There's been a digitisation team at Manchester since the distantly remembered summer of 2009 when a bedraggled group of starry-eyed innocents and ne'er-do-wells were thrown together and tasked with a single purpose, that of forging order from the primordial chaos of core text provision at Manchester University. That service has greatly expanded from its modest, make it up as you go beginnings, and the team now handle approximately 2000 requests each year, with a total collection of around 11,000 items currently deposited in the DCS. The latest step in the evolution of the department has been to play a role in the development of the DCS; we were one of five original academic partners. We went fully live with the system in September 2016. In January 2017 we had our busiest ever month in terms of scans supplied to lecturers, with 520 scans delivered in four weeks. Before that our previous highest monthly figure was 497, back in September 2012. During the development period we had several visits from other, mostly nearby, HE libraries to get a glimpse of the future of digitisation. On one memorable occasion in the early part of 2016 we even hosted a webinar on the DCS from our office!
The DCS offered a number of immediate benefits for the team straight from implementation. The operating speed was from the outset much quicker than our old system, with a cleaner, less convoluted design. There were far fewer steps for most common processes and general requests were easier to locate within the structure. While the analytics on offer may not yet be particularly granular we are able to access basic usage stats and even in these early days we have been able to take advantage of the large repository of deposited material housed in the content store. The removal of the reporting requirement should also mean we have a much quieter spring and summer, which is of course as it should be.
Our academics too have benefited from quicker turn-around times and there's much less onus on them now to review their requests or waste time replacing links when module changes in the past would have rendered them inoperable. They can also take advantage of the usage stats which provide a broad idea of what is and isn't being downloaded by their students.
We have obviously had to spend time adapting our workflows but this has not proved to be anywhere near as arduous as it might have been. The DCS has slotted in relatively smoothly and while adjustments have been made on our side these have generally been to exploit efficiency savings. Which is not to say that there haven't been, and continue to be, a few bumps along the way, notably integration with the BL's EHESS service. However, the development team at the CLA have generally been very supportive and responsive in helping to mitigate any problems.
What we've liked:
- The DCS has become mature very quickly
- Access to the repository
- Support process has been very responsive
- System has proved to be remarkably stable (especially when compared to many of our own systems!)
- Excellent communications with the CLA during the implementation stage
- Ability to email the course leads directly through the DCS, sending a complete list of digitised extracts and URLs
Improvements we'd like to see:
- Improved reporting functionality
- Improved DCS/EHESS integration
- Greater degree of standardisation of scan quality across HEIs
- Integration with Reading Lists
Where we're at:
- We’ve been using the system for almost a year
- Our old management system was decommissioned at the end of December 2016
- Added over 5000 DCS links into the University’s VLE, Blackboard and into reading lists. All other links, not found on reading lists or BB, have been sent to the lecturers to add to their reading lists/Blackboard
- Very little adverse feedback to date
- Exploring DCS analytics with a view to contacting course leads where little or no use of extracts is found
- Looking forward to not having to submit an annual return
In conclusion, Manchester are very pleased with the system, with its performance and also with the support offered from the CLA. The DCS is still under development and we look forward to seeing added functionality and further integration in the near future. We are always happy to help and will continue to feedback and share our thoughts and ideas with the CLA and the wider HEI community.