Museum of London

Museum of London overcomes remote working challenge following UK lockdown with OpenAthens

27 May 2020 • Sophie Allen, marketing officer

With the start of the lockdown looming the Museum of London faced a challenge. The team needed a secure remote access software to provide access where previously it had always relied on the ability to open its doors to a physical space.

The museum has sites at the Barbican, Docklands and Hackney. It offers a range of materials and artifacts charting the fascinating story of London and its people through the ages.

Amongst many notable collections, the museum is home to the Archaeological Archive and the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology. It also showcases exhibitions on early and Roman London through the city’s expansion and technological change to the present day.

The challenges

Librarian for the Museum of London since 2018, Lluis Tembleque Teres, realized there would be a very immediate and important need to be able to make the organization’s research resources accessible.

Pre-pandemic, museum staff wanting to access any online resources had relied on IP address access. This meant that people could only access material when they were physically based at one of the three Museum of London sites.

A digital access project quickly became top of the agenda to ensure their needs could still be met once the buildings closed. The museum needed a secure remote access software.

Lluis has worked in other academic institutions during his career. From his experience at the British Museum and the Courtauld Institute of Art, he has seen first-hand how OpenAthens worked.

The solutions

One of the main considerations for the Museum of London was the speed of setup. From the moment the OpenAthens team received the call from the Librarian, to the completion of the set-up, it took just two weeks.

This included enabling digital access via subscriptions to databases and e-journals used by the Museum of London as well as setting up user access and providing single sign-on credentials.

A vital component of the process was having regular contact with the (home-based) OpenAthens technical team. This ensured any issues could be identified and dealt with swiftly avoiding delays in the set-up process.

“Historically there has not been much relying on electronic resources among users at the Museum of London’s Library, but that all changed overnight with the pandemic. I had seen how OpenAthens could work elsewhere and knew straightaway that it would be the right solution for our needs here at the museum.”

Lluis Tembleque Teres, Museum of London

The results

The OpenAthens team turned around the previously future-planned digital access project. This means continuity of access for the museum’s staff undertaking academic research. The transition to online access proved to be seamless and the library went from no remote access to electronic resources to complete access in a very short space of time.

Users of the library are now kept up to date when working remotely during lockdown. Regular communications on any developments regarding e-resources available to them.

“Vital research by my colleagues at the museum can now continue unimpeded. Our vision to improve digital access to resources has become reality. Previously, research resources offered by the library were only accessed at museum sites; now we have a chance to promote databases that may have been often underused.”

Lluis Tembleque Teres, Museum of London

Furloughed staff can also access a wealth of material to support their professional development until they can return to the museum.

The library’s vision for creating remote access was to make the resources relevant and accessible to everyone in the museum. The library can now operate as a true knowledge hub, with online information shared regardless of location.

The future

Going forward the library has the capability to reach fresh audiences within the institution. The library is currently extending its provisions of online resources by taking advantage of free trials and purchasing new e-books.

The remote working system has also meant colleagues are undergoing a supported onboarding program. Especially those who would previously have shied away from technology. Museum staff now have a greater connection with the library; it works to give them access to materials most useful for their ongoing work.

Users will continue to give feedback during this time on what they like and what is useful. The Museum of London’s Library will adapt and hopefully add to its subscription services, e-books, and knowledge bank.

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