Project Outputs

The work of the JISC-funded SCONUL Shared Services project has resulted in a set of linked documents intended to understand in depth how ‘above campus’ (consortium or national) electronic resource management might benefit university libraries and what functions in might encompass.

The documentation is also of value to all institutions considering strategies and systems for the licensing and management of subscription resources.

The key outputs are:

  • Business Solution Documentation, available as both PDF and Word document. This consists of:
    • Part 1: Business Solution Definition, providing an introduction to all involved from service managers to software developers; this builds on the JISC UMF proposal to HEFCE (January 2011).
    • Part 2: Business Solution Context, providing additional operational detail for each function proposed for Phase 1 of the shared service in the Solution Definition.
  • Use Case documentation, presenting cross-referenced Use Cases developed with each of the 16 institutions participating in the requirements capture process. These documents are available online.
  • Service Usage Models, providing an initial bridge between user workflows, and something that might ultimately be implementable by software developers. These documents are available online.
  • In addition the University of Salford has been funded by JISC to develop a synthesis of ERM workflows detailed by the participants. These documents are available online.

This blog post is intended to formally note the end of the project (up to May 2011) to understand in depth how ‘above campus’ (consortium or national) electronic resource management might benefit university libraries and what functions in might encompass. Of course further work may well follow on from this project.

Sincere thanks for invaluable input to the 16 participating institutions; to Regina Ferguson and Angela Walker of the University of Salford and to Ken Chad for their roles as subject matter experts; to Kristin Antelman (North Carolina State University) and Michael Winkler (University of Pennsylvania) for channeling input from the Kuali OLE community; to Peter Burnhill (EDINA) and Ross Macintrye (Mimas) for review comments; and to Ben Showers of JISC for developing the core UMF proposal which is intended to develop key aspects of this work.


The MERI (Managing Electronic Resource Issues) project at the University of Salford has created a set of workflows to describe the various processes involved in managing electronic resources. The resulting documentation consists of workflow diagrams for the management processes, checklists that accompany and are cross-referenced with the workflows, and finally a catalogue of all the workflow stages. The catalogue includes a proposed mapping between the workflow stages described by MERI and the functionality required for the SCONUL ERM Shared Service. However it should be noted that the final documentation for the proposed SCONUL ERM service adopts a different mapping between functionality and the workflows described here.

The documentation is posted here for completeness, and is also made available as a set of Google Docs via the MERI Blog.

Workflows (pdf)

Catalogue of workflow stages (xlsx)

Checklists (references in Workflows):

Service Usage Models

Based on the Use Cases collected throughout the project, and number of ‘Service Usage Models‘ (SUMs) have been drawn up. For more information on what Service Usage Models are, see the blog post on Building Service Usage Models. The six SUMs now available are:

Building Service Usage Models

Over the course of the project, the use case documents have been analysed from a services perspective. This work follows on from the earlier e-framework initiative, and seeks to provide an initial bridge between user workflows, and something that might ultimately be implementable by software developers. For those familiar with the e-framework initiative, these documents are a variant on the service usage model (sum), with more emphasis placed on the “above the line” parts (that is, context information – introducing problem statements).

These documents will be useful to technical architects, business analysts and software engineers. Each document contains similar contents; being initially a description of the problem, business analysis of current practice which addresses the problem, and then finally sections on the sorts of behaviour that software would need to exhibit in order to help solve the problem. Where possible, useful technical standards from the domain have been included.

The documents are not hard and fast rules on how an implementation should be built, but rather a starting point that would explain context to technical staff; likewise the early sections of the documents should be readable to domain experts also.

In preparing these documents, which were based on the original use cases, several observations have been made. At this stage it should be noted that these observations are made by an impartial observer – the author is a software engineer by training, and not a librarian.

First, the problems from the use cases seemed very similar in nature – information on <something> was difficult to find, not considered reliable, and/or might exist in many different places. Collation of this information was difficult and occupied a large amount of staff time. Secondly, these information issues were spread across many institutions, which contribute to a potential sector wide duplication of effort. Finally, even in a perfect world, the processes required to do what would be considered by laymen to be simple, e.g. “change my current paper journal subscription to be an electronic journal subscription” are (necessarily) much more complex that one would imagine.

The proposed solution to this, the “knowledge base plus” (KBP) appears essential given this context. Allowing staff to save time across many institutions will lead to massive savings, and one suspects, allow the staff to concentrate on helping students and academics.

From a services perspective, KBP is relatively straightforward to describe, although the difficult part – and the sum documents hint at this – still needs to be addressed; and that is the data models for the information that KBP will manage.

In conclusion, working with the use cases to create service usage models has been an interesting exercise, particularly where it has revealed real practice, and shone a light on the scale of the issues faced.

The Service Usage Model documents are now available.

Use cases

For ease of reference, this is a summary of all the use cases and contributing institutions. Click the institution name to get the relevant use case as a pdf.

Use case Institutions
Selection of a new e-journal Royal Holloway, University of London

University of Northumbria

Managing ‘conditions of access’ University of Wolverhampton
New e-book purchase/subscription – select platform The Open University
Renewal of a e-journal subscription University of Swansea
Cancellation of a journal title University of Salford

University of Warwick

University of Westminster

Library moves from institutional to consortium subscription University of Stirling
Move to e-only University of Southampton
Journal title moves between Publishers/ Publisher Changes Platform University of East Anglia
Budget and accounting for e-journals University of Edinburgh
Usage data University of the Creative Arts

University of East London

Discovery to Delivery University of Bournemouth
Manage Subscription Workflows University of Huddersfield

University of Salford

On the 25th February 2011 a use case meeting was held at the University of Salford. The documentation is available as a pdf, and the team from the University of Salford wrote a short summary of the meeting from their point of view.

The visit on the 25th February saw The University of Salford sitting on the other side of the fence.  Having visited 7 institutions in our role on the SCONUL ERM project, we felt reasonably well prepared for the meeting which was to take place.

David Kay was representing the SCONUL project and in attendance from Salford were Sue Hodges (Acting Head of Research and Academic Support), Regina Ferguson (Collections Manager), Angela Walker (Digital Library and Systems Manager), James Allen (Collection Management Team Leader), Jenny McNally (Digital Library and Systems Team Leader), Stella To (Acquisitions Officer) and Julie Berry (University Librarian) who was able to attend for the first part of the meeting.

We do not currently employ a commercial ERM, however we have developed an in-house database, which will allow us to store licences, view agreements and manage subscription renewal s.

We identified 3 use cases which we felt represented a lot of the everyday management of e-resources.  These were:

  • Cancellation of a journal title
  • Co-delivery of print and electronic
  • Move to e-only

It was agreed that we should look at the move to e-only and co-delivery of print and electronic together.

The discussion on the cancellation of a journal title centred on our regular journals review cycle, which has recently moved from a 3 year to an annual cycle.  We looked at how the process has been refined to extend the usage statistics to include counter reports as well as click through data from SFX.  We also examined the range of issues taken into consideration when carrying out the review.  This review takes place before the budget for the year is known, therefore a priority list is created which can then be used once the budget has been decided

The Co-delivery of print and electronic / Move to e-only proved an interesting discussion, with the current problems of discovery of print and electronic being highlighted.  It is hoped that the imminent introduction of a Resource Discovery Solution will alleviate the issues of students having to check both the OPAC and link resolver to find the full range of resources available.

While a move to e-only for journals is the preference, we noted issues surrounding post cancellation access, and the impact this has on the cancellation of print journals.  We have now introduced a policy of checking for secure, post-cancellation access either from the publisher or a digital preservation service such as LOCKSS or Portico.  If this is not available, then we do not make the move to e-only.

In the course of the discussions throughout the day, we also touched upon a range of other topics.  One topic of interest was how we might be able to match data from journal/resource subscriptions, either held locally or above-campus) to information on the modules to which they relate, which would be held in local, university systems.  Such a link would allow us to analyse not only usage data, and cost-per-use, but also cost-per-student and use-per-student.

Overall, the day, and the project as a whole, has given us the opportunity to not only discuss these matters amongst ourselves, but also have the advantage of hearing about and considering the range of practices and processes followed by other universities.

University of Bournemouth

Through a face to face meeting and a follow up telephone conference, a use case was developed with the Bournemouth University. The documentation is available as a pdf, and the team at Bournemouth wrote a short summary of the meeting from their point of view.

The use case meeting with Bournemouth University (BU) Library was held in two parts. Firstly at an ice-bound Bournemouth on 20th December 2010, attended by David Kay and Regina Ferguson from the project and David Ball from Bournemouth University, the remainder of the BU team absent due to closure of the University by snow. It was followed up by a telephone conference on 23rd February 2011 attended by David Kay from the project and David Ball, Chris Spencer and Stella Welsh from BU.

The discussions, revolved around Discovery to Delivery linked to moving to e-only, but had many dimensions, all highlighting BU’s commitment to providing the library resource needs of the University community in the most cost effective and efficient way whilst utilising the small library staff group to best effect.

BU Library’s strategy has always been to adopt a pragmatic approach to all procurement activity, questioning all work flow processes; utilising supplier systems and working with suppliers to establish best practice. At the same time BU Library has established good communication links with both the academic and student communities to ensure developments are in line with expectations.

Such a pragmatic approach sometimes conflicts with traditional library risk aversion. However, provided the process is founded on the strategic aims of the institution, is guided by feedback from the community and complies with all regulatory requirements, it ensures efficient and effective delivery of services with a very small staff structure: BU provides a quality service at just 62% of the SCONUL mean expenditure per FTE student.

BU Library spends 74% of its resources budget on e-resources and so it would seem a logical step to procure an ERM. BU Library has been considering ERM systems for some time and has been involved in the beta testing of one commercial product. If the ERM was relatively inexpensive, could be integrated easily into the Library Management System and other key business systems, a business case could be successfully submitted.

However, in the current economic climate where investment needs to demonstrate significant ongoing savings (especially in staff budgets) there remains a concern over the likely return on investment given that the BU Library staff structure is already small as a result of previously introduced work flow efficiencies. The ERM needs to be future proofed, be able to manage all life cycle aspects of current formats and types of e-resources and be of a flexible design to handle future formats and procurement models and ensure we don’t face the current scenario of monolithic systems with limited integration capacity repeated in the future.

BU Library remains committed to the idea of shared services that will help minimise duplication of effort across institutions and ultimately share the cost and effort in developing the services in areas and workflows common to the sector.

We especially look forward to investigating the possibilities of replacing the commercial LMS with an open-source, shared-service alternative.

University of Westminster

On the 23rd February 2011 a use case meeting was held at the University of Westminster. The documentation is available as a pdf, and Pat Barclay from the University of Westminster wrote a short summary of the meeting from her point of view.

Members of the Collection Management team met with Owen and Ken on 23rd February 2011. Present for the discussion were Pat Barclay (E-Services Manager), Lyn Bowen (Senior Metadata Librarian) , Catrin Williams (E-Services Developer),  Yeser Street (Senior Collections Assistant), Marion Van Elzelingen (Collections Assistant),and Ann Munn (Systems Development Officer) .  When setting up a 3 hour meeting I thought this would be more than adequate but we could have talked for a lot longer!  In our busy schedules we often don’t find time to sit down and talk about how/why we do things so this proved very valuable. Owen and Ken are both expert at challenging why you do things so it made us think/question some of our work practices.

Over the course of our workshop we discussed general issues such as creation of a centralized Collection management team and the efficiencies this has achieved- previously 4 sites managed their own serials purchases.  We all identified the time consuming nature of this work and would welcome any ‘Above Campus’ solutions to save us time.

Prior to the meeting we identified 4 topics for discussion :

  • Subscription to a new e-journal- (b) Finalise license
  • Cancellation of a journal title
  • Publisher changes platform
  • Archival access

After some general discussion of all these areas, we decide to focus on ‘cancellation of a journal title’. Analysing the workflow in detail made us realise why the process is so complex and time consuming. The inability to get consistent/reliable data at an appropriate time is one of the key difficulties in this process and it’s something all libraries are grappling with.  This came up more than once in our discussions!  Communication with agents/suppliers takes up a lot of staff time, as does checking that the correct access has been granted post-cancellation.

It was a useful and interesting meeting with very good facilitators and gave us much to think about.  Being challenged on the work we do is good but it also highlighted we have some dedicated staff working hard to deal with this complex environment.

University of East London

On the 3rd February 2011 a use case meeting was held at the University of East London (UEL). The documentation is available as a pdf, and the team at UEL wrote a short summary of the meeting from their point of view.

The ERM usage data case meeting was attended by Gurdish Sandhu, Associate Director Library & Learning Services, Libby Homer –Collections Development Manager, Nick Jarrett –Systems Manager, Rachel Todd –Technical Services Co-ordinator and Yvonne Klein –E-resources Manager. The meeting was facilitated by two ERM experts Ken Chad and Angela Walker on behalf of the SCONUL ERM project. We choose 5 areas i.e. Archival Access, Usage Data, Cancellation of a journal title, new e-book purchase and subscription to a new e-journal –platform selection.

We had interesting and open discussion around difficulties and inefficiencies around those 5 areas. Facilitators asked us challenging and thought provoking questions but we seem to have answers for all questions.

As UEL is reviewing its print journal and e-resources portfolio and is keenly exploiting various systems to gather meaningful usage data, it was agreed to focus on the usage data case. Our aim is move to e-only wherever possible. UEL team has already done considerable work in gathering usage data for COUNTER compliant databases from suppliers, from authentication system, Primo, SFX etc and cost for each use is calculated. More detail can be found in the “Usage Case Study”.

We think shared ERM (Above Campus) would be very beneficial in getting the standard /consistent usage data, preferably with price comparison and will save tremendous duplicate efforts. At the University of East London we are fully committed to the success of SCONUL ERM project.