This article was commissioned by the journal International Innovation for their October 2012 issue. The journal aims to disseminate science, research and technology, and is available on Open Access by registering online at:


THE MISSION OF Research Libraries UK (RLUK) is simple: to ensure that the UK has the best research support in the world. To achieve this, the ‘Power of Knowledge’ strategy for 2011-14 has five aims:

• Redefining the research library model
• Collaborating to reduce costs and improve quality
• Shaping ethical and effective publishing
• Promoting unique and distinctive collections
• Modelling the library’s role in research data management

RLUK Board members are each involved in leading or participating in one or more of the strands.

One example of RLUK working with others is the UK Research Reserve. Following a feasibility study commissioned by RLUK, universities around the UK have transferred copies of print journals that were little used locally to the British Library, where a master copy was not already available, to ensure that unique material is retained securely for future researchers. Two further copies of each title are held in other university libraries as backup. This scheme has shown the benefit of working together in the overall interests of the research community, and although it sounds simple, it has taken years of painstaking work to achieve.

A further example was the campaign in 2011 to achieve a better financial settlement with two major academic publishers, which was carried out in partnership with the national higher education negotiating body for academic content, JISC Collections Ltd.

Recent events such as the publication of the Finch Report on access to research outputs, and the UK Government’s acceptance of the recommendations, will have far-reaching implications for research universities in particular. Publicly-funded research in the UK will need to make its publications available on open access (with no charge to the reader) very shortly after publication. It seems likely that many publishers will offer a ‘Gold’ model to achieve this, where they charge authors for publication of accepted papers; some may continue to offer the ‘Green’ model, where authors may deposit the fi nal, peer-reviewed version of the article in an open access repository within a few months. In either case, since UK research publications form only 6 per cent of all global output, libraries will continue to pay for subscriptions to journals for some time to come. RLUK will work with all parties to manage this transition in the most cost-effective way possible.

Libraries continue to be a fundamental part of the overall student experience, but require updating in order to accommodate new ways of working. RLUK has been delighted to work in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation to redesign library spaces to provide more suitable environments for research. With over 36.5 million visits, RLUK libraries have experienced an increase in footfall of over 9 per cent in the last three years.
By working together with many other key organisations, RLUK is achieving far more than it could alone, and is quietly but persistently transforming the information landscape for researchers in the UK and Ireland.