Sharing is caring; a Jolt from Lancaster

The Innovation Group recently had the pleasure of a visit by Masud Khokar (Head of Digital Innovation at Lancaster University Library) and Tim Leonard (Academic Liaison Librarian). Masud and Tim came to share their experiences of leading on innovation at Lancaster and of the student innovation competition Jolt the Library.

Lancaster University Library

Lancaster University Library

Tim covered Jolt the Library, Lancaster University Library’s  competition “to find an innovative idea to improve the student experience at the Library.” Sounds familiar? It should do as Tim alluded to the help Nick Campbell (Academic Engagement Librarian) and Lorraine Beard (Head of Digital Technologies and Services) where able to provide following the Eureka! Library Innovation Challenge events here at Manchester.

For Jolt, the Library teamed up with Lancaster’s Innovation Hub, a team of two from their Information System Services department (P.S. have a look the their projects for a ton of ideas). The winning Jolt idea resulted in Darma smart cushions being deployed across the Library. Interestingly submissions to Jolt had a similar theme to those we received to Eureka! with ideas on improving wayfinding, health and well being and methods to improve usage of space.

Lancaster too implemented a range of quick-win ideas; borrowable noise cancelling headphones, adjustable height desks and loanable laptop charging plugs. All told Lancaster found Jolt a powerful way to collaborating with students. I think the question for us and Lancaster is how to transpose the high engagement we get with these big-bang events, which take a lot of planning and resources to more agile, iterative and ongoing processes.

Darma smart cushion and app

Darma smart cushion and app

Masud then took us through the Library Journey’s Project. This was an ethnographic study, using a smartphone app and distributed smart beacons to map customer journeys around the newly refurbished Library. They used 110 Kontakt iBeacons (preferring them to the Estimote beacons we’ve played with). Next steps for the project could be to link up to the wifi and enable contextual information to be pushed to people through the app (“your friend is in the cafe nearby!”). As a recent study into using wifi data to understand Library space usage at the University of Sussex you will run into a data privacy and ethical minefield, but hopefully one through which we can smooth a furrow of benefit for Library users.

Kontakt smart beacon

Kontakt smart beacon

The Innovation Hub have built their own gamification platform called BackPack, not too dissimilar an idea to BookedIn. BackPack has an open API meaning other University systems can hook in and integrate with the badges and rewards system. With plans to integrate with their VLE and beyond and to award a physical certificate if you earn enough badges, this is one to watch.

Tacking towards staff engagement with innovation, Masud covered his lead on ‘Embedding Innovation – transformation from within’. Lancaster have the innovation group as a cross departmental, safe place for staff to voice opinion. Initially the group will focus on problem solving but the plan is to take a broader view on innovation as the group develops.

Overall it was fantastic that the Lancaster University Library took the time to share their experiences so openly. It gave us a lot to think about:

  • What can we do at Manchester to embed innovation and horizon scanning across the whole Library?
  • How can we build in collaboration with customers to more of our ongoing activity (usability testing and human centered design, for example?)
  • What other methods (tech and non) can we employ to understand how people use the Library spaces and how they feel when in the Library?
  • How do we get a good balance of outward collaboration (other Universities, JISC, NoWAL or wider) and focusing on driving efficiencies and innovation internally, with the resource we have?

Much to think about. Oh and also, they’ve built their campus in Minecraft.


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