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Tucked away near the bottom of Hefce’s Shared Services announcement on Monday amongst the cloud computing, IT shared services and administrative systems was something that might well make a major impact on how academic libraries will operate in the next few years.

“a service to support electronic resource management. This will include:

  • shared systems and electronic resource management information
  • support for the management of licensing information for libraries and the resources they provide”

It’s interesting to me to see an initiative aimed at HE libraries being funded as part of a fairly high profile HE sector programme,  especially as it is looking at an aspect of HE library practice that is probably little understood outside of most academic libraries.  The funding announcement is the latest milestone in SCONUL’s Shared Services work (for the background look at the website here) and is a culmination (or at least a step on the way) of work by SCONUL, JISC and the group of consultants and academic libraries involved in the programme.

Monday’s Hefce announcement was timely as Wednesday saw the latest activity in SCONUL’s Shared Services work when I was with a group of academic library staff that got together with the SCONUL team in London to look at the latest work on Electronic Resources Management case studies. The case studies have been developed through a series of visits to some 16 universities who are helping to define a practical model for how ‘Shared Services’ might operate for ERM in HE libraries.  The case studies, available here, cover a range of ERM procurement workflows, from E-books, through budgeting, usage data and procurement of different types of electronic material.   The plan is to use the case studies and discussions to prepare a model of where ‘Above campus’ services might be feasible and look at what systems and services will be necessary to deliver the model.

With the likelihood that academic library budgets will be coming under increasing pressure over the next few years as HE adjusts to the new funding realities, Shared Services for libraries may allow libraries to reduce costs in the area of E-resource management.  It seems pretty clear that some difficult decisions are likely to be needed about what is core business, what has to be done locally, what can be shared, and what might have to be abandoned.    With Hefce now providing some money to move this project forward it seems a pretty clear indication that Shared Services is going to play some role in meeting the funding challenge.  It will be interesting to see how the project progresses.

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