In March 2020 UWS Libraries, in common with the rest of the sector, closed our buildings to academics, researchers and students and completely switched to delivering our services online. The ongoing commitment to the enhancement of a UWS Digital Library ensured that we already had a number of systems in place, which helped us make a very quick switch to digital delivery, including the Student Portal TOP Desk system, which our front line user services team use to assist students and academics with their search and information literacy enquiries, as well as many other enquiries.   

Key service innovation through the Lockdown and periods of significant restrictions which has ensured the full delivery of a library service:

  • Academic Librarian Support to students/researchers/academics – delivery of appointments via Teams/Zoom/ web-ex; enquiries via Top Desk; email communications with academic staff.
  • Continuation and development  of our  close working partnerships with our student and staff stakeholders, including our Estates colleagues as well as with our shared service partners at Ayr campus (SRUC) and at Dumfries campus (University of Glasgow and Dumfries and Galloway College).  
  • New models of engagement with students and academic partners through the Academic Librarian Team
  • Implementation and delivery of the LibGuides suite of library content and support.
  • Collections Team activities to maintain and develop access to resources including; Working with suppliers to add access to temporary ‘free’ resources, including online textbook access.
  • Adding resources to the Digital Content Store to create direct links for articles and chapters that can be used on the learning platforms, Moodle and Aula,
  • Working on making additional e-book records included in databases available via One Search as well as updating Authentication processes to improve access to resources.
  • Managing the logistics of COVID-19 and the varying forms of access to Collections from Click and Collect, browsing, digitisation of content such as articles and book chapters for students and staff.


Staff were upskilled further through the provision of online CPD opportunities and peer support and learning through Microsoft Teams.  This has provided an opportunity to develop our staff and support them in the use of new technological tools and platforms. 


Lessons learned from the past year have had a significant impact on the forward operational planning for the service.   Two key projects have been initiated for delivery across the academic year 2021-2022 and beyond, supporting the wider university strategy with a focus on the online learning environment and award-winning spaces, and the library service mission to provide industry standard resources in the most suitable formats to all users of the service

Digital Library Project

Over 90% of the resources provided by the Library are digital, yet we still think of the library as a building. We can improve the online services by bringing together the library systems access mechanisms to provide access to the discovery platform, the enquiry platform, reading list software and Virtual Learning Environment, LibGuides, and Digital Content store to name but a few.  This brands it as our sixth campus, making it independent of the physical library (at least conceptually) so that it focuses on services and resources that can be delivered online. It should reflect not only the current situation and the opportunities it has presented (click and collect) but the enhanced services possible when we think digital.

Redesign the Physical Campus Libraries

Ongoing stock management to ensure research collections are available for digitisation projects, and click and collect access will allow the service to increase student study spaces in our physical libraries.   Our aim is to ensure that the physical library is at the heart of each campus as we continue to enhance each learning space.  A suite of PC labs are being installed in an extension to the Paisley campus  library, alongside an  upgrade of study facilities in the library providing further choice to students in where they study.  There is a real focus in our vision on placing physical and digital resources side by side and this moves forward working with our stakeholders, and building our partnerships with schools and students. 


Jeanette Castle, Librarian of the University of the West of Scotland Library

Reference: Castle, J., (March 2021), Case study: UWS Libraries response to Covid-19 and the digital shift. Research Libraries UK