Library adopted an E-First policy for book purchases following lockdown
  • An Online Chat service was implemented
  • The use of Office 365, including Microsoft Teams, was fully adopted

Outreach Programme

  • An ongoing programme of Library outreach activity took place between August and March with tours and visits facilitated for a range of groups and individuals
  • The Transition Skills Programme for “A” Level students was supported with the development of an online module which was launched during the summer

Northern Ireland Official Publications Archive

  • The Northern Ireland Official Publications Archive continued to be developed

Library Access Schemes

  • Access to the Library for external members and visitors was provided between August and March through the Associate Membership and SCONUL Access Schemes. These schemes were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic

People and Culture

Aim: To support, encourage and empower our staff to attain excellence; to develop leadership and structures.

Staff Development

  • The Staff Development Policy for Library Services was implemented
  • Staff participated in relevant local and national training and development forums
  • Staff attended relevant conferences (physical and online) to ensure that local service development is informed by best practice in the sector
  • Staff participated in a programme of on-site departmental visits and gained experience across Library Services
  • Extensive use was made of LinkedIn Learning for training and development
  • MS Teams was used effectively to facilitate collaborative working

Marketing and Communications

  • A marketing plan for 2019-20 was produced with a focus on the McClay Library Phase 3 project and Peak Demand Management
  • The Communication Strategy and use of communication channels was reviewed and Library Help and Pop-Up Libraries were added as communication channels
  • Social media was used effectively to communicate with customers
  • The Library website continued to be updated with a focus on redevelopment of the Library homepage

Customer Service Excellence (CSE)

  • Library Services was assessed against the requirements of the CSE standard in March 2020 and was successful in achieving ongoing accreditation. The assessor’s report stated that Library Services “continued to show, yet again, significant improvements in service to customers, in terms of improved procedures and a great willingness on the part of staff to understand and meet the needs of the many and varied customer groups. The evidence was again of a very high quality, and the arrangements for the assessor to meet and speak to staff, partners and customers were excellent”
  • The Library was not only deemed to be fully compliant with all 57 elements of the CSE standard, but has been awarded Compliance Plus in 22 elements given the impressive nature of the evidence
  • The Strategy for Consultation and Engagement was updated and the action plan for 2019-20 was implemented
  • The Library published its Standards of Service for 2019-20 and carried out regular monitoring exercises during the year to measure performance against them
  • The UX technique was used to gain insight into the user experience of Library Services: a semi-structured interview took place with a group of staff in AFBI about the Library website; the observation technique was used to assess the usage of the new areas in the Ground Floor of the McClay Library
  • Customer Journey Maps were carried out to test the effectiveness of the complaints process and online payments for associate members
  • A number of exit surveys measuring satisfaction with the study environment in Biomedical, McClay and Medical Libraries took place throughout the year
  • Library staff took part in customer service training using the online LinkedIn Learning platform
  • User feedback was gathered. A summary of the analysis can be found in Appendix 1.


Aim: To support the University in its aims to enhance the education and research infrastructure; to deliver a dynamic digital experience and to enhance the environmental sustainability of the Estate.

  • A new homepage was developed and adapted to provide relevant information on service availability during COVID-19
  • Social media channels, including Twitter, Facebooks and Instagram were fully exploited
  • The Library Management System’s hardware and software platforms were upgraded
  • The system used for stock checks was upgraded
  • The book order system was upgraded to improve and streamline processes around book ordering
  • New Self-service machines and security gates were installed in the Short Loan area of the McClay Library
  • Ongoing Library support for low-carbon and other environmental initiatives was provided by a number of “Green Champions

Funding and Governance

Aim: To provide effective governance and strong financial performance for the Library; to diversify the Library’s income base.

Library Services for AFBI:

  • The AFBI Library’s Strategic Plan 2018-23 and Operational Plan 2019-20 were implemented
  • The AFBI Library went through a rebranding process and brand guidelines were implemented
  • A new AFBI Library website was launched in line with the brand guidelines
  • A new search mechanism was implemented
  • Support was provided for Postgraduate Research students based at AFBI
  • The Institutional Repository at AFBI was implemented and Open Access and Institutional Repository policies were developed
  • An Online Chat service was implemented following lockdown

Library Services for HSC:

  • The Healthcare Library of Northern Ireland Strategy 2017-21 and Operational Plan 2019-20 were implemented
  • Use of the Library by Healthcare Professionals across Northern Ireland increased by 8% with close to 15,000 active members during 2019-20. There were over 3,000 new members during this time
  • Membership of the library changed to meet the needs of a changing health and social care workforce. Membership was extended to pharmacists employed by GP Federations; physician associates; refugee and asylum seeking doctors, and NI Hospice staff
  • The journal app QXMD was rolled out
  • A Pop-Up Library programme across Northern Ireland continued prior to lockdown
  • Training was provided to healthcare professionals across Northern Ireland. Online training and individual support was provided as required between March and July 2020
  • An Online Chat service was implemented following lockdown
  • A newsletter, “Highlights”, was launched updating and highlighting key services and resources to all HSC members on a regular basis

Appendix 1              

Analysis of User Feedback 2019-20

Library staff acknowledge direct feedback promptly and an early reply from an appropriate member of Library staff follows where necessary. 

All significant service feedback was analysed and separated into the following broad categories

  • Building related
  • Study environment
  • Availability of services/opening hours
  • Library policies and procedures
  • Library staff

During the period, 54 elements of feedback were received via email, the library feedback page and social media. Once received, feedback is categorised as being a compliment, a complaint or a comment.

The majority of feedback throughout the year (34 elements) was complimentary and related to Library staff or the service provided. All compliments were forwarded to named individuals and the relevant line manager. The majority of compliments (71%) were received following lockdown in March and were shared with Library staff on Teams. The vast majority were received on social media. There were no complaints received after lockdown.

Between August and March, 14 comments were received in relation to the study environment, and were mainly requests for hot water or microwaves or general comments relating to bins and hygiene. 6 complaints were received by email during this time and they related to the study environment (temperature or student behaviour) or Library policies or procedure (not being able to renew a book).

December 2020