A Review of 2016 in Information Services

As I look back over the directorate’s achievements in 2016, I can’t help reflecting that the remarkable ways in which we advanced Heriot-Watt’s information, technology, and learning environments this year epitomise the University’s values of looking outwards, pursuing excellence, respecting each other, taking pride in our institution and shaping the future.

Whilst last year was about securing the resources to invest then planning and preparing for change, this year has been about delivery.

Unifying our global library collection has become a reality with the successful roll-out of the Alma system. We recently reported usage figures for 2015-16 to the Society of College, National and University Libraries, including an average of 4 book loans, 216 electronic journal article downloads and 97 E-book section requests per full-time-equivalent student,  demonstrating how we actually fulfil most information needs worldwide.

Edinburgh, Galashiels and Malaysia received boosts to their Internet connectivity, whilst Edinburgh’s campus network and WIFI infrastructure underwent a major rebuild, enhancing security, resilience and performance.

The £1M/year Information Systems Modernisation Programme delivered new Security Control Room, Estates Management and Commercial Services’ Till systems, updates for iHR and the HWU website, as well as the Alma library management system. Its Student Administration Revitalisation Project has now selected Student Portal and Recruitment CRM products, and we have renewed the server and software environment for SAS.

This was the year that the University formalised its research data management and I am delighted with the role that Information Services have played in this, moulding policy and practice, supporting researchers, managing publication records and data, and building a technology infrastructure that will secure HWU’s research into the very long-term future.

The Edinburgh campus library was opened 40 years ago. Originally built for 150,000 books and 250 readers (for £707,000 including VAT! ), it was state-of-the-art in 1976. Our other campuses have leap-frogged us over the past few years, but the University accepted the Vision for the Library and Learning Landscape we drew up with Realm-ISD in 2014. The first deliverable was the immensely popular and successful £1.5M Learning Commons, opened in September, which colleagues from all areas of the directorate have contributed to.  The University is now investing £6M in a 3-year redevelopment project for the Edinburgh campus library, for which planning is well underway, and we expect work to start in the summer.

Alongside these developments, the University is also investing in the wider learning environment at Edinburgh, with classrooms being remodelled for different styles of teaching and learning, as well as having the latest learning technology installed. Radical new buildings like Lyell and Oriam have been commissioned this year. Once again, I am delighted that Information Services is taking a leading role in this field: we really are becoming the “goto” professionals in HWU, recognised by the academic leaders of the institution for delivering what they need.

Underpinning the changes we make to facilities are the liaison and support activities that link us with students and academics, ensuring that we develop in the directions that are required. A re-organisation of Customer Services this year has streamlined the ways in which we give assistance, with additional responsibilities and re-skilling enabling the promotion of several colleagues.

The Principal met  with the IS leadership team just before Christmas, and we discussed his ambitious ideas for Heriot-Watt. We assured him that Information Services are keen to play a central role in taking the University into that future.

I thank my colleagues across Information Services for all the work they have done this year to enable us to contribute so much to the University’s success.

Michael Roch

Director of Information Services

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