Collection Management: Share the Experience


The National Monograph Strategy made collection management and collection development major themes over the past three years but a space to advance the debate on it has been lacking until recently.  A series of Collection Management events sponsored by JISC and RLUK and related discussion list is filling the gap, providing a forum to share practice, contribute thoughts on how the strategy might develop, and discuss how print and electronic collections complement each other.

The second such event, hosted by the University of Bristol Library on 2 February brought together over 70 collections staff across the UK to explore some of their key issues. Having missed the first meeting last year I was grateful for the kick-off panel discussion that picked up themes from it: collection development policies, gifts, and e-collections management.  Some issues are perennial and it surprising how many questions relating to print still trouble us. Do we welcome donations (or not) or publish a donations policy? Should print and electronic collection management have separate teams?  Chloe Barnes (Sussex) highlighted the “e-first” nature of their new collection management policy.

In his presentation, From Strategy to Solutions: a National Bibliographic Knowledgebase, Neil Grindley, Head of Resource Discovery, JISC, updated the meeting on the process of implementing solutions to make the National Monograph Strategy vision a reality.  The vision, well received in 2013, was that within 5 years UK researchers and students would have unparalleled access to a distributed national research collection enabled by an open collaborative national infrastructure.  At the heart of the solution is a National Bibliographic Knowledgebase aiming to provide services including

  • Digital Document Delivery
  • Legacy Print Management
  • Digitisation and Preservation
  • Enhanced Resource Discovery – as a bi-product
  • Copy Cataloguing

It was good to see the role of legal deposit libraries acknowledged as part of the national infrastructure, particularly as data contributors.

Openness/Innovation was a top aim for the NBKB, allowing any service provider to build services around it, including JISC and commercial organisations, but has dropped down the list. Licensing metadata openly has proved particularly challenging.

What happens next?  There will be a procurement exercise this summer involving collaboration with global service providers- OCLC is obvious partner but there may be others. They are neutral about how the data flows through as long as it ends up in the UK NBKB and it can be used by JISC Bibliographic Data Services.

Laurence Bebbington, Deputy Librarian and Head of Library Services, University of Aberdeen, speaks regularly and persuasively on copyright.  This time around in Loosening the Bounds of Copyright and Licensing: How Recent Reforms to Copyright can Facilitate Better Collection Management and Access, he issued a challenge to librarians.  Since we lobbied for so long for exceptions to copyright to support teaching, learning and research, why haven’t we made more use of them since they became law in June 2014?  They are unambiguously spelled out on the goverment’s IPO web site   His particular frustration was that since the exceptions have since June 2014 permitted libraries to use electronic subscription material to fulfill ILL requests, either a journal article or a “reasonable proportion” of other content. Moreover, existing licenses do not override this.  So why do very few libraries do it?  Other exceptions could make life better for our researchers and students and would allow us to exploit collections more fully, such as providing copies for disabled users, allowing text and data mining of licensed content, and use of illustrations for teaching.

The answer lies in the fact that libraries and their parent institutions are risk averse, even when the law is clearly on our side, compouned possibly by a lack of knowledge or confidence.  His second challenge is therefore to leaders in the library community – RLUK was mentioned here – to ensure that we follow the same practice to avoid risk to a single institution, which in any case is very low.

In Eating the Elephant: Reclassification and Preparation for a Major Library Move at the University of Birmingham Frances Machell, Head of Collection Management, University of Birmingham, described a very thoughtful approach to bringing 2 million books in five collections – comparable to the main Cambridge University Library open stacks – together into a striking new building, re-classifying them, planning the open browsable shelves around user demand, and creating a research reserve from the remaining 80%.  In collaboration with Backstage Library Works the core project was completed in just 12 weeks.

Presentations from both the first and second events are available at




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