University of Manchester

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remoteLockers for Interlibrary Loans

The University of Manchester, established in 1824, is the largest single-site university in the UK, serving 40,000 students. The university’s library, home to more than four million printed books and manuscripts, over 29,000 unique electronic journals, 414,000 electronic books, and several hundred databases, is one of the best-resourced academic libraries in the country.

University of Manchester Library

Any Book From Any Library

While the University of Manchester Library houses millions of materials, no single institution can possibly hold every obscure title a hungry post-graduate researcher may require. However, as at most universities around the globe, the interlibrary loan office exists to track down and obtain the needed books that lie outside the library’s own collection.

The process for requesting such titles is simple. Students simply fill out an online request form, and university librarians get to work locating the material in libraries throughout the UK and around the world. Most materials are delivered to the interlibrary loan office in short order. However, once the titles arrive in the office, they still have to be delivered into the hands of the waiting students, and it was this that proved most difficult.

The Challenge of the Final Mile

Most of the students requesting materials from University of Manchester’s Interlibrary Loans are post-graduate students. Many work traditional jobs in addition to pursuing their studies. The Interlibrary Loan office, located in the Main Library is open from 9 am to 4 pm on weekdays only – the very hours when students are often working.

When materials arrive at the University of Manchester Library, the Interlibrary loan office notifies the requester by email. Historically, they would tell the student the item was available for pickup during office hours and instruct them to inform the office if they planned to retrieve it after 4 pm or at the weekend.

While many students complied with this request, there was always the odd handful that made a special trip to get their item only to find the office closed, and their material unavailable.

“That’s the kind of feedback that always gets back – the negative thing, not all the times where we are there giving the book. That’s the feedback we were looking to get rid of,” says Claire Hordern, University of Manchester Library Interlibrary Loan Team Leader.

Inside of the University of Manchester Library and images of the remoteLocker

Offering Convenient Access with remoteLockers

In 2018, The University of Manchester Library officially launched bibliotheca’s remoteLocker solution to offer students 24/7 access to their Interlibrary loans.

Designed to extend the coverage and accessibility of the library, remoteLocker offers users self-service holds pick-up and return anywhere in the community. The modular solution can be customised to fit any space, and additional components can be added at any time. University of Manchester installed a three-tower remoteLocker solution on the ground floor of the library, in a space that is available for students 24 hours a day most of the year.

Now, when materials arrive from other libraries, the Interlibrary loans office sends an email notification to the student explaining where to find their item and how to retrieve it.

“Since it’s such a simple process the email is only a couple sentences, and no one has reported any problems with retrieving items,” says Claire.

Since implementing the system, the library has received positive feedback from students, all relieved to be able to access their materials at their own convenience. Additionally, the staff appreciate having a place to put materials as they come in, instead of watching them pile up in the small office awaiting pick up.

“We can fit 4 or 5 books in each locker, which is a great benefit,” says Claire. “The process is simple, and it takes just minutes to fill all the lockers.”

University of manchester library space and remoteLocker

Overcoming Challenges + Moving Forward

The remoteLockers have proved a beneficial to research students looking to get their hands on materials from afar as quickly as possible. Still, Claire says using the solution for this unique purpose is not without its challenges.

“Because we have materials coming from libraries all over the world, the security measures in place on different items vary. If we were using the remoteLockers only for our own library materials, we wouldn’t face that challenge,” says Claire.

Even so, during the academic term, the lockers are usually full, and the overflow sits on the office’s shelves.

Claire says, “In the future, we hope to add more towers and move the remoteLockers to a location closer to our new offices. We’re also looking at adding a graphic wrap, available from bibliotheca to brighten the lockers up a bit.”

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