Research Reserve

I mentioned below that I attended a meeting which discussed the UK Research Reserve (UKRR) last week (see UK Research Reserve Update [pdf], a presentation by Clare Jenkins, Imperial College, for details of this initiative). I was in London for other purposes and thought it would be interesting to attend given the growing general interest in collaborative approaches to offsite storage.

The role of the UKRR would be to provide a venue for coordinated reduction in collection sizes, for securing the future of the higher education 'collective collection', and to provide ongoing access. The idea is that at least 3 copies of any item would be kept, one at the BL and one each at at least 2 other libraries who would agree to commit to long term retention. The initiative is still at conceptual stage, and they are working on a pilot with several libraries and bound journals.

I was struck by several issues:

  • Again, effective management of space is a driver. In some insititutions, the opportunity costs of devoting valuable real estate to rows of little used bound volumes is becoming too high.
  • Good data will be critical for an efficient system. To support selection, comparison of collections, tracking, inventory management, and so on, as well as access to collections. Indeed, the importance of bibliographic data to support systemwide library logistics and inventory management is becoming more important as shared approaches become more widespread.
  • This is a natural evolution for the British Library. In her presentation to the meeting, Jan Wilkinson, of the British Library, discussed the decline in revenues from document supply, and how they looked to the UKRR as a way of replacing those revenues. As I wrote last year when the report describing possible approaches was released: "The British Library Document Supply Centre was established as a logistics hub for the UK library community. It was built to efficiently process inventory, a large number of requests, and distribution in the mail system. It is interesting to see how this logistics role might be revisited in the context of discussing how best to manage the collective CURL collection." The Document Supply Centre was set up along industrial lines from the start, recognizing the need to contain costs and maximise efficiency of operation. The usefulness of that service is probably a major reason that systems of resource sharing in the academic sector and the national data infrastructure - union catalogues and so on - that go with them are less well-developed in the UK than in some other countries: it lessened the need for them.

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