Zoe Wolstenholme, Archivist, and Claire Morton, Research Centre Manager, write at the start of lockdown, we set up several projects to both increase our accessibility and review our processes. Some of the processes that we reviewed were how researchers booked in to view Special Collections, requested digitisation and requested reuse of our materials.

We had wanted to move our paper forms for requesting reuse, digitisation and access to restricted material in Special Collections online for a while. The importance of contactless requests in light of infection control during the COVID-19 pandemic meant we were able to make this a priority – an unexpected positive from COVID-19.

Currently our forms are available to download from our website but then staff need to print them out in order to process the request. Plus researchers often think they need to manually sign the form so will print the form, sign it and post it to us.  By moving our forms online, we are able to minimise handling of paper forms whilst also making the process of booking an appointment or requesting use of material much easier and quicker.

Our researchers already book and request the items they want to view in advance but we also wanted to make it easier to gather all of the records they are interested in together and make the request process as simple as possible.

With these aims in mind, we have worked closely with our IT department to make our contactless dreams a reality.

Researchers in the Fay and Geoffrey Elliot Reading Room in Leeds University Library Special Collections
Image credit Leeds University Library

When you access a record on the online catalogue, there will soon be the option to add it to your ‘shopping basket’, request reuse or request digitisation. These options will load online forms that have many of the fields pre-loaded with details from the catalogue, providing us with the information we need and saving our researchers time.

In an increasingly digital world where many of us continue to work and study from home, this will mean that you can request a copy of a document that you might not be able to see in person. You can also request to use that copy in, for example, a publication, from the same catalogue record. Finally, when Special Collections is open for researchers, you will be able to add this item to your ‘shopping basket’ and, once you have selected all of the items you would like to view, you can submit a booking request. No more sending emails with a list of classmarks!  All requests will be followed with a confirmation email detailing a summary of your request and terms and conditions for your reference.

Hopefully this project benefits researchers and staff alike and cuts down on paper and emails for everyone.

You can find further information on using Special Collections on our website.