Shared Print Collections: the UK (re)invests

Nicola Wright, Information Services Manager at the London School of Economics and a fellow of the RLG Shared Print Working Group, shared some good news this morning: the UK Research Reserve (UKRR) has won a bid for continuing funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The UKRR recently wrapped up a successful 18 month pilot aimed at demonstrating the value and feasibility of a collaborative approach to managing legacy print journal collections. Six higher education institutions in the pilot selected low-use journal titles to be deaccessioned from local collections; a target threshold of distributed duplication was established and, with a durable commitment of access provided by the British Library’s Document Supply Center, participating libraries were able clear shelves of volumes of material that no longer served immediate local needs.

Owen Stephens (Imperial College, London) provided an excellent ‘mid-term’ report on the progress of the UKRR back in February, which includes some useful details on the direct costs associated with de-duplication activities — estimated at £26.16 per meter (or about $16 per foot) of open shelf space — and other implemenation details of interest. Imperial College was the lead institution amongst the Phase I pilot participants.

Two key success factors of the UKRR project stand out: the high degree of confidence that faculty and researchers have in the British Library, and the recognition that the costs of local de-duplication are a real obstacle to realizing economies of scale in collaborative print management.

According to Nicola, the new £10 million award

will enable the Higher Education libraries to release 100km of shelf space by sharing storage of a reduced number of print copies of journals across the HE network, with a copy of each title at the British Library – with access provided by the BL using desktop delivery of articles. We estimate that this will give a £29 million capital saving to the sector.

Lorcan wrote about the early days of the UKRR here, noting that “effective management of space is a driver” for new models of library cooperation. Lizanne Payne’s 2007 report on library storage trends in North America makes the case for more collaborative approaches to distributed print preservation. In the absence of a centralized delivery hub like the BL, the UKRR model is unlikely to be replicated in the US — but it still stands as an instructive case study in managing the collective collection.

Further information about the HEFCE investment in the UKRR is here.