The pattern of central funding for education and cultural areas in the UK has led to the emergence of a rich centrally managed support, policy, planning and service environment. One might have an interesting discussion about where this modus operandi is successful (removing redundancy and fragmentation by providing service at the network level, for example, as with networking, journal licensing or authentication services) or less so (left as an exercise for the reader ;-).
One aspect of this mode of working is a liking for commissioned reports. Many reports are produced, synthesizing the state of the art in a particular area, making recommendations for attention or action, and so on. Clearly, the quality of these reports is variable: they are usually commissioned following competitive tender (see for example the range of work being sought currently by JISC). In fact, the volume of reports commissioned in recent years by various national agencies has meant, I would argue, that many are not really very good.
Sometimes something comes along that is rather more interesting. I have not yet had a chance to digest Researchers' use of academic libraries and their services [pdf] commissioned by the Research Information Network and CURL. A quick read suggests that a deeper engagement will repay attention. I was surprised not to see researcher responses broken out by type of university, particularly as CURL is a sponsor. Given the current interest in exploring research and learning behaviors independently of current library offerings as a guide to potential future library offerings it is worth noting that this is a survey of perceptions and use of current library services. The report is prepared by Sheridan Brown and Alma Swan of Key Perspectives, Ltd.
I imagine that I will return to it in a future entry!