Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Breakout A: UK Research Reserve [UKRR]: where we are and where to go from here?

Presented by: Daryl Yang (Imperial College London - UKRR manager since 2011)
Slideshare link: (talk not posted as of 23/4/14 - will add when available)

Daryl started with an exploration of the environment in which modern librarians operate.  Their challenges include physical space, internet issues, technology in general, the information explosion and user expectations.  The 10 key challenges of the sector were identified by Deloitte as: funding, rivalry, set priorities, technology, infrastructure, link to outcomes, attracting talent, sustainability (green policies), widening access and regulation.

She compared space issues to the migration of people to cities - l
ots of people are moving to very densely populated areas.  100 years ago, 20% of people lived in cities, but by 2010, it was over 50%, then by 2030, it should be 60%, then up to 70% 20 years later.  Also, in the 1950s, roughly 400,000 students were in higher education in the UK, but this number is now 2.3 million!  So it's no surprise that libraries are exploding too.  The Harvard libraries were first set up in the 1700s with 400 books; now they hold over 17.9 MILLION items and are still expanding.  Every 2 days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003; users want information now and want it delivered quickly.  The weekday edition of the New York Times contains more information than the average person would see in a lifetime in 17th century England!  If we did nothing about library shelf space by the end of the 21st century, we would be short by about 450 linear kilometres - never mind that space costs libraries on average £63/sq meter per year.  Plus there are other space issues; she showed an example of students setting up a Facebook group to lobby for more study space in one UK university; library management acceded to their wishes, they are after all the customers/consumers.  Daryl quoted a university librarian, who said to a British Library librarian: ‘We have so much stuff and so little space’.

The UK Research Reserve (UKRR) is a collaborative coordinated sustainable approach to long-term retention, storage and access to low use print research journals.  Its objectives: de-duplication to release space & realise savings, while preserving research material & providing access.

However, this meant a cultural change in the way that member libraries work.  It works with a core approach: all member libraries are viewed as one, with one retained core collection (not many pips!).  UKRR oversees offering, to processing (on a 6 month cycle), to creating the core collection.  The British Library provides (or is given) one copy for circulation, with 2 backup copies held in member libraries.  UKRR is funded by HEFCE and now in phase 2 with 29 members along with a continued partnership with the British Library.  87,000 meters' worth of holdings, or 74,000 holdings, have been offered, with 81% (70,470 meters) disposed of; 18% were to be retained by member libraries.  This results in a £2 million estate savings per annum, with ~£21million capital savings.  Daryl
showed the process of UKRR identification, starting with shelf checking (with the British Library) and scarcity checking (across member collections).  They use LARCH (Linked Automated Register of Collaborative Holdings), a tailor made system, for this work.

The 'long tail' as a business model has been adopted by Amazon amongst others: it says that, if you sell less of more with a large enough distribution channel, you will still make an effective profit.  In the UKRR model, popularity equates to cost and products equate to titles; for a single institution, it would be costly to maintain, but it’s effective across many institutions in this context.  A certain few titles are offered very often (50+ times) where over 10,000 titles have only been offered once; for the institutions who deal with those 10,000 titles, it would be too costly to deal with them on their own but it’s easier as a group exercise.  Daryl showed a chart of topics for the UKRR top 50 titles - these were mostly sci-med titles.

UKRR member benefits include: £26.16 for each meter of in-scope material offered to UKRR; premium delivery service from the British Library; clear aims and targets; coherent approach; spring cleaning; advocacy; a platform to share experience and best practices; also, support in ‘crisis’ situations (i.e., accidental discard or loss).

HEFCE support is likely to end in 2015, but organisations who didn’t join when UKRR was first launched are still expressing interest.  An internal member survey, along with external consultation, shows there may be potential for a new phase with a new business model - changing from a top-down programme to a grass-roots initiative.  It is hoped that a new phase would begin in 2015, just after the current phase.  It is proposed to have 2 types of membership - premier and access (for current members who wish to continue to access member benefits, but do not want to offer new titles) - with all current benefits remaining.  One modification for the new model might be the removal of the scarcity checking process.  What other issues could be addressed? Further de-duplication with new policies? Data sharing? Best practices? International initiatives?  There will be a meeting at this year’s IFLA to think about these issues.  Daryl mentioned similar initiatives in Finland, France, Spain and Norway and showed comparisons of these with UKRR.

Another area for UKRR to explore would be monographs; in 2011, they held a Strategic Management of Monographs discussion forum which seemed to indicate there wasn’t a need, but it keeps coming up time and again (the White Rose initiative in Yorkshire is a smaller scale monographs de-dup project).  A working group will be set up to consider this.

They are hoping to hear back from current UKRR members by the end of April 2014 re. joining phase 3, and are looking at a 3-year period from February 2015 for continuing members as well as new ones.  They will also try to open up UKRR data for the benefit of the whole community.  Finally, Daryl reminded us this is a time of change, with a wide range of challenges and uncertainties surrounding digital content. 
Some argue print has even more value in the digital era for users and libraries - it still gives us control and absolute ownership of content.  Also, studies have shown that academics in scientific fields are happier with electronic provision of their journals (than those in humanities which is understandable), but when asked if they were totally comfortable with this and whether they would be happy to see hard copies go, they were not as positive.  The UKRR mission to support UK libraries with print journal issues has not been completed in their opinion - they will see if others feel the same way.

During the Q&A, there was discussion about UKRR USPs (unique selling points) - shelf/scarcity checking is a major part of the benefit, along with libraries promising retention, so perhaps this should be continued into phase 3.  Also, the British Library takes in less than 2% of what is offered to fill gaps, showing they have been working well with covering UK HE needs - however, it’s less clear whether there are enough copies to fill in 2-3 collections!

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