Scotland and Wales have started to undergo work to develop shared library IT systems across their higher education institutions thanks to initial funding and support from Jisc.
Ultimately, this will provide students access to information hosted at all institutions, opening up a wealth of teaching and learning materials. There will also be cost saving opportunities.
Higher education institutions in Wales are currently joining with the National Library of Wales to start development of a joint procurement process for a shared library management system. The shared system will open up potential opportunities for collaboration on other levels – including the possibility of reciprocal borrowing across the libraries and shared cataloguing of collections. They are looking to have these systems in place by summer 2015 – 2016 and a tender for the work will be going out in the New Year.
Tracey Stanley, deputy university librarian and assistant director of information services at Cardiff University has been heavily involved in the work says:
“The Welsh Higher Education Libraries and the National Library of Wales have developed a compelling vision for a shared library system. A shared system will give us the opportunity to work more closely together for the benefit of our users, for example, on sharing content, collections or services. We also have an opportunity to share the costs of development and support, share expertise across Wales and work together to enhance our services."
The first phase of the Scottish project, The Benefits of Sharing, has shown the benefits that a shared national IT support system could offer higher education and possibly further education institutional libraries. The key benefits include:
- All items from Scottish higher education institutional libraries and the National Library of Scotland being available and searchable to researchers and students, providing a higher quality service
- Supported procurement, making shared services cost effective, allowing more funds to be spent on resources.
Phase two of the work has now begun and the team are working with a task force at the Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries (SCURL) to bring together a plan of what the service/systems would look like, for example what is included - room bookings, electronic support. They are hoping to have this is place by December and if a clear vision is developed a business plan will then be devised for implementation.
Mark Toole, director of information services at the University of Stirling, who is heavily involved in the project, says:
“In Scotland, current Government policy is encouraging universities to work together, often through grant bids, to maximise overall research outcomes and impact. So the development of this type of national IT service has a lot of support and goodwill behind it.
“We are grateful to Jisc for funding the initial investigations into this work and for supplying us with many tools that we can bring together and build on when we start to look at implementation, such as KnowledgeBase+. It is going to be challenging to ensure that we deliver a service that meets user needs, but the potential is there for a shared service to bring great benefits to all involved.”
Ben Showers, programme manager at Jisc explains:
“The collaboration on the development of library systems and services in Scotland and Wales has the potential to transform the experience of students and researchers who attend university in these countries. It is easy to imagine the possibilities - seamless access to a wide range of content and resources, through to innovative services built on top of this new infrastructure such as powerful recommendation engines and integration with teaching and learning systems.
“By collaborating on the essential infrastructure these universities are creating the resources and space that will enable them to develop the future services and systems that their students and researchers will need.”