Academic journal article Alexandria

SCURL's Collaboration in Scotland on Content: The Collaborative Academic Store for Scotland

Academic journal article Alexandria

SCURL's Collaboration in Scotland on Content: The Collaborative Academic Store for Scotland

Article excerpt


The Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries (SCURL) is a collaborating and ambitious organization. Supporting collaboration for over 30 years, SCURL is now well placed in the Scottish research, higher and further education arena to venture into projects and services which other consortia may not consider, and which individual institutions could not financially support. The Scottish Funding Council (SFC), receiving their funding from the Scottish Government, and liaising with both the Scottish Government and also Universities Scotland, promote shared services in Scotland and especially in education and research. The need for a collaborative response to acquire, store, preserve, provide access to and deliver content was established in 2001 with a bid to the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and to SCURL to fund a six-month study. The subsequent report, submitted in 2002, recorded the outcomes and the recommendations learned from the research.

The partners and stakeholders in the Collaborative Academic Store for Scotland (CASS) were the members of SCURL: the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and the National Library of Scotland (NLS). The users of the print collections - the students, academic staff, members of the public - were firmly recognized as the stakeholders and their access to the content was a primary driver with the document delivery aspect of the CASS model. A subsequent achievement was a stimulus to researcher acceptance of e-journals, particularly in the science disciplines with the funding released by the SFC in 2004 to support the establishment of research pools (Universities Scotland, 2011), originally in the physics discipline, but encapsulating chemistry, engineering, and other scientific subjects initially. Library Managers responded by focusing their attention on printed journal disposal, which boosted collaborative collection development concepts within SCURL.


The cost to obtain and secure an independent store was prohibitive (£540,000 in 2001). The initial investigations, based on 10 participating institutions, indicated that each institution would have been required to contribute £27,000 set-up costs if the SFC had contributed 50%. However, funding was not forthcoming from the SFC. It had been estimated that the recurrent cost was £160,000 p.a. for the estate, staffing insurance and so on, which if shared equitably between the 10 institutions indicated £16,000 p.a. per institution. Developing an independent store implied long-term commitment from the partners for the recurrent costs. However, scenario and risk planning to mitigate the risk of one or more institutions wishing to relinquish their commitment to the store gave rise to consider spreading the loss of the income between the remaining partners. This was rejected as an unsustainable model.


The National Library, as a founder member of SCURL, was actively participating in the discussions and they provided the solution of accommodation in one of the buildings of their estate, which had space for a defined period of time. As Scotland's Legal Deposit Library, with an immense intake of print content per annum, the Library was accurately able to predict the available space which could be offered to CASS. An outcome of the NLS' entrepreneurial approach contributed to a significant strengthening of the relationship to the HEI partners.

A CASS Steering Group was convened with Directors and senior managers of SCURL, including the NLS, with the remit of developing the project. A Project Manager was seconded from one of the SCURL member institutions. The project was agreed in 2 phases, Phase One 2002 to 2007, and the second phase from 2007 to 2012. However, the contract with the NLS would 'continue in full force and effect until 13th January 2009'. The pilot promised an interesting opportunity for HE Librarians across Scotland to seek collaboratively to re-engineer their collections and library space to accommodate increasing student numbers and changing methods of teaching and learning. …

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