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HYLIFE - Hybrid Libraries of the Future

Project web site

Programme area
Hybrid Libraries

Contact details
Angelina Hutton

Project description

as of 16th April 1998


The project is about how best to deliver the mixture of print and electronic services likely to be required of higher education libraries in the foreseeable future.

The project will use widely available standard technologies, moving with the mainstream current as new developments become standard. The demonstrator interfaces, which will form the core of the project, will be open and system-independent and will take a two-stage approach with a Web interface initially providing access to a range of services including the library catalogue, then moving on to provide Z39.50 capability as a development of the Web interface.


The project will tackle how to integrate delivery of large-scale, print and electronic services behind an electronic interface. The focus will be on users and on organisational, social and educational issues rather than technology. Development will be iterative with users involved throughout the development phases. Evaluation and dissemination will be a major focus of the project. One of the research questions is how the boundaries of what libraries deliver will change. The HYLIFE project will seek to establish, test and evaluate a knowledge of operating practices for the "hybrid library" which can then be disseminated to the wider HE community.

HYLIFE will develop a series of customer oriented electronic interfaces which give access to electronic and print services and are economically maintained. The electronic and print services will be the real services of the test sites. There will be a generic, cross-project research strand which will seek to incorporate good practice in hybrid library interface design and implementation.

A wide range of client groups will be involved in the project including full and part-time students, researchers, users in distributed environments and various subject groupings. These users will be chosen initially from the partner institutions. Six implementation interfaces will be developed during the life of the project. These are:

  • a conventional student interface serving full and part-time undergraduate students in Geography
  • a franchise college interface (college groups in the North and South, many part-time)
  • a research interface for researchers in Regional and Economic Development
  • a remote user interface in Business Studies
  • a practitioner/student interface in Heath Studies (many part-time participants)
  • a distributed user interface


  • A conceptual and practical library service model and "Toolkit of Techniques" which accommodates print, electronic and other sources and focuses on the needs of different user groups so as to simplify the increasingly confusing choice of information sources.
  • Demonstrator software implementations, including Z39.50 compatibility.
  • Several specific subject- and user group- focused implementations which have been tested and evaluated from technical, organisational social and educational viewpoints.
  • Definition of the core user requirements for such services and the critical technical, organisational, social and educational parameters for effective end-user services.
  • Guidance on how to handle these requirements to deliver an integrated service, presented as an accessible report introducing readers to the project, its experience and its conclusions.
  • Energetic dissemination programme of project findings as they arise, including a Web site, a newsletter, public seminar and sessions at appropriate national and international conferences.


The project will be co-directed by the University of Northumbria at Newcastle and The Centre for Research in Library and Information Management (CERLIM). At Northumbria the project involves both the Information Services Department (ISD), which delivers institutional Library, IT and Corporate Planning services, and the Department of Information and Library Management (DILM) which is the teaching and research department. The Project also involves the Library and Learning Resource Services at the University of Central Lancashire.

The other higher education partners are the University of Newcastle (the Library and a large research group, the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies), and the learning resource services at the University of Plymouth and the University of the Highlands and Islands Project. All the partners have strong interests in distance learning and remote access. HYLIFE has undertakings of technical input from BLCMP and Ovid Technologies. The project runs for three years from January 1998. HYLIFE will in due course invite involvement in testing from the 23 institutions who have been involved in the eLib IMPEL2 project, as well as from other institutions which wish to be involved.

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