WHELF Annual Report 2016-17 Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum

Chair's Introduction

The past year has been one of change, and I would like to start my first welcome / croeso to you as Chair of WHELF, by thanking my predecessor Sue Hodges for her significant contribution to WHELF. Sue was a superb Chair of WHELF and this culminated in her presentation at the British Library in January 2017 as part of the Academic Book of the Future programme, on the special collections – Welsh Treasures– of WHELF.

On behalf of the group, I would like to thank Sue for her commitment during her time with us. We were also delighted that she was recognised for her contribution to the library profession with her nomination and shortlist for ‘Welsh Librarian of the Year’ at the CILIP Cymru conference in May 2017.

We were saddened to hear of the death of our former colleague and friend Judith Agus in February 2017. Judith was the Librarian at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) from 1995 to 2014 and a much respected and valued member of WHELF. On her retirement from RWCMD Judith was awarded a President’s Medal, in recognition of her long and distinguished service to the College. Judith was modestly very proud of this, more for the recognition for the Library service, than herself. In memory of Judith, at our May residential meeting at Gregynog Hall, we undertook a charitable walk in memory of Judith, which having been a keen and avid walker, she would have certainly approved.

WHELF Representatives at Gregynog Hall May 2017

With Sue’s retirement in February 2017, I along with great support from Steve Williams (Vice Chair), Julie Hart (Treasurer) and the sterling work of our Development Officer Rachael Whitfield, have sought to build on a successful and achieving 2015-16.

As a group, the year got off to a flying start with the successful completion and implementation of the Wales-wide Library Management System: Alma and Primo, marketed by Ex Libris, across all participating member institutions with Wrexham Glyndwr University going live on time and to target in September 2016. The full implementation of a unified shared system hosting over 10 million records has marked the next stage in our plans to develop the true benefits of sharing. Led by our WHELF Programme Manager Gareth Owen and funded by Jisc, Cambridge Econometrics were commissioned by WHELF to carry out an independent evaluation of the Wales-wide Shared LMS project, to understand and identify the benefits within a structured framework. The report has been supplemented with three case excellent studies from Cardiff University, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the National Library of Wales. The final report published in October 2017 highlights the quantitative and qualitative benefits experienced by WHELF including:

• lower costs for the purchasing and procurement of the LMS

• a high quality and high specification system for WHELF

• a fully bilingual front and back-end interface

• shared expertise to develop functionality

• better integration with other IT systems

• greater flexibility of interfaces through the provision of a cloud based system

• up to date reporting and analytics tools to streamline workflows

• a platform for wider and deeper collaboration across WHELF.

The year has also seen a commitment by WHELF to developing our staff across all member institutions and we were pleased to be able to support training and advancement for many working in the library and information profession, through the WHELF Staff Development Fund. Workshops and key training events such as UX Libs Workshop (led by industry expert Andy Priestner) hosted by the UWTSD (University of Wales Trinity Saint David) Library team, was a standout event for many WHELF members, and will lead to continued investment in services that are user-focussed and open to all.

In May 2017 a series of three parallel WHELF Research support events were held across Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea universities to bring us a profession closer to researchers, gain a clearer understanding of the researcher lifecycle and to explore more effective ways to support research and communicate a clear library offer to researchers. Many thanks to all concerned, particularly colleagues from the WHELF Research sub-group for organizing, hosting and contributing to these important events.

Further support for our staff has been achieved in 2016-17, and thanks are due to CILIP and CILIP Cymru, as well as other key stakeholders such as Jisc, SCONUL and SCL Wales for their continued support of WHELF. On this, Kristine Chapman (Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales) and I were delighted to welcome Nick Poole (CEO CILIP) to the University of South Wales’ Cardiff campus, in April 2017, to work on areas of shared interest. In addition, to then join with other WHELF members at the CILIP Cymru conference held in Llandudno in May 2017, to look at ways we can continue to work in partnership as WHELF with public library services and other library sectors and Welsh Government to benefit all library users.

Emma Adamson (Chair of WHELF) with Nick Poole, (CILIP CEO) and Kristine Chapman (Amgueddfa Cymru)

I do hope that you enjoy reading this annual report, and that you too are struck by the great developments and projects underway across the breadth of WHELF. My thanks to all who have worked with us in 2016-17, and especially the members of WHELF for their focus, energy and ideas that continue to take us forward. (Emma Adamson, Director of Learning Services, University of South Wales)

The Year in Brief

In February 2017, Sue Hodges (Director of Libraries and Archives) retired from Bangor University and stepped down as WHELF Chair. We subsequently welcomed Emma Adamson (Director of Learning Services, University of South Wales and formerly WHELF Vice-Chair) into the role of Chair for WHELF and Steve Williams (Head of Libraries, Archives, Culture and Arts, Swansea University) was elected as new Vice Chair for WHELF. In her new role as Chair of WHELF, Emma has begun a “tour of WHELF”, planning to visit each of the different institutions to meet with WHELF Representatives, their teams and WHELF sub-group members. Mairwen Owen (Head of Academic Services) has replaced Sue Hodges as the WHELF Representative from Bangor University Library. After four years as the WHELF Development Officer, Rachael Whitfield will be leaving WHELF and taking up a new role as Senior Academic Liaison Librarian at University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).

Library refurbishments and developments

Aberystwyth University Library has received a capital budget to refurbish the ground floor of the Hugh Owen Library. This began during the summer of 2017 and will be completed by January 2018. The refurbishment project will reconfigure the layout and flow through the building, including opening up some of the “back office” areas to provide more user space, improve lighting, heating and ventilation and update the furnishings and décor.

The ATRiuM, University of South Wales

The £14.7m refurbishment and extension to the University of South Wales (USW) Cardiff campus – ATRiuM – was realised successfully and on schedule for the start of the 2016/17 academic year. ATRiuM is now the main campus for the Faculty of Creative Industries, and the refurbishment of the Library has resulted in improved study space and technology for students and staff.

The design for the new library at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea campus has been finalised, and a library staff working group has been established to look in detail at the interior design and configuration for the building / service provision. Working closely with the project delivery team the group has representatives from the libraries across UWTSD. The project is running to schedule and the new library will open in July 2018. The campus will initially be the new home for the Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Engineering and the Faculty of Education and Communities, relocating from the Mount Pleasant and Townhill Campuses. The second phase of the project will include the Faculty of Business and Management.

In late 2017 Cardiff Metropolitan University refurbished and improved its Llandaff Library concourse and ground floor area incorporating some of the ideas gained from a UX training day run by Andy Priestner in October. New carpets and lighting were added before new tables and additional furniture to enable group study areas were brought in. This was also an opportunity for the Library to open up its entire ground floor area on a 24/7 basis (previously restricted to the concourse only). The changes have been hugely popular with students and there has been a notable increase in the amount of use the area now gets around the clock.

Llandaff Library, Cardiff Metropolitan University

At Bangor University, funds have been secured by the University Capital Bids Task Group to refurbish the 24 hour computer room in Adeilad Deiniol Library, there will also be refurbishment to some of the other public spaces in the building.

The Maes y Ffynnon library, Natural Resources Wales benefitted from a refurbishment following a period of closure due to a leak. Once the repair work was completed, staff based at Maes y Ffynnon were invited to an informal 30-minute information session. Within these sessions staff got a look at the new design of the library (including new hot desk / quiet areas), a flavour of the physical information resources available, electronic resources and external resources available through Natural Resources Wales partnership and collaboration work.

At Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, the St Fagans Redevelopment Project is nearing completion. The Main Building has been handed over, and staff are starting the process of installing the galleries and creating the Collections Discovery Centre, which will feature objects, archival material and library items. Additionally, the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, has been undergoing a great deal of re-interpretation, including recreating the original Institute Library, and making it the Museum’s first ever Dementia Friendly building.

Oakdale Workmen's Institute

Systems and projects

Wrexham Glyndwr University Library were the final member of the WHELF consortium to go live with the WHELF Shared LMS as part of cohort 3 and the start of the academic year saw them launching the new WHELF Shared LMS and introducing single sign on at the same time. The new library management system has been very well received by staff and students (see more about the WHELF Shared LMS in the Collaboration section below).

Cardiff Metropolitan University’s RFID implementation project has been completed. They utilised the ESPO purchasing framework for Library RFID solutions and awarded the contract to Bibliotheca. Tagging of items was outsourced to The Tagging Team – a superbly efficient outfit who tagged 145,500 items in 12 days, leaving just 16% of items (that were on loan) left to do in-house. Llandaff campus went live in June and Cyncoed followed in August. The feedback from students and staff has been overwhelmingly positive.

The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama endeavoured to see every student at the start of the academic year to highlight changes in the library following refurbishment and implementation of the WHELF Shared LMS. This has helped rincrease the visibility of the library and led to greater demand from individual courses for specialist library training in effective searching and referencing.

The National Library of Wales (NLW) carried out an extensive consultation exercise early in 2017 on the formulation of a new strategy. “The Nation’s Memory: Informing the Future: Strategic Plan 2017-2021” was finalised and published later in the year. The Library also welcomed the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales into new offices in the building.

As part of the Open University’s new strategy, Leadership in Digital Innovation, Library Services put in a bid for funds for as part of the DiSC project (Digital Skills and Capabilities). Over three years the project will develop a range of resources and approaches to grow the digital capabilities of OU staff, Associate Lecturers, researchers and students in order to address some of the current challenges in the sector. DiSC will have a positive impact on student retention, engagement, motivation, completion, progression and satisfaction.

Since January 2017, USW Library Services have been successfully piloting 24/7 Virtual Chat, via the subscribed to SCONUL and OCLC service. The Virtual Chat service has been implemented and seen uptake from 6pm - 8.30am from a breadth of users, and has effectively resolved overnight queries from on-campus, part-time, distance and Franchise users. The pilot is set to run for the duration of 2017, and is being monitored by the team, to enable a mid-point report to be produced, and to inform decision on the service for 2018.


A review of the current Library Services at the University of South Wales staffing structure and job descriptions was undertaken during 2016/17 and this was followed by a review of the wider Learning Services team including Careers & Employability Team and Student Development and Study Skills Team. The ultimate objective was to enable improved delivery of services to students and staff, and to modernise job roles and types. UWTSD have also carried out a restructuring process to further harmonise service provision after institutional mergers.


The National Library of Wales won the UK and Ireland prestigious Archive Volunteering Award sponsored by the Archives and Records Association. The Library’s scheme “Helping us to Achieve” engaged the support of 65 volunteers to work on projects and a further 769 online volunteers to assist in the Cynefin project, which geo-references Wales’ tithe maps.

Two WHELF institutions were shortlisted this year in the Outstanding Library Team category of this year’s Times Higher Education Leadership & Management Awards (THELMAs). Bangor University’s nomination was based on the widening access and public engagement work undertaken by the Library and Archives Service in recent years. Swansea University was also nominated and their submission reflected on the involvement of all staff in cross-service changes that were made leading up to the opening of the Bay Library

The Marketing team at Swansea University Libraries won the Welsh Libraries Marketing Excellence Award 2017 (HE Award) sponsored by MALD (Museums, Archives, Libraries Division Welsh Government) for their “Assignments: Survive and Thrive” campaign that ran in November and February.

Sue Hodges (retired Director of Libraries and Archives at Bangor University and former WHELF Chair) was shortlisted for the Welsh Librarian of the Year Award 2017 which is celebrated every year as part of the CILIP Cymru Wales (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) conference. Congratulations to all the librarians nominated across the sector. The winner of the award was Wendy Foster (Knowledge Services Manager, West Wales General Hospital, Hywel Dda University Health Board) and a lifetime achievement award was presented to Thomas Hywel James (Principal Librarian, Gwynedd Library Service).

Customer Services Excellence

The libraries of Aberystwyth University, Cardiff University and Swansea University have all been successfully reaccredited this year with the Customer Services Excellence Award. Congratulations to all.



Following successful implementation of the WHELF Shared LMS in the nine Welsh universities, the National Library of Wales and the NHS Wales Libraries, the project entered a new phase in 2016-17 to grow and develop this shared platform to enable wider and deeper collaboration. Post implementation WHELF identified three key areas to progress; exploring a shared catalogue and cataloguing, reciprocal borrowing and analytics. These were formalised as projects under the direction of Gareth Owen (WHELF Shared LMS Programme Manager) with associated project boards to fulfil the work. Good progress has been made in all areas. In regard to the development of the project area for a shared catalogue and cataloguing, WHELF has joined phase 1 of the Jisc National Bibliographic Knowledgebase (NBK) project. The project builds on the current Copac service enabling the provision of a shared “union catalogue” for WHELF as well as aligning with WHELF’s objectives around improved discoverability, shared analytics and collection management. In addition, WHELF cataloguers, building on a Gregynog workshop in March 2017, have developed a range of standard cataloguing templates for use across WHELF.

A WHELF wide sampling exercise has been carried out across the Shared LMS institutions to identify the business case for fulfilment of reciprocal borrowing. In addition, ISO functionality has been tested across several institutions. The findings from this sampling exercise and functionality pilot will inform a business case to be presented to the WHELF Shared LMS Steering Group. The Analytics Project Group held a workshop at Gregynog in March 2017 and continue to share expertise and knowledge in WHELF through use of their collaborative space on Yammer and through online training sessions, as well as producing and sharing reports across institutions.

Funded by Jisc, Cambridge Econometrics were commissioned to carry out an independent evaluation of the WHELF Shared LMS to understand and identify the benefits within a structured framework. The report is supplemented with three case studies from Cardiff University, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the National Library of Wales. The final report, published in October 2017, highlights the quantitative and qualitative benefits experienced by WHELF.

Photos by Nathan Roser, Syd Wachs, Al-Nick / Unsplash

Swansea University and Cardiff University have worked in collaboration to produce a framework agreement for the procurement of a reading list management solution. The circa £2million, four-year tender contract notice (on the basis of an initial agreement period of three years, with the option to extend for a further 12 months) was announced in August 2017 and will permit all members of WHELF to call upon the framework of the tender within the time period when the need arises for them to renew change or acquire a reading list management solution.

WHELF are also a member of the participating consortia libraries in the Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (SUPC) for a framework agreement for the supply of books, e-books, and related materials. The outcomes from the agreement will be a key feature of work for WHELF in 2017-18.

Research and Collections

A digital preservation event organized by the National Library of Wales was held in March 2017 and provided a forum for discussions by WHELF and ARCW (Archives and Records Council Wales) on digital preservation requirements and demonstrated the progress being made on a technical infrastructure solution for ARCW. The breakout sessions held at the end of the day provided an opportunity to further define requirements for future development and WHELF is seeking funding to conduct a feasibility study to map the potential and requirements of a shared repository for WHELF’s unique and distinctive collections.

Curators, Librarians, Archivists and Conservators from Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales took part in the annual Explore Your Archives event in the main hall at National Museum Cardiff. The theme this year was ‘Wonder Women’ showcasing stories relating to a host of brave, innovative and indomitable women who had links to the Museum. The promotional material for the Explore Your Archives campaign featured images supplied by the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University.

A collaborative project between Neath Port Talbot College and the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University has been successful in receiving Heritage Lottery Funding to use the Richard Burton diaries to explore the social history of the area. This community engagement project will engage young people in producing a resource pack and will provide training in digital and archive skills.

Bangor University launched a new Centre for Arthurian Studies in January 2017. The Library and Archives at Bangor University house extensive Arthurian holdings including the Flintshire Harries Arthurian collection donated in 2015. The Archives service is also to be congratulated on acquiring Archives Accreditation this year.

Research and audio recordings from the South Wales Miners Library inspired a concept album by Public Service Broadcasting on the history of coalmining in the South Wales valleys. The album, “Every Valley” features the recorded testimonies of former miners and reached the top 10 of the UK Official Album Chart.

Cardiff University Library and the National Library of Wales have signed a collaboration agreement to enable an access point to the digital collections and resources of the NLW in Cardiff. This access point represents the first time in its history that NLW services have been made available outside of Aberystwyth and it provides opportunities to develop research activities with Cardiff University. The resources can be accessed by university staff, students and the general public.

Commemorating World War I


The Roderic Bowen Library and Archives at UWTSD Lampeter held a special exhibition to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Somme. The exhibition, St. David’s College and the Somme commemorates those members of Saint David's College who served in the first Battle of the Somme and who did not survive World War One. The research for the exhibition was undertaken by students of UWTSD Lampeter studying the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives practical workshop module. The National Manuscripts Conservation Trust has awarded Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives £3000 to conserve the manuscripts and notebooks of the poet and novelist Edward Thomas. They have also recently held an exhibition of some of Thomas’ work to commemorate the centenary of his death. He lost his life during World War One at the Battle of Arras in 1917. And at Bangor University Archives & Special Collections have been commemorating the centenary of the death of Hedd Wyn with an exhibition of his poetry and letters. Hedd Wyn died on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. These exhibitions complement some of the resources found on the Welsh Experience of the First World War website. The Jisc funded project digitized and made available on line primary sources from the Libraries, Special Collections and Archives of Wales (cymru1914.org).

Monica Galentino / Unsplash


WHELF formed a new Customer Services Group April 2017. The Group is Chaired by Sarah Jones (Customer Services Manager, Swansea University Library). The group incorporates the membership of the former ALIS Wales (Accessible Library and Information Services) group and welcomes some new members from the WHELF institutions. The group has started work on a benchmarking repository to share service standards, KPIs and to also help identify any standards in common

The WHELF/HEWIT Gregynog Colloquium was held this year from 12th-16th June and was organized by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea University. The theme of the Colloquium was “Advocacy, Engagement and the Student Experience” and welcomed a number of keynote speakers including Michael Jubb to launch the Academic Book of the Future project report and Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals). The Colloquium is valued as an opportunity for library and IT staff professional development, to share experience and network. Thank you to UWTSD and Swansea University for organizing a varied and informative programme.

The CILIP Cymru/Wales conference took place in Llandudno, from 11th-12th May with a theme of “Library and Information Professionals: working towards a greater Wales”. The conference had representation from across the library and information sector including WHELF members attending as delegates and presenters. A number of WHELF members are currently enrolled for CILIP Professional Registration at Certification, Chartership and Fellowship level and other members are Revalidating.

After being piloted during 2015-16, the WHELF Staff Development Fund was fully operational during 2016-17 and supported a number of training events and workshops for WHELF. These included a Research Data Management Workshop delivered by Andrew Cox (Senior Lecturer at the Information School University of Sheffield); Bangor University Library TeachMeet on Employability Skills; a cataloguing training day held at Gregynog Hall as part of the WHELF Shared LMS; three parallel events across Wales on librarians supporting the support research lifecycle; a UXLibs workshop run by Andy Priestner and supported Beth Hall in attending the CONUL (Consortium of National and University Libraries) conference in Galway to deliver a presentation about the work of the WHELF Research group.

More information about WHELF can be found at whelf.ac.uk

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