As the digital shift pulls libraries away from their former roles of providing spaces to sit and books to read, the number of services that a library offers will grow.

At TU Delft, this includes services that allow users to, for example,

  • Record & stream their lectures (New Media Centre Collegerama)​
  • Publish their data or software (Research Data team)
  • Attend lectures, debates, workshops and films on science, technology, arts & culture (Studium Generale)
  • Besides such familiar services as booking a study place or request an interlibrary loan.

But this acceleration in service delivery is difficult to keep pace with. Our Digital Services Programme will tackle the problems that come with this expansion (you can read more in the about page).

Getting a List of Services

One of the first steps is to get a better idea of what the current services are. Users will get a clearer picture of what the library does. And from a library point of view, you can start to see the size, impact and value of the services, and use it is a framework to communicate the larger vision of the library. The design blog provides more information on why this is useful.

This task might sound easy, but once you get going it gets tricky.

For instance, different internal teams contribute to the same service, but using different language to describe the service.

Other services fall between the responsibilities of different teams and don’t get picked up. Some services are internal, helping library staff only; others are external, helping people outside the university.

Above all, it is difficult to define the granularity of a service. Is a service a broad thing (a publishing platform) or a specific thing (publishing your specific journal open access)?

Is it physical or digital? (In the end we agreed most services are a hybrid of digital and physical)

Defining a Service

For an internal workshop at the TU Delft Library, we used this definition:

A service allows a researcher, student or teacher to perform a task in order to achieve a specific goal”

Based on this definition, we came to a figure of 112 services. This excluded internal services, but included a range of familiar services (Get a coffee) to less well known ones (Consult the university historian).

But we also agreed that we needed more time to get this list right. We realised how important language is. Firstly in terms of shared understanding of concepts amongst staff (eg words like collections, data or heritage).

But also using language that is familiar with the students, researchers and teacher that are the main users of the library. For instance – ‘search online catalogue’ is more immediately obvious to new users than ‘search WorldCat’.

Verbs not Nouns

And just the words chosen, but the type of words. Each of the 112 service descriptions had to be verbs not nouns. Again Influenced by the design approach,  each description had to explain what the user could do, not the thing s/he was finding.

So rather than a description being ‘4TU.ResearchData repository’ we use ‘Publish your Data or Software’. Rather than ‘TurnItin and Plagarism’ we use ‘Get advice and use tools to detect plagiarism‘.

As mentioned above the work is still ongoing. Once we have gone through the list again, combing, omitting and rewriting, we will be able to share it publicly