CCM Beta trial: laying the groundwork

Since the CCM project restarted there has been a lot of background activity across a range of areas, addressing technical and user support issues.

Technical development

The alpha CCM tools UI developed iteratively and went through several incarnations, with variants running in parallel as they were in use by different project members. To take the alpha interface out to a wider audience we needed to move it to a new, stable, location with supporting Web pages. This work has now been completed ready for further testing.

As part of this process we undertook a review of the interface and introduced a number of changes:

  • A CCM microsite has been created;
  • The interface has been tested and changes made to improve stability and make maintenance easier;
  • We have introduced a login to control access to the interface. For ease of implementation in the beta trial the login uses the latest version of the RLUK database login mechanism, created for the new RLUK database currently under development;
  • A number of additions have been made to the facilities, some expanding on trial facilities, others in response to requests arising from testing carried out last year;
  • A review of the interface has been carried out by Mimas staff outwith the earlier stages of the project. This has resulted in a number of changes to wording and improved consistency of presentation.

The new CCM microsite has been developed from the existing Copac stylesheets. The need to introduce new web sites for related but separate purposes has highlighted the issue of site maintenance. Given limited resources site maintenance could easily become a burden which means sites become out of step, updates may be missed etc.

To minimise this problem we are establishing a set of stylesheets that allows us to maintain a Copac ‘family’ of web sites efficiently. Basic layout and functionality will be maintained across all versions of the site by changing a single sylesheet, whilst the superficial appearance of the site in terms of colours, logos etc. will be handled separately for each member of the family. This should allow us to create new web sites as required with relative ease and to maintain them effectively, avoiding duplication of effort and minimising the likelihood of the sites becoming out of step. Once this work is complete the CCM web site will be migrated across to the new stylesheets, though from a user perspective little will change.

Support and training

Something that became clear from our earlier work is that the use of the CCM tools would benefit from more support than we would normally provide for Copac. As an interface it is both less familiar and, in many ways, more complex that the Copac search interface, so we have been looking at various forms of support.

  • We have begun developing online case study exemplars. These will be made available on the web site offering users an opportunity to work through a case study to get an understanding of the workflow for a particular activity and the various tools available.
  • Context specific help pages have been created. These will support users directly, but they also provide content that can be re-used within the case studies, so we’re not duplicating effort. Tying the case studies to the help pages may also assist with familiarising users with the help that is available to them when they come to carry out their own collection management activity.
  • We are at the planning stage for an introductory user ‘training’ session. This will introduce potential users to the CCM Beta trail and provide an opportunity for people to familiarise themselves with the interface and the way the facilities can be used. We are also hoping to gain feedback on the support available and any gaps.

Community collaboration

The CCM tools are a way of supporting wider library collection management activity and decision making. Mimas can support use of the tools in terms of answering questions about the interface, but we are not best placed to look at the planning that goes in beforehand and how the data may be used afterwards. In the wider context it is the library community that has the expertise and we want to encourage users to share experience and provide support for one-another.

With this in mind, we have begun work creating an online user forum. We use WordPress for our blogs so we’re working with bbPress, which is a forum plugin for WordPress. This has been a bit of a learning curve for the programmer for whom this is all new, but it is looking promising and we will be testing it shortly.

At the start we feel it is important to ensure CCM users are getting support so we’re developing a forum engagement plan to try to encourage use of the forum and get it off the ground as the Beta trial begins. Over time we hope users will begin to work together through the forum, supporting each other. We will be logging forum activity and assessing how well this has developed as part of the overall beta trial assessment.

Keeping the momentum going: the next phase of the Copac Collections Management Project

The Copac Collections Management (CCM) tools project is moving into a new phase, made possible by ongoing funding by Jisc and with the support of RLUK. Until the end of 2013 we will be widening participation whilst encouraging community involvement and reviewing user support requirements. During this phase the prototype CCM tools will be made available to RLUK member libraries and we will be working with participants to gain feedback on the tools themselves as well as on their training and support needs. This will feed into sustainability planning and defining the requirements for any initial CCM tools service.

The CCM tools project has now been underway for two years. With Jisc funding, the Copac team at Mimas, RLUK, Leeds University, and other members of the White Rose Consortium have worked together to design and deliver the CCM Tools, and to engage the broader community in understanding their potential. We have also been exploring strategic concerns about ensuring long-term access to print materials for the research community as a whole.

The community response has been overwhelmingly positive, so in phase 3 we are looking at the requirements for moving towards a service environment. In early summer 2013 we will be making the CCM tools available to a much wider range of Copac contributors, in the form of the RLUK member libraries. We will be exploring what user training and support is required, whilst also encouraging peer to peer support, as the expertise for applying the CCM tools lies within the library community.

The work will continue to the end of 2013 and we’ll be gathering feedback and developing our understanding of what the basic requirements for any future service would be in terms of the interface and facilities, as well as the support infrastructure needed to provide the best environment for users.

RLUK CCM phase 3 Press Release

Our first blog post and feedback from December’s workshop

We’re really pleased to launch our blog with this first official post for the Copac Collections Management project. Though we’ve been working steadily in this area for nearly a year now, we’ve done so, I’ll admit, slightly under the radar.  As we commence our second phase of development activity, it’s clear to us that we need to start more openly sharing our progress and lessons learned. Collections management, the freeing up of library space and at the same time the preservation of unique or rare items of importance to UK researchers are key strategic issues facing many libraries today; so we know our work is of real interest to the broader community.

If you would like to learn more about this project, we invite you to explore this site, where you can find more detailed information about our proposed approach, read our reports on work so far, and the use cases we’re testing the tools against. Between now and July 2012, this blog will be updated at least monthly with information on our progress so far. We’ll also be inviting you to give us feedback on approaches we’re taking.

The December Workshop

Though our blog is new, we have been actively engaging the community through other means.  Before the Christmas break, we invited contributors to Copac to attend a workshop in Leeds. The response to our invitation was overwhelmingly positive, and on December 5th over thirty attendees joined us in Leeds. This gave us an opportunity to discuss the project with the wider community, looking at broad collection management issues and gaining input into the direction for the continued development of the support tools and related work. It also helped us to identify libraries we could recruit to help us with the next phase of our work – i.e. testing the tools within their own institutional contexts and providing feedback.

It was certainly an energising day. Our colleagues gave presentations on the project and their uses of the tool, and throughout our discussions the overall reaction from the participants was very positive, with an appreciation of the benefits that the collection management tools could offer, as well as a general discussion of problem areas.

Broadly speaking, participants could immediately see the potential of the tools; but in our group discussions some interesting themes and questions emerged:

  1. The standard of cataloguing was raised, and the question of what the national libraries are doing about long term retention.
  2. There were concerns about pre-1800 material. This may need a lot of detailed information in a record to make retention decisions. etc.
  3. It was clear that non-catalogued materials need to be addressed; i.e. do we invest time money and effort in cataloguing this material?  There was agreement that the tool could be very useful in support this
  4. The tools could inform preservation decisions e.g. damaged items.
  5. We should consider providing regional or consortia views on the data
  6. Concerns were raised over the reliability and currency of records within Copac. Also, the quality of data in an institution’s own catalogue. In general, issues of trusting the data were raised – if results indicate ‘last copy’ how do we test validity of this?
  7. It was felt that the provision of guidelines and working principals for using the tools to provide the statistics and data that will inform productive dialogue with senior managers.
  8. The role of ebooks was also raised. Will they count as a trusted copy? In addition, could the tool help inform ebook deals and negotiations?
  9. It was suggested that the tools could be used to understand a collection in the context of the wider national collections, and that it might have a role to play as an international comparator tool – which may be useful for attracting international students.
  10. By highlighting subject collection strengths we might be able to encourage new researchers.

In addition, throughout the day broader strategic questions were raised over whether there should there be a national agreement to cover the transfer of unwanted material to other institutions, and also the need for a national agreement for retention decisions e.g. minimum number of copies. The role of the Legal Deposit libraries was also discussed, and it was clear that Legal Deposit libraries are facing the same space pressures as other libraries, and so looking seriously at rationalising their own collections and revisiting the criteria for ‘permanent’ retention.

As move forward, our energies now switch to refining the user interface for the tool, and determining which libraries we would like to work with us in this next phase of testing. We look forward to letting you know our progress.