Sunday, 28 June 2009

Shared Services Survey - Headlines

A total of 83 UK HE institutions (around 45% of the sector) responded to the SCONUL Shared Services Survey. The following commentary is based on initial analysis of the responses. To review the results for yourself, you can download the aggregated responses as an easily readable PDF from

High level analysis conveys strong and widespread interest in shared services:

· Over 60% of the respondents are involved in or planning some form of shared services activity.
· Whilst 89% stated they were open to ‘any arrangement that delivers benefits’, a significant number supported a governance mechanism operated by ‘a sector agency’ in the style of JANET (UK).
· There was little appetite for an outside operator (17%) or even a single HEI (35%) leading and recruiting partners.

Clear patterns of motivation and tangible benefits have emerged which need to be validated and qualified through cross-tabulation. The highlights are:

· The strongest focus is on adopting digital solutions and electronic content to reduce physical holdings and therefore space (85%)
· A good number are ready to consider consolidating physical assets (51%)
· Whilst 90% see reducing overall cost as an immediate high/medium priority, there is more interest in repositioning human resources (82%) than in reducing the establishment (50%)
· High cost benefits are principally linked to content licensing (69%) and physical space savings (43%); possible staff cost savings are predominantly linked to management time (29%) and cataloguing (29%)
· There is greater interest in library management systems functions being delivered through external shared services (80%) than by other local institutional systems (52%), though developing the role of the library service within the institution is a high priority intangible gain (84%)
· Leveraging larger (web) scale services is seen by 73% as a high/medium 3-5 year priority but only an immediate priority for 46%; this fits with the high priority interest (84%) in enhancing flexibility and agility for developing electronic services
· There exists a high level of readiness to consider Open Source software (30% with a further 45% neutral)

Responses identified a distinct group of systems functions and human operations that are candidates for shared services:

· Principal interest is clearly focused around electronic resource licensing and management and general cataloguing (all scoring 84% or greater interest)
· Services that would facilitate more efficient and value added resource discovery fell in to the next group with over 50% interest (OPAC, search / locate, ILL, Open Data services and support functions such as forums and help desk)
· Functions involving individual user data attracted least interest, though this may be motivated by uncertainties regarding security and DPA obligations

At the highest level interest may be divided between three shared services ‘options’ which can be separately defined but which are in no sense mutually exclusive

· The licensing option – economies and efficiencies through shared procurement of e-journals and e-books (both 97%)

· The shared systems (software functions) option – seen as applicable to the management and disclosure / discovery of electronic resources and all types of metadata (catalogue records); potentially providing the platform for the large (web) scale services identified on the 3-5 year horizon

· The shared operations option – representing more optimised use of human resources, especially in cataloguing (90% interest), electronic resource management (76%), digital preservation (78%) and Help Desk (56%); this could also involve consolidation of physical assets

Whilst these options are potentially linked to current JISC initiatives (notably JISC Collections, Digital Preservation, Resource Discovery), the survey represents a new level of possibilities on account of the breadth of HEI interest, the consistency of key opinions and the associated institutional motivations.

David Kay – Sero Consulting – on behalf of the Steering Group

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Survey of HE Libraries extended to Friday 5 June

Many thanks to colleagues who were able to complete the Shared Services survey by the initial deadline of 22 May. We received 72 responses which represents a substantial sample of the 180 institutions in the UK sector.

The responses are proving to be very informative in terms of patterns and preferences and therefore the Steering Group has decided to extend the closing date to Friday 5 June.

You can access the online survey via the link at

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Steering Group

The Steering Group will play a vital role in the Shared Services Study.

The group, chaired by Anne Bell, is taking responsibility on behalf of SCONUL members and HEFCE (the fiunding body) for more than simply overseeing the work of Sero Consulting and signing off the requisite reports. For example, in Phase 1 (ending 31 July), the Group will be required to select the Options to be taken forward for specification, business analysis, costing and - most important - partnership development.

The members are as follows:

Professor Jane Core [Director of Library and Learning Services, Northumbria University]
Mrs Fiona Parsons [Director of Learning and Information Services, University of Wolverhampton]
Ms Anne Bell [Librarian, University of Warwick]
Ms Suzanne Enright [Director of Information Systems and Library Services, University of Westminster]
Mr Ian Dolphin [International Director, eFramework for Education and Research]
Mr Mark Toole [Director of Information Services, University of Stirling]
Mr Paddy Walker [Consultant, Shared Services Team, HEFCE]

If you'd like to contact the SG directly, feel free to email the Chair's PA -

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Initial Survey of HE Library Members - from 6 May 09

The Steering Group has agreed that an initial scene setting survey will provide a valuable tool for SCONUL HE members to engage with the issues and opportunities at the start of the study project.

You will have your own opinions regarding desirability and practicability across the potential spectrum of shared service opportunities. We therefore hope you will use this online survey to share those opinions and insights.

The Survey runs from 6 May to 20 May 2009 and will be accessible here and also from the links section on the right of this page.

Please address queries about the survey or the study in general to

Monday, 27 April 2009


Welcome to the blog for the SCONUL Shared Services feasibility study. 

SCONUL has been successful in obtaining funding from HEFCE to undertake a Shared Services feasibility study into the LMS and related systems landscape in UK Higher Education. 

The study is being led by Sero Consulting in partnership with Curtis + Cartwright and Ken Chad Consulting. The Sero team is working closely with the SCONUL Steering Group, chaired by Anne Bell of the University of Warwick. 

Michael Dodd, the Sero Project Manager, is responsible for this blog. We hope it will provide a vehicle for sharing key findings, issues and outcomes. 

The study will address the following key questions

  • What, if any, opportunities exist to develop a shared service response within the current LMS landscape for UK higher education libraries
  • What, if any, opportunities exist to develop a shared service response for a next generation open source LMS for UK higher education libraries
  • Whether there is a viable business case to support any such opportunities 
  • How any such shared service opportunities might be structured, delivered and governed

The study provides opportunity to review the role that Shared Services might play in individual library strategic plans and in enhancing library services across the UK HE sector.

  • Phase 1 of the work (April to July 2009) is about Feasibility - scoping the possibilities, capturing requirements, exploring technical options, developing cost models and, not least, drawing from exemplar undertakings internationally.
  • Phase 2 (August to November 2009) will then develop a preferred option, as agreed by the SCONUL Steering Group, to a full Business Plan, based on standard HEFCE requirements, plus a project plan for a Pilot Project which may attract HEFCE funding.