Monthly Archives: May 2011

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.