Chapter 4 - The Management of Library and Information Services
in the Institutions
- Given the importance of information provision in higher education
institutions, its effective management is essential. This chapter
discusses the place of the library and of its staff in the work of the
institutions whose activities they support, and how this needs to be
reassessed. It also considers three areas where the Review Group
considers that specific action will bring valuable benefits. These are:
strategic planning, and the context in which this needs to take place;
the development and use of performance indicators; and staff management.
It makes recommendations aimed primarily at institutions themselves, but
which are also in part directed at the funding bodies.
The Future of Information Provision
- Libraries have always been amongst the most important providers of
information in higher education. They have acted as storehouses of
written or printed material, and it has been their job to collect it,
preserve it, and make it accessible. These traditional media, and the
role of libraries in making them available, will continue.
- At the same time, with the emergence of the new media for storing,
accessing, and transmitting information noted in chapter three,
information provision in higher education has undergone many changes in
the last 20 years. The present position is one of rapid development in
the technology and management of information provision within
institutions, and in the role of libraries in helping to make such
- The traditional view of the "library" as the sole repository and
supplier of information needed to support teaching, learning and
research is no longer adequate. Those working in higher education, as
elsewhere, are increasingly faced with multiple sources of information,
and many different ways of gaining access to them. The precise location
of information will depend on many factors, including history, geography
and resources, but given the variety of ways of storing information even
the notion of "location" will in many cases need to change. Everywhere,
the emphasis will shift away from the library as a place, away from the
books and periodicals it holds, and towards the information to which it
can provide access. Information management will be directed towards
giving access to information rather than storing it, and it will be
possible to provide access to it in many different ways.
- In these circumstances, each institution's information provision
will differ, depending on the nature of its activities, on its inherited
provision, and on other factors. Some institutions will meet the needs
of their users by providing access to information most of which is
physically located elsewhere. This can be characterised as moving from a
"holdings" to an "access" strategy, with access provided in many
different ways. To the user, the place where data is held will be
relatively unimportant. Other institutions will be major suppliers of
information which is located within the institution, and their position
will be very different. Most institutions will fall between these
extremes, combining internal and external sources of information to meet
the particular needs of their staff and students.
- It is important that each institution should reassess its own
position. A balance will need to be struck between meeting information
needs from within the institution, and meeting them externally. The
Review Group does not seek to prescribe a single approach to these
issues which can be applied across all institutions. There is no single
model of a future library or information service which can or should be
imposed on individual institutions or libraries within them. However, at
the heart of this chapter is the recommendation that each institution
should fundamentally reassess the way it plans and provides for the
information needs of those working within it, and the place of the
library in meeting these needs. This will be central to the development
of the information strategy discussed in the next section. The Review
Group thus recommends should undertake a review of the position of its
library in this context.
- Taking account of the issues discussed above, all institutions
should develop a clear strategy for meeting their information needs.
This section discusses some of the issues which the Review Group
believes should be considered in developing this strategy.
- The UFC and the PCFC asked institutions to submit strategic plans
in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the new funding councils have
recently invited institutions to present their current strategic plans,
revised in the light of recent developments affecting higher education.
- In seeking these plans from institutions the funding councils have
recognised that their compilation, set in the context of each
institution's broad objectives, is an important means of providing a
clear direction and purpose to its work. In general, they have accepted
that institutions will adopt their own approach, but they have
identified particular areas in which they have a direct interest, and
have asked that these be clearly identified within the institution's
strategic plan. Areas of council interest which have been so identified
include staffing, physical resources, financial planning, and quality
assurance. No explicit attention has however been given by the funding
councils to library and information services, nor to teaching and
learning support in general. It is also clear from reviewing those
strategic plans recently submitted by institutions that library and
related information services are rarely given prominence in them, or
treated distinctly. The planning of libraries is, on the contrary,
usually disaggregated into fragmentary elements.
- Against this background, the Review Group believes that both the
funding bodies and institutions should pay much closer attention to
strategic planning in relation to ries in higher education. The benefits
are several, and in particular:
- A clear statement of aims and the methods by which they are to be
met will be available for both managers and users of the library.
- This will help institutional management and teaching departments to
ensure that the proportion of their recurrent budget which is assigned
to the library will be sufficient to enable it to fulfil the roles
required of it: in other words, the inputs required should be determined
once the objectives and expected outputs of the library have been
- A further advantage is that such planning should foster closer and
better relationships between those responsible for the planning and
management of library and information services on the one hand, and
those responsible for other aspects of institutional management on the
other. In some institutions, such co-operation and integration is
already well developed and highly effective, but in others the
relationship between senior management as a whole, and the management of
library and information services, is less effective.
- The development of an integrated information strategy should take
account of a wide range of factors, and will depend on the circumstances
of each institution. Whatever the approach taken, the strategy should
pay particular attention to defining the needs of various groups of
library users, to the performance measures and indicators which the
institution believes are appropriate, to quality assurance and
assessment, and to the management of staff and physical resources.
- A decision will also be needed on who should be responsible for the
delivery of information services. In some institutions recent
organisational changes have involved convergence" under a single
managerial structure of library and other support services such as
audio-visual and computing services. The aim has been to achieve
organisational and managerial integration between library and other
services as the best way of ensuring their functional integration and
improved co-ordination in planning. Other institutions have concluded
that similar operational compatibility can best be achieved without
managerial or organisational convergence.
- The Review Group considers that there are many advantages in
organisational convergence, particularly in enabling an integrated
information strategy to develop. While it must be for each individual
institution to decide which approach it wishes to take it is important
that these organisational issues are addressed, and that the place of
the library and of other information providers is assessed within the
context of an overall information management strategy.
- Other areas to which attention should be given in planning an
integrated information strategy include:
- Resource allocation: is there a clear and effective mechanism for
translating the library's objectives into the allocation of resources
needed to meet them? How are decisions arrived at in cases where there
is a funding shortfall? How are decisions taken as to levels of spending
on books and periodicals as distinct from staff?
- Liaison in course design and planning: has the library been
involved in these processes from an early stage? Have the demands which
courses and students are to make on the library been clearly defined?
Have adequate resources been made available to meet them?
- The role of the librarian: he or she is both a professional in his
or her own right, and also the provider of a support service for those
engaged in teaching and research. he librarian is responsible for
managing one of the single most important services in the institution,
and is well placed to provide a strategic view.
- Acquisitions and disposals policy: are those involved in teaching
and research being involved at an early stage in both general and
subject-specific aspects of library acquisitions policies? Are lecturers
liaising effectively with the library over reading lists, the management
of short term collections, and other matters? Is there a clear policy
for the management of disposals, and how is this organised?
- These examples merely identify some of the areas on which an
integrated information strategy should focus. Regardless of its
management structure, each institution should seek to promote the
co-ordinated planning of all its teaching and learning resources,
bringing those responsible for library and information services into
this work. This requires each institution to review its practice and
procedures in this area. In addition, whatever the organisation of
information services, the senior person responsible for these should
take a leading role in the senior management of the institution. In
some, it may be appropriate for the librarian to take this role but in
others where organisational structures are different, this will not be
- Accordingly the Review Group recommends that:
- The funding councils should request a component dealing
specifically with library and related services within the overall
strategic planning information which they periodically seek from
- This component should be based on an institution's own information
strategy. This should aim to foster integration with other aspects of
the institution's work, and in particular the planning of its other
resources. It should incorporate the conclusions of review recommended
in paragraph 84, and cover the organisational and managerial issues
discussed in this section.
- The senior person responsible for these should take a leading role
in the management of the institution.
Levels of Library Spending within the Institution
- One of the main concerns expressed by librarians and publishers in
recent years has been about the decline in average library spending per
capita, and the decline in the proportion of recurrent income spent on
- The 1967 Parry report (sections 599-604. See also note in paragraph
35) looked at the level of library expenditure made by institutions, and
on the basis of an illustrative model provided by SCONUL suggested that
in order to provide "facilities...comparable to those which exist in
other developed countries" annual library expenditure would need to
represent "approximately six per cent of the total university
expenditure" (this figure related to acquisitions and staff costs only,
and does not appear to take account of space costs).
- The Parry report noted that this figure represented a significant
increase on the then average expenditure of approximately 3.8 per cent
per annum. The report qualified its discussion of the six per cent model
figure by stating: "The decision on the library budget must be made by
each institution for itself in the light of its own circumstances, and
central regulation would not be desirable or practical." Nonetheless,
the figure was influential in the later 1960s and early 1970s, both in
the then university sector (to which the report was addressed), and also
in the emerging polytechnic and college sector.
- The Review Group has considered whether the use of a similar model,
and the production of a similar norm, would be helpful in present
circumstances. Perhaps even more strongly than Parry, it has concluded
that spending norms of this kind would not be useful or appropriate.
- There are several reasons for this conclusion. In the first place,
it would be necessary to define precisely to what provision and what
categories of spending any such norm related. Given the current pace of
change in information provision, and the different strategies adopted by
different institutions in meeting their needs, it is not obvious that a
simple norm would serve any useful purpose. It would be necessary at the
very least to develop a number of different norms, to reflect the
considerable diversity within the higher education system. At the time
Parry wrote, this diversity was much less marked.
- In addition, for the funding councils to set norms of this kind in
respect of library services would undermine the principle that recurrent
funding is provided as a block grant, and would undermine the
flexibility of local management to respond to their own circumstances.
The value of the block grant as a means of giving local institutional
management the flexibility and independence they require to manage their
institutions effectively should not be underestimated.
- The Review Group is also disinclined to set standards which relate
to input measures rather than outputs or performance. In determining the
level of spending which needs to be made on library services (either
recurrent or capital), institutions need to take into account a wide
range of factors. The Review Group has felt it much more helpful to
enumerate some of these, than to set prescriptive standards for input.
- The Review Group recommends, therefore, that each institution
should continue to be responsible for deciding the level of spending it
makes on its library services.
- Decisions on spending should be closely related to the library's
overall aims and to its specific objectives as set out in the strategic
planning statements discussed above. The Review Group recommends that
each institution should, as a matter of high priority, review overall
library spending and the balance between its different elements in the
light of the library's strategic objectives, and bearing in mind in
particular the following factors:
- The performance of its library judged against an appropriate set of
performance indicators (see paragraphs 108-116 below).
- The organisational and managerial structure in which its library
- The requirements of the library's users, both students and teaching
staff, and those undertaking research.
- The medium and longer term needs of the library as reflected in the
institution's strategic plans.
- The current quality of library provision, as reflected either
through quality assessments by the funding councils, or the
institution's own quality assurance and audit processes.
- Supply side factors, and in particular prices of books, periodicals
and other media.
- The library's equipment needs, both in terms of conventional
equipment and needs arising from the use of information technology.
Institutional Resource Allocation Methods
- The Review Group also considered whether it wished to make any
specific recommendations on the methods which institutions should adopt
in allocating and determining the level of their library budgets (as
distinct from the levels themselves).
- Responses gathered by the LISU survey confirm that there is
considerable diversity in how these matters are dealt with in different
institutions. In some cases, the level of library spending is largely
determined centrally, with little role for academic departments. In
other cases, departments themselves have responsibility for deciding
what proportion of their own funding should be devoted to library
provision, and such models may involve the principle of academic
departments "buying" library services from the central library. There
are many variations on these models, with, for instance, differential
involvement by departments and faculties in decisions on how to allocate
acquisitions and materials budgets between different subjects, and in
some cases formulae (often based on student numbers) are adopted. It is
not however clear that such devolved models necessarily result in
increases in resources available for libraries, and they can create
additional administrative work.
- Diversity in this area is legitimate. What is important is that
resource allocation methods and decision making on library spending
should be both transparent and such as to foster clear accountability.
The two principles usually go hand in hand. In cases where the reasons
for decisions and the methods by which they were arrived at can be seen
clearly, it is much more likely that they will be accepted as
- The Review Group has sought to emphasise the importance of
effective library and information services in supporting teaching and
research in higher education. It follows that there should be clear
means of establishing how effective a library is in meeting its defined
aims. In addition the effectiveness of library and information services
provision should be an important aspect in the assessment of the quality
- Librarians have long had means of obtaining feedback from their
users and have usually been closely attuned to the needs of both
students and academic staff. The role of library committees,
newsletters, and library annual reports has been valuable here. In
addition, much effort has recently been devoted to establishing
performance indicators (PIs) against which the activity of higher
education institutions can be measured and judged, and which enable an
institution to compare its own performance against its targets and
against the performance of others. In the case of libraries, a
considerable amount of background work has been undertaken by SCONUL and
COPOL, and the Review Group has benefited from having had access to this
- Only limited attention was paid to library PIs by the joint
CVCP/UFC committee which published successive annual editions of
management statistics and performance indicators. Similarly the library
management statistics published in those volumes were of broad value in
providing time series, but of very much less use for qualitative and
comparative purposes. More recently, the new Joint Funding Councils'
Performance Indicators Working Group has similarly been unable to give
libraries explicit attention.
- The Review Group has concluded that a coherent and generic set of
performance indicators for libraries should be developed as soon as
possible. It thus recommends that further development work should be
undertaken immediately in consultation between the Joint Funding
Councils' Performance Indicators Working Group and SCONUL and COPOL, o
account the following discussion which proposes a framework to assist in
- In establishing sensible performance indicators, there is
inevitably a tension between the desire to have a small number of simple
indicators which can be employed in all libraries, and the need for
these to be reliable, consistent and thorough. In practice, developing
adequate performance indicators will require a range of different
measures to be combined, not all of which will be appropriate in each
case, and will also require the use of judgement, including that of
users (both students and staff), funding bodies, and librarians. In this
sense performance indicators are intended to prompt questions as much as
provide answers. Given the heterogeneity of higher education
institutions, it should also be emphasised that the extent to which
individual indicators are applicable to different institutions will
- Inevitably, there has been a tendency to use as indicators,
measures which rely on data which are easy to collect and manipulate. In
addition, relatively little attention has been paid to qualitative
measures, or to output measures, but indicators which fail to take such
factors into account will be inadequate and misleading.
- In drawing up a range of generic performance indicators, the
following are amongst the most important factors which need to be taken
- indicators are required by different bodies for different reasons,
and those required, for instance, by external funding agencies may be
different from those required by internal management or users.
Indicators therefore need to be fit for the purpose for which they are
- indicators should nevertheless be developed using a framework based
on a common set of data, which can be combined in various ways to
provide different indicators for different audiences;
- indicators must cover economy, value for money, and quantity, but
they should also cover quality and effectiveness, and be much more
concerned with output than many of those used in the past;
- indicators must allow for the major differences in size, history,
purpose and clientele between different libraries.
- Performance indicators should be related to the aims of the
individual institutions, and within these, to those of the library. The
development of performance indicators should therefore be seen in the
context of the Review Group's recommendations concerning strategic
planning and the integration of library and other management functions
within individual institutions. In many cases, institutions will wish to
choose indicators to fit the strategic aims and objectives which they
have set for their institution and its library and information services.
- A proposed framework for the development of generic performance
indicators is included at annex C. This draws substantially on work
already undertaken by SCONUL and COPOL. The Review Group endorses this
general approach as an important starting point, and recommends that the
Joint Performance Indicators Working Group should use this as a basis
for further work.
- It also recommends that each institution should draw on the results
of this work in making use of performance indicators in its own internal
Staff Management in Libraries
- Expenditure on salaries and wages has consistently accounted for
over half the total library expenditure in UK higher education
institutions. The figures for both the former UFC sector, and the former
English PCFC sector, are very similar, and throughout the last ten years
library spending on staff has regularly accounted for between 53 per
cent and 58 per cent of total expenditure (see figure 11).
- These average figures disguise considerable variations in the
proportion of spending on staff between different institutions. There
are many reasons for such variations, including for instance the
proportion of effort devoted to in-house binding, conservation,
cataloguing and other activities. Similarly, the balance of spending
will in part depend more generally on the role and objectives of each
individual library. For example, a library tending towards an access
rather than a holdings strategy will be likely to spend more of its
budget on staff. Nevertheless, given the large amounts of money
involved, the Review Group recommends that each institution should
review whether the balance between spending on staff and other elements
is appropriate in its own circumstances.
- Whatever the proportion of libraries' spending on staff, their
effectiveness is central to the functions of a successful library.
Senior librarians should be able to apply skills which are appropriate
to other senior managers involved in financial, strategic, and staff
management. They should be involved in planning information provision as
a whole, and be able to liaise effectively with teaching staff over
matters such as acquisitions, resource allocation, and the management of
short loan collections. Above all, librarians should not allow their
distinct professional identity to isolate them from other aspects of
institutional management, for which they may need appropriate training.
- The importance of the training and management of library staff has
grown in recent years for several reasons. The ratio of students to
professional library staff has ily increased in the last ten years (see
figure 12). To some extent the growth in student numbers has been
catered for by an increase in the number of junior library staff, but
staff in libraries are now working in an environment which on average
has almost 70 per cent more users than in 1986-87.
- Changes in the organisation of teaching and learning have also led
to changes in what is required of library staff. Subject librarians,
enquiry desk staff, and others need to be able to play an active role in
supporting students in their teaching and learning, including providing
guidance in how to use the facilities provided by a library, through to
subject-specific advice on project work and source materials.
- There is evidence to suggest that changes in the requirements
placed on library staff stem also from the changing nature of the
student population, and the demands which certain types of students
typically place on library staff. Many mature students now arrive in
higher education with little recent experience of information and study
skills, and (in the case of part time students) with little time
available to acquire them. Partly as a result of these trends, the LISU
survey suggested that there had been an increase of over 50 per cent in
staff time since 1986-87 spent on training and teaching users in
- Finally, failure to provide staff with adequate training and to
deploy them effectively represents one of the single most important
constraints on change and development in library and information
provision, and can seriously undermine its effectiveness, especially
when this depends on the implementation of new practices, or on
- Because of the importance of these issues, the Review Group
commissioned a study of staff management in academic libraries, with the
aim of clarifying the issues and establishing areas where change and
development were required. The resulting report, entitled "Supporting
Expansion", produced by the John Fielden Consultancy, is being published
separately from this report. The Consultants' report is aimed at
institutional management, professional bodies, and the funding councils,
and its findings and recommendations are discussed in the remainder of
- The work undertaken by the consultants confirmed that a range of
developments were changing the demands placed on university librarians,
requiring a broader range of skills from them. The principal area where
the study expected further major change was "learner support" - the
activities within a library/information service which support individual
learners. This includes education and training for library users,
training in information management, and other forms of support in the
use and manipulation of information.
- The report reveals that whilst some institutions have made
considerable progress in improving their library and information staff
development programmes, a very large number have not. Some areas of
training have also been given inadequate attention - training for
managers at all levels falls into this category.
- In considering the various possibilities identified in the report
entitled "Supporting Expansion" for promoting improved training and
awareness for library staff, the Review Group has considered the most
appropriate division of responsibility between institutions and their
representative bodies on the one hand, and the funding councils on the
other. In particular, a number of the recommendations in the
consultant's report concerning job evaluation, grading systems, and
staff development initiatives which were addressed to the funding
councils cover areas where the councils do not have any competence or
powers. Responsibility for implementing change and development in this
area lies with individual institutions themselves, and with collective
bodies such as SCONUL, COPOL and the HCLRG, together with the CVCP and
SCOP, and in particular the CVCP's Staff Development and Training Unit.
- The Review Group therefore recommends that the report prepared by
the John Fielden Consultancy should be referred to the CVCP and SCOP,
who should be asked to consider whether and if so how its specific
recommendations might be implemented.
- Universities and colleges are collectively the most important
national purchasers of academic books and periodicals, spending almost
70 million a year on books and periodicals. Although when compared with
the US market UK purchasing power is small, within this country higher
education institutions have a potentially powerful role as buyers, and
there is arguably significant scope for negotiated price discounts.
- University purchasing consortia are already well developed and in
many other areas have achieved substantial price discounts. Good
examples are software licensing and purchase, and hardware purchases,
where regional purchasing consortia and the CHEST organisation based at
Bath University have negotiated very successful arrangements.
- Many aspects of university purchasing policy and practice were
recently reviewed by the CVCP, and these showed that universities were
making valuable gains from collective and individual discount
arrangements. A general guide to university purchasing was published in
October 1993 (Purchasing in Higher Education - a Directory, ed JD Bell,
CVCP, 1993), which aimed to provide institutions with information about
discounts available from suppliers, and to inform potential suppliers
about the university market. As regards library purchasing, the Southern
Universities Purchasing Consortium has recently examined the procurement
of library materials, and has looked in particular at library related
software and systems technology.
- In general however, significant discounts on books and periodicals
have not been obtained. This is in part because of limitations imposed
by the net book agreement, but even in the case of periodicals the
discounts gained from major suppliers are minimal - of the order of one
or two per cent.
- The use of purchasing consortia has enabled some very modest
savings to be made in the cost of purchasing periodicals. The Review
Group recommends that the CVCP's Purchasing Unit should investigate the
scope for further co-operative purchasing of library materials in
appropriate circumstances, while recognising both the importance of
taking account of the substantial service element in the supply of
periodicals and the need to maintain the element of competition between
suppliers. It is important, however, to make every effort to break the
cycle whereby higher prices lead to cancellations and thus to even