RLUK Strategy 2018-2021: Reshaping Scholarship

Our strategy for 2018-2021 reflects the commitment of our libraries to transformations in research,
innovation in collections, and cultural change in our institutions

Our 37 member institutions represent the leading research libraries in the UK and Ireland. We work with a wide network of organisations across the library, archives, university, and research sectors in the UK, and internationally.

Our strategy for 2018-2021 reflects the commitment of our libraries to transformations in research, innovation in collections, and cultural change in our institutions. The strategy has focused on two key strands: Open Scholarship, and A Collective Approach, building on the outcomes of our 2014-2017 strategy, Powering Scholarship. We achieved significant results in our last Strategic Plan including research on the management of shared print, collection drivers, and academic behaviour, campaigning for Open Access and ethical markets for subscribed and purchased materials, developing our special collections programme, and supporting our membership through the Associate Directors Network and an expanded series of events including an annual conference. Our new strategy focuses our work on our areas of strength, while utilising the strands to further other priorities in a more integrated and inclusive way.

The strategic plan was developed by the RLUK Board, in consultation with our members and partners in 2017. In developing the plan, we have sought to highlight our areas of expertise. We have identified many areas for collaboration across the sector, and where we can contribute to bigger efforts. In a changing legal and political environment, we have prioritised where RLUK and our members can influence the sector.  In doing so we have acknowledged some areas of importance to our members that are best addressed by others

We will deliver on this plan with leadership from the RLUK Board, collaboration from members and with the support of the Executive. We will engage our membership to develop services, programmes, and in formulating positions in our advocacy work. We will embed opportunities for learning, leadership, and participation across our strategic plan, so that members have an active role in shaping and delivering on RLUK’s commitments, and can develop their own capabilities. We will prioritise those activities and actions that will have the greatest impact on, or potential to benefit, our members. Our plan remains ambitious, but with greater focus to enable RLUK and our members to make great steps towards a more open and accessible future.


Our network of distinctive research libraries will be recognised as influential leaders of research and scholarship through their outstanding collections and services


RLUK is a consortium of major research libraries in the UK and Ireland, whose purpose is to shape the research library agenda and contribute to the wider knowledge economy through innovative projects and services that add value and impact to the process of research and researcher-training. We also contribute to the health of society through the preservation and sharing of knowledge: one of the pillars of an open society.

Open Scholarship

Creating a new environment for the transformation of research

Scholarly communications – the system by which the creators and users of research content are connected – is changing rapidly. Throughout the research lifecycle users need access to a wide variety of formats delivered to a range of devices, at their own convenience. In an increasingly open world they want to reuse, mix, annotate and share information. Likewise, creators want to disseminate ideas more quickly and more widely to achieve greater impact for their work. The boundaries between formats and type of content (articles, monographs, data, etc.) are blurring and new forms of peer review and quality assessment are developing. Research funders are increasingly focussing on the dissemination of the research they fund. Our institutions are looking to new ways of showcasing the range and breadth of the intellectual outputs produced by their researchers and students. Our commitment and unique role as research libraries to preserving the scholarly record in all its forms and providing access to it ensures that scholarship can be used, verified, and reproduced by current and future generations.

1. The Challenge: As research practice continues to find new ways of exploiting the digital, so the library community must find new ways to support innovation in digital scholarship.

RLUK Response: RLUK will work with members and partner organisations to further define the role of the library in digital scholarship and to facilitate the sharing (through use cases, conference presentations and thought leadership) of existing best practice.

2. The Challenge: We are moving towards a more open scholarly communications landscape, especially where institutions respond to funder policies promoting Open Access. As more journal articles, monographs and research data are made open we need to guarantee the integrity and sustainability of the infrastructure that enables new models of scholarly communications.

RLUK Response: We will work strategically to promote open and transparent markets for Open Access services (including Article Processing Charges), and facilitate conversations between libraries and other stakeholders to enable efficient processes.

3. The Challenge: Institutions are increasingly taking responsibility for the research generated by their own researchers and students. Current issues surrounding intellectual property rights can limit the effectiveness of these efforts as authors and institutions lack clarity about what they can, and cannot, legally do with their research outputs.

RLUK Response: We will actively support the introduction of new university licence models, such as the UK Scholarly Communications Licence (UK- SCL) which provide clarity on use of outputs. We will work with partners to ensure copyright regimes best support scholarly research and support the UK-SCL by collaborating with the steering group in developing guidance and workflows for adopting institutions.

4. The Challenge: While there are now a number of well-established models for open access to journal articles, there are fewer options for authors and readers with regard to open access monographs.

RLUK Response: We will model the move to an open environment for monographs. We will continue to support members who develop their own presses and seek collective solutions to drive down costs and create an open environment for monographs. We will assess the current landscape for Open Access monographs (as it relates to research libraries) and evaluate business cases in support of Open Access monographs.

A Collective Approach

Reshaping modern research library collections

Our members’ rich and varied collections are the foundations on which research libraries are built. Materials spanning millennia and comprising of every conceivable material from stone tablet to the born digital must now be collected, collated, archived, preserved and made accessible to further research and learning.

5. The Challenge: The shift from analogue to a mixed analogue/digital environment is well underway. This has profound implications for our collections and our ability to meet the needs and expectations of our users. Our members devote significant resources to managing collections and processes. Balancing these demands has a significant impact on how we define our collections, and how we manage them.

RLUK Response: We will undertake horizon scanning and scoping to map this changing landscape and the implications for the digital shift, and identify key challenges remaining for our members. We will highlight expertise and best practice from within our membership and beyond, identifying areas where collaboration between members can best provide effective and flexible solutions.

6. The Challenge: Each member of RLUK has unique and distinctive collections that are used by a wide range of audiences to advance knowledge and learning. While the collections are unique, many of the opportunities and challenges related to these collections are common across our membership.

RLUK Response: We will develop a strategic programme to help members maximise the research value and impact of their unique and distinctive collections. With audiences and collections at the heart of our programme, we will work to improve access to and use of both physical and digital special collections, and to help develop our member’s staff. We will facilitate action and create partnerships which build leadership and capacity within the sector and reach out to the wider gallery, archive and museum communities to act together to address areas of common concern and endeavour. By building on our previous work we will identify new opportunities and demonstrate impact.

7. The Challenge: Each year a significant proportion of RLUK members’ budgets is spent purchasing or licensing content to be used by researchers and students. As prices for journals, books, textbooks, and databases rise (often faster than inflation) increased pressure is placed on budgets.

RLUK Response: We will campaign for a more ethical, effective, and transparent market for subscribed and purchased materials and will work with partners to allow our members greater flexibility and choice when considering renewing big deals and assessing new models. We will consider and test needed infrastructure (such as improved inter-library loan) that will provide members with flexibility to adopt alternative models.

8. The Challenge: Our members face significant demands on physical space – both space for collections and space for people. As research libraries seek to reflect evolving reader behaviour so the demands on the library estate change. Can we realise ways in which we collectively manage print collections to allow greater flexibility in matching space to need?

RLUK Response: We will continue to investigate the feasibility of further collective management of print collections. We will provide a voice for our members in discussions with potential partner organisations and play a facilitating role in identifying and moving forward practical solutions.