Here to help
In this month’s spotlight we get the inside track on library developments at the University from Barry Croucher, Head of Help Services, Information Services.
As with many job titles, Head of Help Services is a little inscrutable and does not really explain the pivotal role that Barry Croucher plays in supporting students, staff and alumni at the University. It doesn’t, for example, scream libraries, which it should, because libraries are at the heart of Barry’s current role and a constant across his whole career.
Libraries and systems
A modern historian by education and interest, Barry completed his degree and PhD at the University of Swansea in South Wales. Having enjoyed spending hours researching in a variety of libraries, a job in a public reference library seemed a natural first step after his studies concluded.
Buoyed by the experience of
helping library users of all ages and walks of life, and newly qualified as a librarian, his first academic library job was at Kingston University before moving north to Edinburgh via Oxford and Sunderland.
A career highlight, and the beginning of Barry’s fascination with the systems and processes that keep libraries running effectively, was working for the Bodleian, the main research library of the University of Oxford.
At the time in the late 1990s, book requests were passed from reading rooms through vacuum tube to book stacks across the street, and books were delivered via a conveyor passing under the road.
Keeping pace with change
As Head of Help Services, Barry leads a large team whose principal task is to deliver high quality help and support to the University’s diverse communities via a helpdesk system that operates across 9 libraries.
As with many areas of modern life, libraries are now digital spaces as well as physical resources and keeping pace with
the rapid changes in information technology and
the growth of the digital library both inspire and continually challenge Barry and his team.
Help Services were awarded the Government standard of Customer Service Excellence in November 2014 and again in February 2016.
A link to the past
Though information technology and digital resources are central to a modern university library, the evolution of library spaces and the preservation of its archives and collections are also vital.
It was, as Barry is keen to highlight, a bequest of 276 volumes to the
Toun and Kirk of Edinburgh that established the library in 1580, two years before the founding of the University. This bequest is celebrated in a mesostic engraved in the concrete floor outside the entrance to the Main Library and is a permanent reminder of the central role that libraries play in our university experience.
Facing the future
Sheila Cannell, former Director of Library University Collections, who led the Main Library Redevelopment Project, is a colleague that Barry feels privileged to have worked alongside.
Shelia shaped library spaces, collections and facilities and established a forward-thinking and proactive approach to libraries that continues with further planned improvements to the University Main Library and the Law and Europa Library redevelopment in Old College.
It is an exciting future that Barry and his team are ready to respond to in the most helpful way possible.
Helping to see such developments through to completion, and the continuous improvement of IS Helpdesk and other user services to staff, students, alumni and the wider public, is highly motivating and rewarding, and I am looking forward to playing a part in the future development of our historic library and, sector-leading, Information Services.