Erasmus visit to the Freie Universität Berlin part 3

10672200_10204082125147292_2799875062790908748_n[1]One of the most interesting parts of my visit was presentations by the Elearning team (CeDis) who provide training, support and consultancy.

They define their work into 3 areas: 1. elearning (blogs and wikis, e-examinations, educational software, social software..), 2. eresearch (E-Publishing, multimedia archives, open access.) and 3. multimedia (web publishing, AV and multimedia). The university uses Blackboard Learn as its virtual learning  environment, online courses using lecture capture software have had positive feedback. The University is currently working on a corporate design template for its website. This should make it easier to format webpages and make them consistent and mobile responsive. The University uses ITunesU for videos and teaching.

In terms of statistics, the University has 12 departments, 157 BA/MA courses, 29,000 students, 2600 staff and 4,800 doctoral students. A very high proportion of the staff and students are users of Blackboard Learn. Blogs and wikis are heavily used in teaching for example an flipped classroom wiki and a literature searching experience sharing wiki.

The Library uses the Primo portal as its resource discovery tool. This is also heavily used in the UK. There is also a Library catalogue with contains both the approx eight million items held in FU libraries as well as licensed electronic resources such as databases, e-journals, and e-books, but no direct links to articles. Primo can be used to cross search databases and pre-loaded quick sets can be used or users can create their own quick sets (not everything is cross-searchable). Like other resource discovery tools, Primo can produce 100,000s of results for a search and users have to depend on the relevance ranking being appropriate for the search and filtering to work well.

In terms of user support, a programme of information literacy workshops are held and there is a booklet for these. Some bite size 45 minute courses are held. Other workshops include citation searching, literature searching, reference management (Citavi) and appointments for ‘coaching’ can be booked. Captivate and Camtasia are used for tutorial videos eg. on using Primo.




I enjoyed visiting the University and was made very welcome by colleagues  but also had the opportunity to visit Berlin. Berlin was great and I really liked seeing the sites such as Unter den Linden, the Reichstag, Potsdamer Platz, a boat trip and visiting the Zoological Garden and spending time with the tigers. I learned that understanding the historical context helps to understand the present.



Erasmus visit to the Freie Universität Berlin part 2

 At the Freie Universität, the  Library Director met with myself and a Library trainee on  placement and gave us an overview of the history, structure and projects and a tour of the main library. There are some similarities with the UK in terms of infrastructure and library systems.  There are differences though in terms of University libraries being more open to the public and that many of the books in the German libraries are on closed access and have to be collected. This is largely due to the building design being geared towards closed stacks. The university Libraries in Berlin  allow in members of the public but no bags and coats are allowed whereas in the UK, university libraries are often accessed via university ID cards. This is because the German libraries partly have a  public library role in terms of learning  and the public libraries are more for leisure reading and you may have to pay to enter them eg. the Berlin State Library.

Book Towers at the Library


We have one main Library and 2 law and 1 business Library at City University London but The Freie Universität  has 40 libraries, including small departmental ones. There is a project called 24 in 1 to merge many of them into a new building.  The FU library is moving to a new library system Alma and Primo which is also popular in the UK and are currently trying to implement single sign on for the website, virtual learning environment and electronic resources and a cloud based IT infrastructure for the Libraries .  I also visited the Philology Library. This is an unusual building designed by Sir Norman Foster. A  layered canopy opens for natural ventilation. The library has become the centrepiece of the University’s Dahlem campus and a Berlin architectural landmark. It holds 700,000 volumes.  

Philology Library

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 I met with the Director of the Social Sciences Library. This is one of the faculty libraries which work closely with academic staff and researchers. In the UK, many libraries are now increasing their researcher support and the Director mentioned that this an area for future development . The Social Sciences Library was formed from the merger of 5 departmental Libraries and includes politics and East European studies. One difference is that in the UK we have dedicated Subject Librarians so can concentrate on offering tailored services and training to staff and students, in this Library the Subject Librarian work is usually on top of a managerial or administrative role.

The Social Sciences Library director wishes to hold qualitative  interviews with academics and researchers to find out their expectations of services and training. Most of the information literacy is geared towards undergraduates and some of it has been delivered in small groups with peer learning taking place by students working together. Another idea was using a research portfolio where students do research and reflect on their search terms and results and then write a reflective summary and present their findings. Some small You Tube videos have been made to support the learning.


New perspectives through Erasmus

I work as a Research Librarian at City University London Library. My role is a new one and I started working here in February 2013. I have been encouraged to go out and meet colleagues in other universities with a strong research culture to build a network and exchange ideas. I was aware of the Erasmus Staff Mobility Scheme for professional support staff and applied to participate in it this year. I have a degree in Modern Languages and spent a year abroad in France and Germany as part of this. I applied to visit the Freie Universität Berlin Library which is a major research Library at the end of July 2014. I chose the Freie Universität because it is a research university, it has 4,800 research students and I had always wanted to visit Berlin.


The visit to the University was organised to take place from 24 -31 July 2014. The Library Director developed a programme that included my particular areas of interest such as acquisitions, eresource provision, online learning, researcher and information literacy support, Primo and the Library website. The library structure of the Freie Universität Berlin comprises of the University Library and around forty departmental libraries with total holdings of around 8 million printed items, 38,000 e-journals, 400,000 e-books, and 1300 databases. The Library website is partly in English, there is a repository and the Library uses the research discovery tool Primo. The University is based in Dahlem which is just outside of the centre of Berlin. Dahlem is a very green and pleasant area. I stayed at a guest house in a lovely area just off the Kürfurstedamm shopping street and got the bus to the University. I had meetings with different members of staff to give different perspectives.

I found some similarities and some differences with the UK and will be posting some more entries on my blog soon. I very much enjoyed visiting Berlin, it is a great city.