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St Dominic’s Sixth Form College e-Library

A Case Study by Pauline Byrnand, Librarian

October 2015

St Dominic’s is a 16 to 18 co-educational Catholic College, situated in North West London. We specialise in delivering high quality level 3 courses, offering some 29 different A-levels and BTEC courses, suited to the needs of all our 1200 students. We have provided post 16 education in Harrow since 1979 and over that period of time have developed specialist teaching and support that is recognised for its excellence in the local area and beyond. In our last inspection, we were judged to be an ‘outstanding’ College and have been awarded many national accolades over recent years. The campus gives us a university feel and allows students to concentrate on their studies and to make the very best use of our superb academic facilities.

We began to investigate eBook platforms in September 2014. I previously worked at an F.E. institution and realised how much eBooks were being used within universities and colleges, and with more than 90% of our students going on to university we wanted to help prepare them for the experience. Our library was also due to be refurbished and expanded this year and we have had to move into temporary accommodation with insufficient space to accommodate the majority of our print books.

After evaluating several eBook platforms we chose VLeBooks from Browns Books because of the range of relevant titles, suitable licensing, and affordable pricing. Initial setup of VLeBooks was straightforward, which was essential as we have just outsourced our I.T. provision.

Students are authenticating via the freely available VLeBooks Moodle block providing seamless integration with the existing resources we provide through our Moodle VLE. We also added links on Moodle to the VLebooks How to Videos. In November 2014 we placed an order for an initial 16 eBooks, primarily ‘A’ level revision guides within the science subjects. These were all purchased with credit based multiple access licences to maximise the availability to our students. Our teaching staff have been very enthusiastic and have promoted the VLeBooks to their students; some have used the Library Lists provided by VLeBooks to create course specific collections. Links have also been loaded into our Heritage Circa Library Management System. Lizzie Duffy, our local area sales manager, visited shortly after the initial launch to ensure that everything was correctly configured and answer any remaining questions. Dylan and the Browns helpdesk team have also been very helpful when we’ve contacted with any questions.

VLeBooks is very intuitive and our students quickly embraced the technology without any problems. We have also added a large number of additional unowned titles to our e-Library which students can preview and make purchase suggestions for the library staff to review. This has resulted in us purchasing a further 10 of the most popular and relevant eBooks. Despite owning just 26 eBooks our students have made more than 2000 successful loans between January and June 2015, an average of almost 80 reads per title. 95% of all reading was carried out using the VLeBooks online reader which recorded 26,000 pages read. 5% were downloads to mobile devices which we have limited to a maximum of 3 days. There have been no students refused access to any eBooks at any time since we launched our e-Library. Students are primarily reading on their own devices, both within the college and externally. The college Wi-Fi network has recently been enhanced which provides an excellent infrastructure for our e-Library and numerous other resources we have available.

The ongoing support of our e-Library has required very little effort and we’ve had no problems at all. We regularly review the reports provided by VLeBooks which are very useful and straightforward. We also check for purchase suggestions from the students and order if approved. Ordering is exactly the same as with our existing print orders and eBooks are instantly made available on VLeBooks when the order is confirmed.

Student feedback has been almost entirely positive with several students thanking the library staff for making eBooks available. With location to a temporary library this year our e-Library has certainly helped supplement the reduced availability of the print stock. Despite the extremely high number of loans we have had no lost books, no re-shelving of returns, no shelf space required, 100% availability, and no confrontational discussions about fines!

In September we have 600 new students and VLeBooks will be included within our normal induction process. We plan to enhance our eBook collection with a wider range of subjects, set texts in literature, and e-textbooks where available from the publishers.