For many university libraries, space shortage remains a major challenge, particularly balancing the need for increasing study space whilst some physical collections continue to grow. To tackle this issue, the HE sector has worked in partnership with the British Library (BL) since 2007 to manage print journals collaboratively through the UK Research Reserve (UKRR) programme funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The community has worked together in creating and enhancing a national distributed collection so participating libraries can make informed decision about their print stock whilst ensuring continued access to print research material. The collaborative efforts on print, low-use journals have seen more than 107km of material being processed so far and achieved significant savings for the sector and releasing space for repurposing. Ten years on, is the community ready to tackle monographs?

The National Monograph Steering Group (NMSG), comprised of representatives from RLUK, the British Library, Jisc, HEFCE, SCONUL and UKRR, was set up to seek answers to this and other relevant questions. After responding to the ITT issued by the NMSG last year, Information Power Ltd was selected to gather evidence and evaluate the community’s appetite, if any, for a national monograph scheme. The report has now been published and can be downloaded here.

In the report, the authors report conversations with leaders in the UK as well as internationally to understand what makes a collaborative monograph scheme work, and what makes it fail. Information Power also conducted an in-depth literature review, an on-line survey, and recommended a model for the UK community at the end of the report.

Chris Banks, Head of UKRR and Director of Library Services at Imperial College London, said:

‘This report represents a first step in establishing what might need to be put in place to enable HE institutions collaborate on the storage and supply of print monographs. In summarising existing collaborations, many in North America and Europe, it presents an excellent overview of the governance and operational issues that would need to be addressed in any collaborative initiative, whether it be on a national or a regional scale. We are grateful to HEFCE, SCONUL and RLUK for funding this important work.’

David Prosser, Executive Director RLUK, said:

‘The rationalisation of print holdings is a key strategic priority for RLUK and its members. The desire to ensure the long-term preservation of our historic collections while ensuring continued access for curious readers is of great concern. There is also interest in any space dividend that rationalise might bring allow valuable institutional estates to be re-purposed to meet the 21st Century needs of researcher and students. This report gives us much food for thought and provide the RLUK membership with a possible path forward.’

The report sheds light on the potential monograph journey for the community; like UKRR for journals, whether the recommended model would work or not will depend on the support and commitment from the community. If you would like to share your thoughts on the report with the NMSG, please contact UKRR.