Week 4 already and the Semester is well underway. The most noticeable aspect of this semester so far is that it feels busier - it seems like there are more students in the library and as if we have had more IT help enquiries. But does it feel like that each year? Staff at universities and colleges often state in September that 'We're really busy' as if it's a surprise that thousands of students have appeared...as if by magic.
So looking at the footfall statistics into the library - Mondays are the day of greatest footfall, this year figures are much the same. Tuesdays, however, are busier with the footfall comparable to Monday with 2400+ entries to the library. Tuesday is the new Monday, we have two very busy days a week. Footfall for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday have also increased, Saturday has remained the same and Sunday has increased. We have an approximately 25% increase in the number of students using the library on a Sunday.
There are two other factors to take into account - we're are open 24/7 all semester and while the night times are not busy yet, evenings are and I think that the perception that the library is always there and open encourages students to 'drop by' and anytime. The other factor is that occupancy figures are higher so that people accessing the library are staying longer. We don't have completely accurate figures for occupancy as we rely on headcounts and some gate figures but we're concentrating on improving this measure. The problem on a practical level, as everyone knows, when you're very busy it's difficult to collect statistics but those are the times you need them most.
The 'busier' perception is backed up by anecdotal evidence from the Students Union that last years and this years new UGs are more work focused and committed to study throughout the year.
The IT help enquiries have been comparable to last year although the difference seems to be that students want help immediately and in a face-to-face environment. The usual categories of enquiries have been popular e.g. passwords, wifi/eduroam, emails and of course, printing. The other difference is that students have their own devices and they want to be able to connect straight away via these devices to university systems and resources. We are seeing a greater variety of devices and different levels of skills in using them.
I think the greatest operational challenge in providing Information Services support is having the skills and knowledge to provide help to a student no matter what device they may have and no matter what level of digital literacy they possess. The strategic challenge is in providing the learning environment and space, physical and virtual, for this to happen.