Year in review 2020

It’s been a challenging year for everyone but the library service has adapted to better help students and staff cope with changes to their studies, work and research

Library staff member Angela DouglasWelcome to our latest annual review. It was tempting to call this one ‘Library Working Remotely’ as that’s what we’ve been doing since March, and will continue until December at least. The library is integral to both the academic and clinical aspects of the Trust’s work, delivering an information infrastructure that connects students, academics and clinicians to quality information, both digital and print.

Looking back, it seems ages since we were last able to welcome users into the library and chat to them. However, we realised very quickly that we could provide just as good a service and continue to support our users, but in a rather different format.

Luckily, most of the library staff had been used to working remotely so we were able to get going quite quickly. As 95% of our resources and services were already available online, the main thing we had to do was to make sure, right at the start of lockdown, that students and clinical and academic staff knew exactly what was going on and felt that they’d be supported by us. We’re very pleased that we already had 24-hour access to most of our resources, including reading lists, as this has now paid off a hundredfold and meant we could be up and running immediately. Read below to find out how we’ve been helping our users.

Angela Douglas, Head of Library and Information Service

New ways of working

Woman working at laptopWe knew students studying at home and clinicians having to deliver therapy online were dealing with new ways of working, so we curated special web pages to help. These were very popular and the feedback was excellent.

Not forgetting our own library staff, who although had been used to working remotely occasionally, hadn’t experienced a situation like the fall-out from COVID-19.

Woman working at deskContinuing to work as a team is important, so we have a Zoom coffee and chat every other morning, to catch up and prioritise things that we need to do. This seems to add a structure to the day and keeps us all in touch with each other. Also we can sometimes sense when someone is stressed or needing a break as working at home, during this time, is so much more intense and tiring than when we are at work, as there is the temptation to just work on and on. So staff are encouraged to take time off in lieu or annual leave regularly.

Staff are continuing to stay up to date on new library products and attending training on relevant developments in higher education and NHS knowledge services.


Woman reading on tabletQuite early on in the COVID-19 crisis, some service providers started to offer lots of amazing free online resources, which we obviously wanted to exploit and integrate into our online existing platforms. Also in some cases we were able to curate special collections that would suit us. Unfortunately most of these were withdrawn in August, but we were able to subscribe to a couple of the more relevant collections, including the Springer Race package.

The use of ebooks has more than doubled since lockdown and we always purchase an e-copy when available rather than a hard copy whenever we get book requests. During lockdown we’ve been purchasing a lot of ebooks which has rapidly increased our collection.

Not forgetting the print book collection, which users are unable to access physically at the moment, as the library is closed. However, a member of staff goes into the library once a week to send out any books that have been requested and aren’t available online. We’ve also set up a Freepost label so books can be returned to us without users having to pay for postage. If new books are ordered as a result of a user request, we usually arrange for the book to be sent directly to them. These steps ensure that there’s still some access to physical items.

As would be expected, the use of our other electronic resources, such as databases and online journals, has almost quadrupled since this time last year.


Man sitting at laptopWe wanted to get feedback as soon as possible after Lockdown, so we could be sure what we were doing was what students and other users needed. So we sent a short survey asking about the training they needed and the preferred format, either group or one-to-one. In response to that, our Information Skills Trainer has created a portfolio of training that he’s now offering. Group training was preferred by the students but there’s also been lots of one-to-one training, and he’s now in the process of developing a suite of online video guides.

Also in response to the survey we experimented with a daily two-hour Zoom drop-in session, which was quite well used but not as much as we expected. We’re now looking at other ways we can support you online, and we’ll announce any new services when they go live.

Freud cartoon holding booksThinking ahead, the Reading List Team wanted feedback from tutors about their Autumn Term lists and how much change there was likely to be, so we could ensure students got them in time for the new academic year. This worked out well and about 370 lists were produced with 98% linking to full-text chapters or articles.

We’re also sending out another short survey to students to find out how we’re doing and we’ll be keen to be able to respond to the results.

The Trust’s annual student survey had excellent results for the library, with 89% of respondents agreeing they’d been able to access subject resources necessary for their studies, and there were many positive comments about our service and staff.

Curation and Social Media

National awareness events

Woman reading bookTo keep our users in touch with issues in the wider mental health and social care landscapes, we’ve produced topical web pages to tie-in with campaigns and events, including  Health Information Week and LGBT+ History Month. Going forward we’ll be shifting to creating more permanent resource pages that reflect these issues, starting with our new Race Resources web page.

Audio-visual collections

We’ve continued to create an update various themed YouTube playlists, on subjects including psychoanalysis and systemic and family therapy. Also, we’ve added programmes to our BoB playlists, including selections on Sigmund Freud, child development and autism. Find out about our BoB playlists.


The Staff Publications Open Access Repository Team created a list of the most popular 100 downloads from the repository to celebrate the Trust’s Centenary. The Repository continues to grow with almost 2300 records, now also including TV and radio appearances.

Social media

The library uses Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest as one of the many ways of communicating with our users. We earn around 25k impressions a month and have 3736 followers on Twitter. On Facebook our monthly reach is around  2.5K with 1.9K of engagements.  We use Pinterest to highlight our new books, ebooks, and staff publications, with our pins reaching about 10k monthly viewers.

Kindle with word cloudFuture developments

Covid-19 has introduced us all to different ways of working, some of which are arguably more efficient and effective. With restricted budgets and staffing pressures, we need to consider these new ways of working, as it isn’t possible, in most cases, to do more with less staff and funding. So we will be thinking of new developments and a direction of travel that would fit in with the work of the Trust, particularly DET.

The Tavistock and Portman