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DOMINUS ILLUMINATIO
MEA

University of Oxford

OXFORD UNIVERSITY LIBRARY SERVICES

Vision for 2006: a five-year strategic plan for the central libraries of the University of Oxford

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 Mission statement of the Oxford University Library Services (OULS)

To provide the most effective university library service possible within the resources available, in response to current and future users' needs; and to maintain and develop access to Oxford's collections as a national and international research resource.

Summary of the Vision for 2006

By 2006, the OULS will deliver a much more efficient, user-friendly and technologically sophisticated library service, revitalised to meet the 21-st century information needs of a world-class teaching and research institution and of the wider world of scholarship generally. This will be achieved, as resources permit, by reorganising and reconfiguring the basic infrastructures (managerial, operational, physical and technical) of the centrally-funded libraries in the University, building on the integrated approach, initiated in 1997 and formalised in 2000.

The background: library integration

The Oxford University Library Services (OULS) was formally established, with the approval of the University, in February 2000. Governed by the Curators of the University Libraries (a committee of the new University Council) and managed by the Director of University Library Services and Bodley's Librarian, the OULS is an integrated organisation which consists of 27 centrally-funded libraries (as well as a number of library service units). [See Table] The governance of the OULS is assisted by a network of widely representative functional and subject-committees reporting to the Curators (and in certain cases, jointly to relevant academic bodies), and its staff are organised in a range of functional and subject teams reporting to the Director and his Strategy Team. [Full details at: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ulsd/oxonly/ulssg/ and http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/oxonly/lib/]

As a result of these recent developments, the University of Oxford now possesses at its centre, for the first time in its long history, a library service which, in its newly integrated form, is capable of taking a system-wide overview of the key infrastructural challenges facing the central libraries in Oxford, and of responding coherently and effectively to them.

This radically changed organisational context provides the necessary springboard for an entirely new approach to strategic planning in the library sector and for the elaboration of an ambitious vision for developing library and information services in Oxford, based on the enhanced management and exploitation of its extraordinarily rich and diverse library collections. The collections of primary research materials within the OULS are as important and as extensive as any held by higher education institutions anywhere in the world. It is an integral part of the OULS mission not only to develop and exploit these collections for the benefit of scholarship generally, but also to retain and preserve them for posterity.

Table: Libraries and Services in OULS
Ashmolean Library (from mid-2001, the Sackler Library);
Bodleian Japanese Library;
Bodleian Law Library;
Cairns Library; Central Bodleian;
Classics Lending Library;
Eastern Art Library;
Economics Library;
English Faculty Library;
History Faculty Library;
Hooke Library;
Health Care Libraries Unit;
Indian Institute Library;
Institute for Chinese Studies Library;
Institute of Health Sciences Library;
Libraries Automation Service;
Modern Languages Faculty Library;
Music Faculty Library;
Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics Library;
Oriental Institute Library;
Philosophy Library;
Plant Sciences Library;

Politics, International Relations and Sociology Library;
Preservation Services;
Radcliffe Science Library;
Refugee Studies Centre Library;
Rhodes House Library;
Service Assessment & Planning;
Social Policy and Social Work Library;
Staff Development and Training Service;
Taylor Institution Library;
Theology Faculty Library;
Vere Harmsworth Library

Since its establishment in 2000, the OULS has been actively developing and clarifying its plans for a thoroughgoing transformation of library services, based upon the systematic redevelopment of the managerial, operational, physical and technical infrastructure of the central library system over the next 5 years.

In order to realise this vision of a greatly enhanced library service, the OULS is putting into place a coherent set of strategies designed to address the principal infrastructural issues currently facing the University's central libraries.

The managerial (staff) infrastructure

Starting from the premise that staff are a key resource, and building on the new integrated approach, the OULS managerial infrastructure will continue to be transformed, as an enabling strategy to improve the library system's performance, cost-effectiveness, and accountability. The system's financial transparency will be enhanced, through the introduction of new budgetary, accounting and financial planning mechanisms; staff training and development will continue to be improved, with the emphasis on key skills; an integrated approach will be taken to the management of library collections, with the aim of reducing unplanned duplication throughout the system, of building on existing strengths, and with the ultimate goal of having "the right book in the right place at the right time"; and the work of appropriate staff will be reorganised, with a much greater emphasis on the provision of subject-based services, tailored to the particular needs of academic departments and user constituencies. Preservation activity will be reorganised and expanded; IT systems development and support will be rationalised; personnel and other administrative support functions will be streamlined, and common services developed wherever possible; and fundraising and income-generation activities will be enhanced. A staff establishment review will be undertaken, as a means of removing, wherever possible, historic anomalies in grading and conditions of service. Attention will also be given to the all-important issues of recruitment, retention and reward of staff generally. All of these developments will have as their ultimate aim the enhancement of the library staff's ability to deliver a more responsive and effective service, for the direct benefit of library users.

The operational (service) infrastructure

In service terms, the integrated approach will enable the library system's operational infrastructure to be systematically enhanced over the next few years. The integration of so many libraries opens up the possibility of reorganising the delivery of many of the key public services which have tended hitherto to develop along separate lines. A more coherent and planned approach will therefore be taken to service issues such as opening hours; admissions; reader instruction and training; inter-library loans and electronic document delivery; book delivery (where the introduction of an automated stack request system will be a high priority); general and subject-based reference services; reprographics (including photocopying and on-demand digitisation); microform reading facilities; printing from library computers; on-line catalogue provision; access to electronic information resources; and service standards. Integrated operational developments in all these areas will significantly improve the service levels experienced by library users generally.

The physical infrastructure

The delivery of many of these managerial and operational enhancements, however, will depend crucially on a number of major changes in the library system's physical infrastructure. Accommodation-related issues and, especially, the ad hoc nature of library growth in Oxford, have represented the most significant single infrastructural constraint on library services in the past. They constitute the biggest single obstacle to the realisation of the service enhancement vision which is outlined here. For this reason, the OULS has given a great deal of attention to the formulation of a long-term accommodation strategy, the implementation of which is the key enabling element underpinning the vision of a new paradigm of library service. (A copy of the strategy forms Part 2 of this document, and forms an integral part of the plans outlined here.)

The long-term accommodation strategy sets out in detail the planning principles governing the necessary large-scale reconfiguration of the OULS library estate, as well as a number of practical proposals aimed at overcoming many of the major historic physical constraints on the library system. These proposals will involve a major programme of redevelopment and of new building spanning at least 5-6 years, at the end of which the integrated library system will be well positioned to deliver on the radical service enhancements envisaged. [Note: The bulk of the funding required to implement this strategy will be provided by the planned OULS Capital Campaign, which has been approved in outline by the University. Designed to raise £40M, the Campaign is due for public launch early in 2002 (the quatercentenary year of the opening of the Bodleian Library in 1602). Further details of the projects within the Libraries Capital Campaign can be found on the OULS website.]

The technical infrastructure

While the implementation of the long-term accommodation strategy will form the necessary basis for the major enhancement of the physical infrastructure of the library system (which itself is essential to maximise the service benefits arising from the integrated managerial and operational changes already underway), the systematic development of the libraries' technical infrastructure forms the final element in this vision of a radically transformed library service. While Oxford's central libraries have already achieved a great deal in the application of IT to library processes and services, the OULS now recognises the need to take a strategic planning approach in this key area of library development. To this end, an e-strategy has been formulated as a vital component of the vision for the future. The strategy, a copy of which forms Part 3 of this document, envisages the innovative exploitation of new and existing technologies to provide easy, seamlessly organised and user-friendly access to the burgeoning range of electronic information which is increasingly being made available both within and beyond the Oxford library domain. With electronic information of every conceivable kind already forming a major component of the OULS collections and services, the e-strategy will enable vast quantities of digital materials to become fully integrated, in both managerial and service terms, with access to the library service's more traditional world-class collections of printed and manuscript materials. The 5-6 year vision for the OULS is therefore based on the working concept of the 'hybrid library', which is being defined as "a managed combination of physical and virtual collections and information services".

 

In specific developmental terms, the e-strategy will involve the following components, many of which are already in place, underway, or planned:

  • the continuous upgrade, and eventual replacement, of the library service's principal automated system;
  • the completion and upgrade of the on-line union catalogue of printed holdings (OLIS) and its further development in web-compliance;
  • the expansion of access to electronic datasets and e-journals;
  • the pervasive use of technology for access to manuscript and archival holdings information;
  • the growth of the Oxford Digital Library (comprising locally-created digital content);
  • the introduction of an on-demand digitisation service;
  • the development of an electronic document delivery service;
  • the routinisation of digital archiving facilities;
  • and the building of a standards-based hybrid library user interface, capable of enabling easy search-and-retrieval access to all the electronic information and resources available within the library system and beyond.

Taken together, all of these components will transform the depth, range and quality of the library system's service array, and will provide the University, and the wider world of scholarship, with a hybrid library and information infrastructure second to none in the UK, and on a par with those of many of Oxford's international peers.

The vision is exciting, innovative and ambitious. But with the necessary energy, commitment and investment, both of staff effort and of resources, it is achievable. Above all, it represents a future which the University itself simply has to reach if it is to meet the rising expectations and information needs of its scholars and students. In that sense, this vision has also to be seen as a key component of the University's own ambition to maintain and enhance its world-class status in teaching and research.

The five-year plan, 2001-2006

The table that follows is a summary breakdown of the key infrastructural changes which are required in order to achieve the Vision for 2006, and represents the planning targets envisaged for the five-year period. The overall plan is subdivided into the four broad areas identified in the Vision, outlined above.

Strategic Plan, 2001- 2006

[Note: Cost indicators are shown in terms of the following simple code:

0 = cost neutral 1 = increased costs 2 = significant increased costs -1 = cost saving possibilities -2 = significant cost saving possibilities

Where costs are likely to be met from non-University sources, these indicators are shown in bold]

 

MANAGERIAL

The staff infrastructure

 

 

 

 

 

 

No

Description

Cost Commentary

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-5

2005-06

1

Delivering integration benefits

Operational review of the post-2000 structures

Staff development review process should assist a review of changes arising from integration at marginal additional cost

0

0

0

0

0

2

Further integration

Review of possible further libraries to be integrated within OULS

Some savings may be possible through rationalisation of provision

0

-1

-1

-1

0

3

Staff recruitment, retention and development

Need to address staff shortages in some areas and to provide adequate training

Review of gradings (part of establishment review) could affect staff costs

0

1

1

0

0

4

Review cost centre structures, activity costing, and resource allocation

Needed to harmonise with PRAC and RAM requirements

Consultancy costs already identified. May involve some (marginal) training costs

0

0

0

0

0

5

Ensuring value for money

Continuing monitoring of expenditure within integrated system

Within existing resources, and a possible outcome of activity costing and bench-marking exercise

0

0

-1

-1

-1

6

Review and implementation of administrative and management support needs

Some additional costs associated with provision of OULS services.

1

0

0

0

0

7

Review of income generation

Possible self-funded staff costs to increase income generation

0

-1

-2

0

0

8

Staffing implications of new buildings/extensions/refurbishments

New staffing costs for proposed accommodation changes/expansion (in association with the long-term accommodation strategy and the Capital Campaign)

1

2

2

1

0

9

Staffing implications of e-strategy developments

Specialist staffing required as a result of the e-strategy developments. (Funded from Capital Campaign and other grants)

1

2

1

1

0

10

Staffing expansion for preservation developments

Increased staffing required to meet demand for conservation of key library materials and to maximise new workshop capacity at Osney Mead

1

2

1

0

0

11

Staffing implications of systems/electronic resources amalgamation

 

Additional staffing required for systems support, both for temporary transitional period, and to facilitate the technical infrastructure changes

1

1

0

0

0

 

 

 

OPERATIONAL

The service infrastructure

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

Opening hours

Review and where possible reconfigure OULS opening hours overall to best meet a range of user needs

Net effect of any changes yet to be costed, but should be cost-neutral if not all sites are expected to have longer opening hours

0

0

0

0

0

13

Subject-specific support for teaching, learning and research

Through OULS subject and functional teams and the underlying subject approach, to develop closer links with faculties as a means of enhancing library support for teaching, learning and research

Will require reorganisation of existing resources and roles and possibly some additional staffing resource (RSLP access funding)

1

1

0

0

0

14

Redesign of loan and reference services

Collections Management and Reader Services Teams to develop clear policies for the location of lending and research collections, and devise for all categories of user, state-of-the-art reference and enquiry services, accessible on-site and remotely, together with appropriate service standards

Will require some reorganization of existing roles and resources (and some additional core funding)

0

1

0

0

0

15

Upgrade reprographics services and facilities

Develop common card for photocopying, with ongoing price/income review. Introduction of a system for charging for printing from electronic resources. Introduction of on-demand digitisation service

Policy needed on OULS assumptions about reprographic income generation, and internal redistribution of income.

Some costs within e-strategy/Capital Campaign

1

2

0

0

0

16

Document delivery service

Enhance access to the collections of OULS both within Oxford, through physical interlending of materials and electronic means, and globally, through the development of an effective document delivery service which combines physical interlending and electronic delivery in accordance with relevant service standards

There will be additional costs for hardware and software but also increased income potential. It is not clear at this stage whether full cost recovery could or should be achieved.

(Some start-up costs from fundraising)

1

0

-1

0

0

17

Security

OULS review of internal and perimeter security

Possible consultancy costs together with security equipment costs

1

1

0

0

0

18

Reconfiguration of Bodleian reading rooms

Review of use of Bodleian reading rooms as part of refurbishment/extension and upgrade/ programme

Costs will be met from the Capital Campaign, or from minor works

1(1)

2(1)

2(1)

0

0

19

Subject specific provision of services

Review of use of existing staff time -- restructuring and new posts for subject consultancy

Additional costs currently being met by external grant

1

1

0

0

0

20

Book delivery improvements

Ongoing improvement of book delivery via Automated Stack Request System (ASRS), conveyor replacement, adequate staffing

Most costs are already funded, or within the Capital Campaign. Possible extra book handling staff costs required to meet additional demand from ASRS

1

1

2

0

0

21

Collection management/retention and disposal

Development and further implementation of collection management, retention and disposal policies, especially in the context of legal deposit materials

Possibility of some initial staff costs to achieve rationalisation

1

-1

-2

0

0

22

Admissions procedures

Further review of integrated admissions and registration procedures, linked with card access in libraries to provide management information

Some equipment costs likely

0

1

0

0

0

23

Catalogue provision

Improvements to OLIS information, and electronic cataloguing of manuscript and archive collections

 

Additional staff costs will be needed from a combination of special grants, Capital Campaign, and University funding

1

2

 

2(1)

 

2(1)

1(1)

 

 

 

 

 

PHYSICAL

The accommodation/space infrastructure

(details in long-term accommodation strategy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

Library materials storage

Acceleration of long-term storage facilities to deal with predicted growth in holdings

Significant capital investment needed on a continuing and planned basis (University Rolling Programme)

2

0

2

0

2

25

Preservation/conservation capacity

Enhancement/refurbishment of buildings and facilities to meet current preservation standards and to expand capacity to meet needs

Costs will be within Capital Campaign

2

2

2

0

0

26

Optimising use of central sites

Re-use of central space for reader service benefits

Costs within Capital Campaign

2

2

2

0

0

27

New buildings/extensions

Provision of new buildings/extensions, in order to meet new needs and to provide for development of services and support operations

Costs within Capital Campaign for some buildings. Further fundraising needed for others

2

2

2

2

2

 

 

TECHNICAL

The technical infrastructure for the hybrid library (details in the e-strategy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

28

Automated integrated library system

Upgrade and eventual replacement

Review GEAC system and consider upgrade and replacement

 

0

0

2

2

0

29

Hybrid library developments

Develop the hybrid library through the expansion of electronic resources (including datasets, electronic journals and e-books) and the development of the Oxford Digital Library, based on digital content from library collections.

 

Increase required to acquisitions budget for electronic materials

1

1

1

0

0

30

Oxford Digital Library

Specify the technical, systems and metadata requirements for the Oxford Digital Library

 

Substantial additional resources will be needed to put this in place. Funding sources will include the Capital Campaign

2

2

1(1)

0

0

31

Automation of cataloguing of manuscripts and archival holdings.

Develop and apply the necessary technical standards to facilitate the conversion of catalogue records into electronic form

 

Funded from Capital Campaign and other grants and income

1

1

1

0

0

32

Hybrid library user interface

Develop and apply the necessary technical standards for effective electronic document delivery

Funded from Capital Campaign

1

1

0

0

0

 

Oxford University Library Services (OULS): long-term accommodation strategy

1 Introduction

During 1999, the Director of University Library Services presented a paper to the Libraries Committee of the University entitled Library buildings and accommodation: an overview of space issues in the Libraries Committee sector. The paper focused attention on the growing library accommodation crisis, which had arisen over many years in virtually all of the Libraries Committee's libraries due to the lack of a long-term space strategy and the absence of a co-ordinated planning approach. The paper drew a number of important conclusions about the accommodation problems facing the libraries sector. In particular, it concluded that there was a ubiquitous need for expansion space for open-shelf collections, a pressing requirement for a higher proportion of library materials to be made accessible on open shelves in central Oxford, and an urgent necessity to accelerate the provision of off-site storage space for lower use library stock. These conclusions were endorsed by the Libraries Committee, and the Director was invited to draft a long-term accommodation strategy, based on a set of planning principles which would determine the approach for addressing these urgent problems in a practical and achievable way.

The present paper is an updated and revised version of that draft strategy, which was first presented to, and approved by, the Libraries Committee early in 2000 [LIB (00) 19]. The present strategy document also takes account of subsequent developments in this key area of library policy and planning. For example, it incorporates the various approvals given by University committees to OULS buildings-related proposals during 2000, including the plans for the use of the Kemp Hall Bindery and the Blackwell's Science Building (at Osney Mead), and for the various projects in the proposed Libraries Capital Campaign, supported by the Libraries Development Board and approved in outline by the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee in December 2000. A ULS submission to the Radcliffe Infirmary (RI) Vision Group, proposing the development of a consolidated Humanities Lending Library on the RI site, was separately submitted in December 2000. The funding and construction of Phase II of the St Cross site expansion plans (a high priority for the Social Sciences Division, notwithstanding the failure of the University's bid to attract funding for the development under the JIF initiative) also remains a key desideratum for the OULS, in view of the continuing need for additional space for the Social Studies Libraries to develop their on-site support for the academic departments concerned. Finally, the outcome of the Bodleian Library's bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funds to introduce a Visitor Management Programme in the Old Bodleian buildings, with income generation potential, is expected to be known by the early summer of 2001.

2 Key issues influencing the OULS accommodation strategy

The creation of the integrated University Library Services (from February 2000), now incorporating 27 centrally-funded libraries, has enabled the University, for the very first time, through the Libraries Committee (now the Curators of the University Libraries) and the Director of University Library Services, to take a holistic overview of the accommodation issues faced by one of the institution's key academic services, and to address those issues in a strategic planning context. Those key issues are as follows:

  1. The Director of University Library Services is required to develop a libraries-wide long-term retention and storage policy. Requested by the Working Party on University sites (the Lucas Report) in 1997, the elaboration of such a policy has only just become a possibility with the creation of an integrated library system but is now being actively addressed.
  2. A long-term storage plan for library materials is a critical requirement for an institution with legal deposit status and responsibilities. The library system's major storage repository at Nuneham Courtenay will be completely full by 2002, and a plan for further storage modules (capable of storing the continuously expanding intake of materials, at an estimated capital cost of £600,000 every three years) urgently needs to be put in place. (The plan will have to take account of the fact that the local planning authorities may be less willing than previously to give permission for building additional storage modules at Nuneham.) (See also Fundamental principles b. and f. below.)
  3. There is an urgent requirement to release space on the central Bodleian site for the introduction of expanded and enhanced reader services to support academic research. These developments are strongly supported by the relevant Faculties and departments, and represent major desiderata for the upgrading of library facilities to appropriately modern and cost-effective standards of service.
  4. There is a longstanding recognition of the need for the development and expansion of the various facilities supporting library materials preservation in the integrated libraries sector and beyond. A range of improvements is urgently needed in this area, in line with the former Libraries Board's Preservation Report (1996), and in keeping with the University's stewardship responsibilities for library collections of international importance.
  5. It is a key element in the library integration proposals approved by the University to merge, both managerially and physically, the systems support units within the libraries sector. This support is currently split between the Libraries Automation Service - whose premises in St Giles need to be vacated during 2001 to provide space for Classics - and the Bodleian Systems Section, which is inadequately housed in the Radcliffe Science Library and elsewhere. The physical unification of these units remains a major desideratum, and without it the service benefits of an integrated approach (including the development of the Oxford Digital Library and the roll-out of the e-strategy) will be seriously hampered.
  6. The Director of University Library Services is specifically charged with improving the facilities for the training and development of large numbers of library staff, within and beyond the integrated sector. The Curators of the University Libraries regard the enhancement of library staff development and training as a major objective, but the work of the OULS Staff Development Officer is greatly inhibited by the present highly unsatisfactory arrangements.
  7. Equal opportunities legislation provides the impetus for more appropriate long-term provision to be made for the needs of the Blind Recording Centre - a service presently managed by the Bodleian Library on behalf of the University as a whole, and temporarily located at Ewert House.

3 Fundamental principles

The OULS long-term accommodation strategy is also based on a number of fundamental principles:

  1. The decision, taken in Victorian times and confirmed in 1931, to retain the Bodleian Library in its historic buildings - with all the consequences of space pressures, fragmented development, service inefficiencies and increased operating costs - is effectively irreversible. The effect of this major policy decision - felt mainly, but not uniquely, by the Bodleian - is that, given the growth in library materials, staff numbers and service requirements since the 1930s, the University Library Services libraries are all subject to increasing space pressures which cannot be adequately addressed by solutions based on the availability of adequate alternative accommodation in central Oxford.
  2. There needs to be a more aggressive off-campus repository approach for the integrated libraries sector as a whole for materials in lesser demand and lower current use. The Nuneham Courtenay repository presently serves the library storage needs of the Bodleian, the Ashmolean and the Taylorian; but an acceleration in the provision of off-campus storage facilities would enable the University Library Services to develop a sector-wide policy for the storage of library retention materials which would contribute to resolving, much more systematically than hitherto, many of the otherwise intractable accommodation problems of the libraries in the integrated sector.
  3. In addition to this critical shortage of closed access storage space in the library system generally, there is also an acute need for expansion space for open shelf materials as well as for space to make a higher proportion of current stock more accessible in open shelf locations, as a means of greatly improving both reader convenience and library efficiency. This 'open shelf ' issue, while it cannot realistically be solved by a single new building, must be systematically built into the design criteria for all future library buildings in central Oxford.
  4. The Bodleian Library should be enabled to concentrate uniquely, in its major central buildings (the Old and New Bodleian Libraries), on provision for research support, with enhanced undergraduate provision being made elsewhere in the system. The central Bodleian buildings are currently 'falling between two stools'; and while research provision would also be made elsewhere, an overt emphasis on provision for research would enable the two main Bodleian buildings to achieve much more satisfactory levels of service than at present, when they are trying - against the odds - to be all things to all people.
  5. Priority needs to be given to developing services for readers (including the disabled) on the central site(s), and to providing suitable off-site accommodation for certain library support operations. This principle is particularly significant for the Bodleian Library, where the necessary development of library support activities - acquisitions, processing, cataloguing, conservation, imaging facilities, training, and systems support - is competing on a major scale with the need to devote more space to reader services. (Residual support facilities will, however, still need to be accommodated on the central site.)
  6. As an institution of legal deposit, Oxford will continue to acquire and retain (and will have to house) hundreds of thousands of printed items every year. All the evidence points to the fact that, even taking into account the growth of digital media, and after maximum recourse has been had to the pursuit of co-operative acquisition and retention policies with the other UK copyright libraries, the intake of physical materials under legal deposit will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. Not only will these continuously expanding collections of physical materials need to be retained, but electronic access to them will also need to be seamlessly integrated with the growing range of digital library resources and services, as a key component of the forward-looking e-strategy, and within the 'hybrid library' vision for the future of library services in Oxford.

4 Benefits

The overt acceptance of these six principles will - if they are built into all future strategic decisions about library accommodation needs and if their implications are systematically followed through and implemented over time - lead to the following major benefits for the integrated libraries in their service to users:

  1. The desirable objective of having "the right book in the right place" could be more systematically addressed than hitherto. A clearer and more rational articulation of the core purposes of all the OULS library buildings in central Oxford, supported by more carefully targeted acquisitions policies and by more robust plans for storing lower use materials off the central site, would lead to the more effective and more appropriately targeted provision of library support for both teaching and research. This approach would be complemented, within the developing e-strategy, by the pervasive provision of electronic access to library resources and services, supported by appropriate off-site systems capabilities.
  2. A generally more cost-effective and efficient use of library space overall would be achieved.
  3. There would be improved access to and availability of core library materials in central Oxford.
  4. A targeted approach to more appropriate library opening hours in response to expressed user needs would be easier to implement.
  5. Greatly enhanced provision for reader services in key locations would be facilitated.
  6. Better provision for disabled access to key facilities could be made.
  7. Proper provision for library staff space and training needs in appropriate locations could be made.
  8. There would be more scope for the provision of space for interpretative and exhibition functions in the Old Bodleian (including the more effective management of tourist visitors).
  9. The reduction in the number of separate library sites in central Oxford would lead to cost savings and reader-related benefits.
  10. A rationalisation of library administrative functions would bring consequent improvements in operating efficiency.
  11. Savings would be achieved as a result of reduced movement of large quantities of library stock within and between buildings. Having the stock in more adequate and appropriate locations would avoid the waste of resources caused by frequent book moves and fragmentation of stock due to the squeezing of books into inadequate spaces.

5 Practical steps: towards the implementation of an integrated library accommodation strategy

The benefits outlined above, which would significantly enhance the services offered by the University's centrally-funded libraries, by enabling their collections, operations and services to be managed more efficiently, would flow from the following practical steps, in addition to the ongoing elaboration of policies and plans for long-term retention and storage, mentioned elsewhere. Taken together, and subject to further discussion and review, all these developments form a realistic and achievable basis for the radical transformation of the library system's overall performance and service delivery capabilities.

  1. The OULS is actively planning the creation of major new off-campus library processing, storage and consultation facilities, providing accommodation for acquisitions, cataloguing, preservation and other appropriate library support activities, with decanting space, some associated storage of low-use (mostly legal deposit) materials, and small-scale consultation facilities for users of certain non-standard format materials, some stand-alone collections and specific categories of low-use stock. The acquisition by the University, for library purposes, of two contiguous buildings at Osney Mead (the Kemp Hall Bindery and the Blackwell's Science Building) - though not ideally placed in relation to the repository accommodation at Nuneham Courtenay - now makes a new facility along these lines a realistic prospect, and plans are actively being prepared to bring this development to fruition. This off-site accommodation will enable much material to be processed and stored without it having first to be delivered into central Oxford (the legal deposit materials would be delivered direct to it from London), and it will release sufficient space in the central library buildings to permit the other pressing needs, described above, to be met there.
  2. Consistent with the refocusing of the Old and New Bodleian buildings on research provision, urgent plans are also being made to upgrade the environmental conditions in the New Bodleian - especially in the Bookstack, where the highest value research materials are housed. Serious concerns have been expressed about those conditions by the inspectors of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, and failure to address these concerns would ultimately threaten the Bodleian's status as an accredited national repository.
  3. Consistent with the need to rationalise library buildings and services wherever physically possible, serious consideration is being given to the following library developments which are in line with the need to address undergraduate and research support provision in a more systematic fashion:
    1. The possibility of rehousing the History Faculty Library in a more appropriate location in central Oxford. Such a move, if agreed as feasible, could release much-needed space within the Old Indian Institute building and also enable improved undergraduate facilities to be provided.
    2. The possibility of creating a new Humanities Lending Library on the Radcliffe Infirmary site. This proposal, present in the Lucas Report (1997), and now strongly supported by the Humanities Division, would be entirely consistent with the strategy outlined in this paper. The more Humanities subjects which could be included within such a library, the greater the synergy, service enhancement and cost-effectiveness which could be achieved. Ongoing discussions with the Humanities Division are seeking to build a consensual view about the appropriate subject components (and size) of such a library facility, within or close to a new Humanities Centre. The possibilities include provision for Theology, Modern Languages, Philosophy, and, possibly, English and History.
    3. The possibility of relocating the Official Papers collections from the hideously inadequate basement of the Radcliffe Camera to a more appropriate part of the library system.
  4. As outlined in the introduction, the OULS remains strongly supportive of the priority aim of the Social Sciences Division to complete the phased expansion of the St Cross site, which includes plans for the extension of the Economics Library. This development is itself an important element in the further integration and consolidation of OULS support for teaching and research in the Social Sciences.
  5. Plans are in hand for the further development of the Clarendon Building as the administrative hub of the integrated libraries sector. The Clarendon Building, appropriately refurbished, has a strategically significant part to play in delivering some of the benefits envisaged in the Libraries Committee's integration proposals, as endorsed by the University during 2000.
  6. The Bodleian Library is at an advanced stage of planning, with the full approval of the Sub-committee for the Bodleian Library, the former Libraries Committee, and the University, for the introduction of a Visitor Management Programme during the 2001-2002 session. With enabling funds from external sources for the necessary physical alterations to parts of the ground floor of the Old Bodleian building, the scheme will reduce reader inconvenience, enhance visitor experience, and generate a reliable income stream for reinvestment in core services.
  7. The University's formal approval and active support for the planned Libraries Capital Campaign (agreed in principle by the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee in December 2000) is absolutely crucial to the OULS' efforts to raise the necessary funds for a number of the developments described in this paper. Other library capital projects (all of which are consistent with the strategic planning principles rehearsed here) will also depend critically on the success of the Campaign (which it is hoped to launch early in 2002). At the time of writing, these additional proposals include: enhanced library IT infrastructure, to enable the implementation of a comprehensive e-strategy; a new medical library and information facility on the South Headington site; extensions to the Taylor Institution and Radcliffe Science Libraries; and physical upgrades to the Bodleian Law Library and the Upper Radcliffe Camera.

It is worth bearing in mind, in connection with all of these schemes, that the libraries sector has an excellent track record in raising funds from external sources. Given the importance of the issues raised in this paper in the context of the University's sites strategy and the libraries' significant role in support of the academic excellence of the institution, the strategy presented here requires urgent and systematic implementation, consistent with the planning issues and principles described.

An integrated e-strategy for the Oxford University Library Services (OULS): the hybrid library approach to information access, handling, creation, dissemination and storage

 1 The background: the environmental and local factors

The following are the key factors which underpin and shape the overarching vision, the strategic objectives and the operational development plans for the libraries now constituting the newly-integrated OULS:

  • The University of Oxford is, and aspires to remain, a world-class university, whose support facilities for teaching, learning and research are crucial to the institution's ability to maintain and develop its excellence
  • Developments in information technology over the past decade, and in particular the advent of the Internet and its associated technologies, are rapidly becoming embedded in all the activities of the University, transforming the majority of its processes, and opening up the possibilities for the greatly enhanced performance of its key tasks
  • With information - in all its variety of forms - at the core of the University's business, it is crucial to the institution's continuing success that it should harness the transforming power of technology to maintain its competitive advantage at the leading edge of world scholarship
  • The University, with its vast scholarly library collections, and in particular those of the Bodleian Library (which has been a library of deposit for almost 400 years), has been a resource for the support of national and international scholarship for centuries in the pre-digital world (to its own great and continuing benefit), and has a historic mission to maintain and develop that support in an electronically-networked world
  • The libraries forming the OULS - many of which have exploited information technology for more than a decade as a means of enhancing their routine support for the developing information needs of the University in all its parts - are now established within a managerial structure which is capable of taking them on to a new level of support for the institution's teaching, learning and research activities
  • The OULS requires the phased and systematic implementation of a strategic development plan, rooted in the use of leading-edge information technology, in order to be able more effectively to exploit Oxford's immense physical holdings of primary research and teaching materials and to support the scholars and students of the University as their own work is transformed by developments in technology

2 The overarching vision: towards 'the hybrid library'

At the dawn of a new century, major research libraries throughout the world are sharing in the elaboration of the concept of the hybrid library - a construct which is especially appropriate as an overarching vision for a large holdings library system like Oxford's, as it seeks to refashion its services in the modern networked world. The Director of University Library Services has written about this concept in the following terms:

"Libraries are services which provide organised access to the intellectual record, wherever it resides, whether in physical places or in scattered digital information spaces. The 'hybrid' library of the future will be a managed combination of physical and virtual collections and information resources."

In practical terms, such a vision means that, for the Oxford University Library Services, the application of information technology must pervade every aspect of what the library system does, and how it does it. And while this does not mean that electronic access to Oxford's, or to the world's, information resources will wholly replace a user's physical access to library holdings ("the death of the book" being regarded as a not entirely desirable objective, even if it were achievable in the longer term), it does envisage, as a key strategic objective, the provision of comprehensive desk-top access for the scholar to information about the library system's holdings, together with incrementally increasing networked access to an expanding range of materials in electronic form (both digitised and 'born digital', and locally or remotely held).

3 Progress to date

OULS has made considerable progress with e-strategy developments, and already has in place the following strategic elements of a hybrid library at various stages of development:

  • A libraries-wide automated 'housekeeping' system, for the efficient support, management, and delivery of basic library processing tasks (accessions and cataloguing of printed materials (books, serials and pamphlets), user databases, and lending). The central Geac system, replaced an earlier DOBIS/LIBIS system in 1995, and many of Oxford's libraries have implemented it to support these tasks.
  • A University-wide online union catalogue of printed holdings. The Oxford Libraries Information System (OLIS) is already well-established on the Geac platform, with a large number of the University's libraries cataloguing online into it, and with an ambitious programme of retrospective catalogue conversions to machine-readable form well underway.
  • Campus-wide provision of access to remotely-held (commercial and non-commercial) library and information datasets and other electronic information resources (including electronic journals). A University-wide Datasets Working Party is in place, and has responsibility for managing the purchase and licensing of external electronic information resources, for campus-wide availability on a more centralised and cost-effective basis.
  • Pervasive library connectivity to the University network, to JANET, and to the Internet. All of the OULS libraries are well-connected to the campus network, and are making quite sophisticated use of the institutional intranet and of the Internet itself, with resulting service benefits being delivered to all parts of the University, as well as to 'remote' library users more generally.
  • Project-based electronic library and information service development initiatives. While the OULS itself is not funded to undertake research and development activities, a number of its libraries have been successful in obtaining external funding (from HEFCE/JISC library and information initiatives such as e-Lib and the Non-formula funding initiative, and from private foundations and benefactors) for the innovative testing and application of IT in a library service context. (These include work on electronic journals, interfaces, digitisation of original materials, electronic document delivery systems, and retrospective conversion programmes.)

4 Necessary steps: integration, consolidation, and the missing elements

Since 1997 three steps in particular have been taken to move the libraries on to the next level in the development of the hybrid library approach and the implementation of a comprehensive e-strategy for the OULS.

  1. The integration of the governance and management of the University's centrally-funded libraries. Achieved in February 2000, this was an essential pre-requisite for the strategic and more cost-effective use of the available resources (human, operational, physical and technical) within the University's principal libraries. In this context, a new managerial and operational structure for library IT systems support and development is in process of being put into place, as a basis for a properly planned and managed approach to the further development of digital library services in Oxford.
  2. The consolidation of the existing elements of the hybrid library approach. Subject to available finances (including external funding), every effort has been made to ensure that across-the-board investments have been made in all of the building blocks already in place. In particular, the various modules of the Geac system have been more widely implemented , the OLIS system has been greatly expanded, the Datasets Working Party (now the Datasets Committee) has been given explicit control of a much-enhanced budget and the number of datasets and electronic journals has been significantly expanded, and connectivity to, and use of, the Internet has been more widely developed. The effect of all this work has been to ensure that these existing elements of library activity are firmly established as integral parts of the library system's core services.
  3. The identification of the missing elements in the e-strategy and the planning of their development to complete the implementation of the hybrid library vision. The Director and his colleagues have identified, during the past three years, four key elements in particular as the additional building blocks required to move the library system towards the full implementation of the e-strategy most appropriate for a world-class research library. Various developmental efforts have been, and continue to be, made to progress these important issues, as follows:
  • The conversion to machine-readable form of the library system's manual catalogues and descriptions of manuscript and archival materials. A good start has been made (principally within the Bodleian Library) on the use of the international standard EAD format for this work. The aim, ultimately, must be to develop such machine-readable cataloguing of manuscript finding-aids as the default process for current records also, in order to enable users to access information about all such materials electronically (as is now routinely the case for printed materials).
  • The 'routinisation' of digital content creation as a core library service. The digitisation of key locally-held materials has been undertaken within Oxford's libraries for many years (as elsewhere in the University). But such activities have been largely unco-ordinated and opportunistic rather than strategic. The Mellon-funded scoping study of 1998-9 has pointed the way towards a strategic development plan for the creation of appropriate digital content drawn from Oxford's outstanding collections of library materials. The recent establishment of an Oxford Digital Library Service (ODLS), with development funding approved by the Libraries Committee and a major grant from the Mellon Foundation, represents the first major step towards the embedding of digital content creation in the library system's core activities and service array. In particular, the ODLS will achieve three key strategic objectives within the overall plan for the development of digital library services in Oxford: the migration of the Bodleian Photographic Studio service to a self-funding on-demand digitisation service; a major new line of library support for the teaching and research activities of the University; a production stream of digitised material, based on Oxford holdings, for subsequent re-use in a variety of developmental contexts of local and general benefit.
  • The establishment of an OULS-based electronic document delivery service. Such a service is a key desideratum for a major research library system. Oxford's current inter-library lending system, based largely on low-tech and inefficient manual procedures, is seriously inadequate by today's standards, is ineffectively and unevenly distributed across the OULS libraries, and urgently requires bringing into the machine age. Planning efforts, based around the possible use of low-cost software being actively developed by the Research Libraries Group, are currently underway, with desk-top delivery as the ultimate goal.
  • The establishment of digital archiving mechanisms for the long-term preservation of the library system's digital assets. As a medium-term development objective, and as a matter of both good housekeeping and of digital library service resilience, OULS is beginning to make plans for the necessary permanent archiving of the library system's growing range of digital assets. Together with the OUCS, it is involved, with Oxford as a lead site, in the JISC-funded digital preservation project CEDARS, and, as a recipient of electronic material under the DCMS-sponsored voluntary deposit scheme for non-printed materials, is developing with the other UK copyright libraries arrangements for a secure electronic network for persistent access to all such information resources. As an interim measure, the library system's digital assets are being stored in the University's Hierarchical File Server. In the longer term, once the true costs of permanent archiving and access to such materials are better understood, OULS will expect to be directly involved in the elaboration of a University-wide strategy in this important emerging arena.

The implementation of this e-strategy as a core part of the library system's development path will enable the vast resources and collections of the OULS to be made accessible to students and researchers wherever they are, in a seamless and user-friendly fashion.