Tim Wales responds to the question that came up several times during the conference:

Why is the user not in the middle of the model?

Just to re-cap, the current model which can be seen in the Boutique article available to download from this blog, places the user outside the model linked to boutique service delivery.

Tim comments:

I was one of the speakers at this week’s Symposium and I am also one of the chapter authors. It only occurred to me this week that the current Boutique model (see diagram) presumes that all user interaction takes place between the boutique library/service and the user and that there is no direct user interaction between the other agents in the model (centrally managed activities or collaborative activities).

In my experience this is flawed, especially in an e-Library context. Federal institutions like Cambridge and Oxford have been centralising library management systems during the past decade and introducing new ones for the good of all constituent parts, such as link resolver and discovery systems. The boutique user will therefore retrieve some information locally and some information centrally (especially if on a cross-disciplinary course) – ideally they shouldn’t have to work out where to go for what, it all delivered from one interface – but the point remains that they are accessing central service directly. Authentication systems are also usually a centrally managed service that the user will experience in the boutique library whether in person or virtually.

Collaborative services also can have a direct relationship with the user. SCONULl Access is a national collaborative scheme which may benefit a very specific set of boutique users e.g. History of Art PhDs. Local partnership or consortial arrangements may be arranged and negotiated centrally for a specific set of boutique users such as MBA alumni e-resource (as I have written about passim). Even a very specific collaborative activity between a librarian and a lecturer will have a direct impact on a set of users.

I therefore think that there is a case for moving the user bit of the model to become the nucleus of the three “atoms” as per my variant model – it may need some more arrows adding to show interactions. Alternatively, one could draw a whole circle round the model and call that the user space in which the three elements operate. But certainly I don’t support a specific user interaction on one of the elements.

Libby writes:

The user is central to what we do – of course, and I am sure that is what many people understand by the nature of personalised service in libraries. However my focus in the model was that the user sees the Library service as something very personal to them – what do I need at this moment in time? where is it? who can help me find it? how can I save as much time as possible in doing this assignment/essay? In the life of the student in HE they are concerned with themselves and their needs;  they care very little about how the service that they see is providing them with all the answers to their immediate needs, functions and works. They just want want what they want – ideally NOW! We are arguing that the Boutique library service offers students the answers they  need in a responsive and pro-active manner. The  proposed model reflects this point and places the user at the point of the model where their interactions and relationships are most focused and at the point that they will engage with the service and where it has the most impact – ie at the boutique level.

However, I can see that because we, as librarians, know that the best service we can offer is one that has the user firmly central to all that we do, that the visual perception of the model seems out of kilter and clearly our visual minds like symmetry and ‘tidiness’!

In the meantime, Angela Cutts and Emma-Jane Batchelor from the Faculty of Education Library in Cambridge presented another version of the model during the Symposium. Andy and I felt that there was some merit in this model – partly because the user’s importance was magnified and not just an adjunct to the model but for two other reasons. Firstly, the user’s role in shaping the service becomes of equal value in the model to the collaborative, centralised and boutique aspects; secondly the actual interaction of the user with the three core parts of the model is most realistically going to touch the centralised and boutique, rather than collaborative.

Angela and Emma’s model:

Other thoughts on the proposed boutique model, and Tim’s and Angela’s variants  are very welcome!