The Programme

RLUK, with support from the RIN, is undertaking a programme of work to provide support for research libraries individually and collectively in their attempts to develop strategies and plans that respond effectively to rapidly-changing research, HE and information environments. The work is taking place between July 2012 and December 2013.


  1. to analyse the key current characteristics of research libraries and their services
  2. to analyse key trends in the HE, research and information landscapes
  3. to create briefing and advocacy papers on key issues and trends
  4. to develop links with other organisations in the UK and overseas
  5. to create forums and to develop networks for discussion and engagement with the RLUK and related communities
  6. to help identify key principles and goals to feed into discussions on the next RLUK strategic plan


Themes, process and suggested topics

In an initial stage of the programme, we began to address the first three objectives, with a workshop and a series of short papers that are being posted on the RLUK website. In the rest of the programme over the next 18 months we want to focus on three key themes in sequence:

a)      the concept of the library collection

b)      the role of libraries in the research process

c)      the development of new roles/services and new skills

The Process

This paper outlines how we plan to tackle these themes, starting with the concept of the library collection, which will be addressed over the six months July-December 2012. Each theme will be overseen by a designated member of the working group.

The work on each theme will start with the commissioning of 2-3 (or more) short papers –  no more than 1,000 words –  in the form of think pieces or ‘provocations’  on some key questions that the writer wishes to address.  We are circulating invitations to write such papers via the Assistant Directors Network.  The papers will be put together as a group, and a short cover paper will be prepared to pull out key messages, including any points of difference. The package of papers will then be circulated and a half-day workshop/round table discussion will be organised for c30 people from across the RLUK and research communities. Following the workshop, updated versions of the papers, including a report of the discussions, will be circulated as widely as possible.

Some suggested topics for the library collection theme:

  • These are examples of possible areas. Contributors to the theme are invited to address any of the topics outlined below, or indeed any other topics they think relevant.
  • Are its collections (physical and/or digital) the defining, or the most important, characteristic of a research library?
  • Is the goal of comprehensive coverage, even within closely-defined fields, a realistic one for individual libraries? If not, what are the implications for the service they offer to researchers?
  • What are the roles and relationships between the collections of individual libraries, alongside national and international collections in an online environment?
  • Is patron-driven acquisition the future for collection development? What are the implications for research libraries and their roles within the university?
  • What do we mean by special collections in individual libraries? What is their value for the institution, now and into the future?
  • Do individual libraries still have a role in – or a responsibility for –  preserving an accessible archive of publications in areas of interest to their host universities? What are the implications of either doing so, or not doing so?
  • What are the implications for individual libraries of the growth of Google Books, Hathi Trust and other mass/collective digital collections?
  • Should we revisit the idea of collaborative collection management and development? What are the barriers and how might they be overcome?
  • To what extent should research libraries seek to provide collections with a view to the needs of researchers beyond their host institution?
  • Should most libraries (except for legal deposit and other special cases (which ones?)) abandon the idea of collection development and look to meet their users’ needs in other ways?
  • Should libraries seek for the future focus collection development around the research outputs – including grey literature, theses and dissertation, and data, as well as formal publications – of their host universities?

Top image courtesy of University of Liverpool Library