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Programme Background

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Programme Background

A brief history to, and background of, the eLib programme.


For many years now there have been predictions about evolution of the electronic or virtual library: a library without books. There have been as many predictions about how this will occur and who will run it, as there have been about what form it will take. Libraries everywhere are feeling the effects of new, rapidly advancing network technology, and find themselves caught in a whirlwind of commercial and technological forces claiming to provide the right solutions for dealing with electronic information. How will libraries survive this confusion? How can libraries best support and advance their universities into the 21st century?


It was questions like these that saw the commissioning of the Libraries Review by the UK Higher Education Funding Councils, chaired by Professor Sir Brian Follett in 1993. As a direct response to the Libraries Review, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) established the Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib). The programme has a budget of 15 million pounds over 3 years to fund projects in a variety of programme areas. The main aim of the eLib programme, through its projects, is to engage the Higher Education community in developing and shaping the implementation of the electronic library.

The programme has been established through two separate calls for proposals that have so far yielded almost 60 projects funded in different programme areas. These areas are:

  • Document Delivery
  • Access To Network Resources
  • Training and Awareness
  • Electronic Journals
  • Digitisation
  • Images
  • Electronic Short Loan Collections
  • On Demand Publishing
  • Pre-Prints and Grey Literature
  • Supporting Studies
  • Quality Assurance

The Programme has also funded the Higher Education Digitisation Service at the University of Hertfordshire.

Support for Teaching and Learning

Improving access for students to library and teaching materials is an important goal of many of the eLib projects. Projects in On Demand Publishing and projects establishing Electronic Short Loan collections seek to facilitate access to course materials and reading lists via networks for both full and part-time students. Projects in these areas are working in subjects such as Management Studies (ERIMS) or in the humanities (ODP in the Humanities) as well as with different types of materials, for example, music and video (Patron). Some are focusing initially on the production of print course packs from an electronic source (SCOPE), (PHOENIX), while others are concentrating on delivery of mtaerial over networks in electronic form (ACORN), (Eurotext). The projects are working closely with publishers to explore new and effective copyright management and pricing models to ensure document integrity and royalty controls.

Teaching is also enhanced through eLib Access to Networked Resources projects (see below) which seek to create quality controlled subject-access gateways to networked information.

eLib is also providing support for all library staff and users through projects in the Training And Awareness and Supporting Studies areas which consider how university infrastructure and current user support can be improved to support teaching and learning more effectively in an electronic environment models to ensure document integrity and royalty controls (NetLinkS), (SKIP).

Research Support

Changes in teaching methodology in Higher Education in the UK have seen a blurring of the lines between research and independent learning. Many eLib projects benefit both the academic researcher as well as the student engaged in independent study.

Pre-print or grey material lends itself well to the immediacy allowed by electronic access. eLib is funding several projects which provide access to collections of electronic pre-print materials and these initiatives will explore methods of access, searching, retrieval and delivery to the scholar's desktop (CogPrints), (WoPeC), (Formations) . Similarly electronic journal projects provide a mechanism for experimenting with options and alternatives for scholarly publishing and electronic refereeing in subjects such as chemistry (CLIC) and law (JILT). A project in quality assurance is being undertaken in collaboration with learned society publishers to create a system for electronic peer review (ESPERE).

In addition to providing mechanisms for electronic access to material, the eLib Document Delivery projects seek to provide desk top ordering and delivery of documents in both paper and electronic copy. Infobike aims to establish a document discovery and ordering systems based on systems developed at the University of Bath for the Bath Information Data Service.

Organisation of subject materials on the Internet is a dilemma for the researcher or librarian seeking resources available on the networks. Projects in the eLib access to network resources area aim to provide information gateways to high quality network sites available worldwide. eLib is funding gateways in several subject areas such as Sociology (SOSIG), Medicine (OMNI) and Urban Design (RUDI). In some cases the software backbone for these gateways will be provided by an eLib project called ROADS. Resources will be assessed and described by subject specialists and catalogued according to current library practice. Standards for Internet resources metadata are still evolving and will be closely monitored through these projects as well as through an eLib supporting study (MODELS).

Text and graphics are not the only type of material important to the academic researcher. Several of the eLib projects are digitising image materials such as medical images (MIDRIB) and map data (DigiMap). The Higher Education Digitisation Service(HEDS) will also provide increased access to both high demand library material as well as material considered central to UK scholarship.

Library Support

Libraries have had to deal with rapidly shrinking budgets, particularly in the last decade - years which have seen a steady and alarming rise in journal subscriptions as research specialisation or splintering creates more scholarly journal titles which in turn creates smaller markets. Finding alternatives available electronically or providing access to article copying services has become a crucial part of library services.

Several eLib projects and supporting studies are exploring options for electronic document delivery services which will help to maximise use of research material held in UK libraries.

Project LAMDA (London and Manchester Document Delivery) is based on RLG's Ariel software which transmits documents electronically. LAMDA has been offering services to all Manchester and London academic libraries since December 1995. Similarly the EDDIS project (Electronic Document Delivery the Integrated Solution) is developing an end-user driven system for discovery, ordering and transmission of materials by both traditional and electronic means. SEREN aims to create a mainly paper based system, in collaboration with the National Library of Wales, which will maximise the use of material in Welsh libraries.

The Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL) is working closely with the JISC on the development of an OPAC to provide national access to the CURL database of bibliographic records. The CURL OPAC (COPAC) is hosted at Manchester and will offer a related document delivery service. Continued dialogue with other eLib and non-eLib document delivery services is working to ensure interoperability.

Training and Awareness

Cultural change is fast becoming the library buzz word of the 90's and like all such words and phrases is in danger of becoming meaningless due to over usage. Cultural change involves changing values and expectations - it is change at a very fundamental level. Network technologies and specifically the Internet are the dawn of a new communications medium and, like radio or television, alter the way we access all types of information day by day. In libraries, the implementation and, more importantly, integration of these new technologies into daily routine involves long-term changes over a relatively short period of time. The impact that this kind of change can have on the library community (staff and users) is immense. Projects in the eLib training and awareness area provide the means of both teaching people to use new technologies and the methods of assessing the impact these technologies are having on libraries and the people they serve.

Netskills, based at Newcastle is one example. Netskills is providing courses on networked information to library staff and users at every level from a basis introduction to the Web to advanced courses such as authoring in HTML. Netskills is also producing a great deal of training documentation which will be made available and can be taken and applied by other trainers.

However, cultural change is clearly much more than skills training. Other projects look at educational qualifications for librarians (EDULIB), and the impact on people of the electronic library (IMPEL2).


Copyright is an issue for many eLib projects in many of the programme areas. As yet, there are no definitive solutions to the problems of copyright and delivery of information electronically. The On Demand Publishing Projects and the new Electronic Short Loan collections projects deal most directly with copyright issues. As much of the course reading material required by students is copyright to commercial publishing houses, many of the projects in these areas are working directly with publishers to establish a workable, scaleable model for delivery of information on-demand to students via a network. Pricing models vary from project to project and publishers; views differ on how best to ensure copyright payments are made. The two most common pricing models are a fee per printed page model or a model based on an annual payment by the institution.

An eLib project based at De Montfort (ERCOMS), has been funded to develop a copyright management system based on previous work for the ELINOR Electronic Library project. The system is intended to provide a mechanism for both copyright monitoring and publisher feedback for electronic library/reserve development in the UK HE sector.

The eLib programme also funded the LITC at South Bank University to produce a scoping study on Copyright Management Technologies.

Through work in eLib dialogue and discussion between JISC and the publishers (particularly through the Publishers Association) has been significantly enhanced. A very successful series of joint Working Parties was established to consider and report on areas of concern in customised or on-demand publishing. The groups worked in 4 different areas: clearance mechanisms, licencing agreements, fair dealing and preservation.

eLib Phase 3

As a continuation of the work in the eLib projects, JISC will also be funding a series of new projects ( JISC Circular 3/97 and JISC Circular 5/97 ) which seek to integrate learning and outcomes of the initial eLib project portfolio. These projects are scheduled to begin in the autumn of 1997. The work will be in 3 different areas:

Hybrid Libraries
World-wide there have been a large number of electronic, digital or virtual library projects, which are producing a wide range of alternative technologies. The eLib programme itself has contributed to the options available. The challenge now is to bring together technologies from these new developments, plus other electronic products and services already in libraries, and the traditional functions of local, physical libraries, into well organised, accessible "hybrid libraries".

There are few if any exemplars of good practice for the hybrid library. Conspicuously, there is, as yet no useful model of what one should expect from an integrated "hybrid" library service.

JISC plans to tackle both these issues through eLib, by funding a small number of exemplar or pilot hybrid library development projects, integrating a wide range of traditional and new library resources as seamlessly as possible. These projects may incorporate results and work from a very wide range of electronic library developments, including eLib projects, projects from the European Telematics and other programmes, and American or other national development projects. Commercial products available from publishers and other suppliers will also play a key role.

Large Scale Resource Discovery
The UK's higher education libraries contain an incomparable set of scholarly bibliographic resources. At present the access to and exploitation of these resources by our community, other than at a local level, is patchy. The Anderson report points out the impossibility of all institutions (or even any one) building adequate research collections, and the increasing imperative to share resources, particularly at a regional level. The report highlights the need to network library OPACs into "clumps" of OPACS as part of this. Work with the Z39.50 retrieval protocol is an important step toward this goal and this has been explored through the MODELS project's workshop series.

Many libraries have required Z39.50 targets in their re-equipment specifications, but have often found little use for them in practice. One of the aims in this programme area is to kick-start a critical mass of use of Z39.50, through funding a small number of pilot projects.

Preservation of digital materials is an important concern for the eLib programme. The Programme office is working in close co-operation with the British Library (through the National Preservation Office) to develop a way forward in this increasingly complex area. The eLib Programme hosted a workshop with British Library Research and Innovation Centre in the autumn of 1995, the report of which is now available from the British Library and from the eLib web pages.

eLib Phase 3 will also provide funding for a small number of pilot preservation projects to explore issues in this area.

Related activities

Other recommendations in the Follett report have generated related activities. These include:

Follett Lectures
A national programme of lectures on electronic library issues by national and international experts has been established, organised by UKOLN. Information and summaries of the lectures are available from UKOLN.

National Strategy for Research Support
One important follow-up activity to the libraries review was the Anderson Report - an investigation into the needs of libraries in support of research. The Anderson Report and deliberations within JISC's subcommittees both suggest that national access to the nation's scholarly heritage is critical. This requires a national scales bibliographic resource with holdings information. JISC hopes to develop this as a distributed database starting from the base of the CURL and British Library OPACs.

In this context, the Bryant Report which recommends retrospective conversion of up to 28 million catalogue records, is important although implementation is unclear.

The Anderson Report also begins to develop the idea of the National Distributed Electronic Resource, which would allow collections of excellence to be identified and further developed in the national interest. The programme of work under eLib Phase 3 Large Scale Resource Discovery will provide some essential building blocks toward access to the UK's scholarly resource on a national scale.

Non Formula Funding - Archives and Special Collections
About 10 million pounds million has been allocated to a substantial set of projects supporting archives and special collections. The programme is co-ordinated through King's College, London. eLib organised a workshop for the archives community which will result in substantial work on standards and national finding aids. A national network demonstrator for archives is currently underway which will provide a test bed for the UK archives to link their catalogues using the Z39.50 search and retrieve protocol.

National Site Licensing of Journals
The funding councils have funded a pilot national site license for journals from 3 publishers. The agreement includes Blackwell, Blackwell Science, Academic Press and the Institute of Physics Publishers. These licences provide enhanced rights and discounted prices for the paper versions and low cost access to electronic versions for subscribers.

Arts and Humanities Data Service
The mandate of Arts and Humanities Data Service is to collect, preserve, catalogue, and distribute electronic resources which are of interest to humanities scholars. It also plans to document and promote standards and good practices of use to data archivists, digital librarians, and data creators. The Service consists of an Executive based at King's College London, and a number of discipline-based service providers for archaeology (York University), literary and linguist studies (Oxford University Computing Service), historical studies (the Data Archive, Essex University), the performing arts (Glasgow University) and the visual arts (Surrey Institute of Art and Design).

Links with other bodies

The programme has links with a significant number of other bodies including other JISC committees and subcommittees, the British Library (particularly the Research and Innovation Centre), the UK Office for Library and Information Networking (UKOLN) which is joint funded by JISC and BLRIC and hopes to work closely with the Library and Information Commission.

Internationally eLib has established links with various projects from the European Commission (DG XIII)'s Telematics for Libraries Programme and continues to nurture communication with the EC. The programme has close ties with the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) LINK in the United States and has already participated in a joint conference with CNI and related US affiliates. In addition the programme seeks to establish good relations with the Australian National Priority (Reserve) Library projects, and has one joint project with them (JEDDS) and with the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) - LINK. There is also significant interest and links developing in Scandinavia, Germany and Holland.


Ariadne is an eLib electronic journal providing up to date information on eLib and the world of Electronic Libraries in general. Ariadne can be found at

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The Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib) was funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)
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