Follett Report

Chapter 5 - Libraries and Teaching Provision


Chapter three of this report set out some of the main concerns about the current state of library provision in support of teaching in higher education. These relate mainly to the changing nature and the increasing volume of demand being placed on libraries, with consequential pressures on both space (especially study space and reader seats), and stock - books, periodicals, and other materials.
This chapter considers library provision in support of teaching, taking account of the recommendations in chapter four concerning strategic planning, staff management, and the use of performance indicators.

Importance of Library Services for Teaching

The importance of the support provided by the library service to students and teaching staff is amply borne out by two recent surveys. The first is the Quality in Higher Education (QHE) Total Student Experience survey report on "Total Student Experience", published in September 1992. This assessed, by means of a questionnaire to both students and staff, the most important factors contributing to quality, across all subject areas and types of institution. Of a total of 111 criteria identified, no less than three of the top five related to library and allied services. In particular, adequate access to library facilities (in terms of both time and location); adequate resourcing of libraries to cater for the needs of students and teaching staff; and adequate staffing and IT facilities, were all highlighted by the study.
These results are reinforced by the preliminary findings of a separate study being conducted by the Centre of Higher Education Studies (CHES) at the University of London n the conditions needed for high quality undergraduate teaching. Once again, adequate library facilities emerge as one of the single most important factors.
If recent work emphasises the importance of libraries in support of teaching, almost all available data shows increasing use of and demands on these facilities. Some of the data collected through the LISU study on behalf of the Review Group may be taken to illustrate this trend, as summarised in figure 2. For instance, the survey suggests that between 1986-87 and 1991-92 the overall volume of lending has on average risen by 38 per cent, with the volume of reservations rising by no less than 97 per cent. Demand is also growing for other reasons, many of which were discussed in chapter three.
In meeting these demands libraries have undoubtedly achieved a great deal in recent years. Some have re-examined their management and resource allocation methods, and have adopted highly successful strategies - for example introducing service-level agreements with teaching departments, with careful targeting of resources to meet defined user needs. In many cases, as the LISU survey made clear, a great deal of development has taken place in the introduction of new information technology.
The Review Group has however identified several areas where there is scope for further improvement or for action by the funding councils. These are discussed below.

Needs and Responsibilities of Teaching Staff

Effective co-operation between teaching staff and the library is vital if both students and their teachers are to obtain the full benefit of the library service. In order to achieve this, teachers must play a part in ensuring that their own needs and those of their students are properly communicated to and understood by library staff. This point was made in the Parry Report in 1967 (see, for instance, Parry Report Chapter is still insufficiently applied.
Many problems arise because of confused and insufficiently integrated flows of information about what material is required by students and how they should find such material, whether from the library service, the campus book shop, or the lecturer's shelf. Traditionally this material has comprised books and journals, but increasingly it includes a mix of print and other media, such as database access, video clips, newspaper articles, as well as off prints and lecturers' notes. In many cases, where teachers make their own decisions about materials which they consider important to a course, there is rarely a systematic mechanism to ensure that these decisions are translated into service delivery, nor to monitor actual student use of such materials. The LISU survey also suggested that sufficient thought is not always given to how far students are expected to meet their reading needs through buying books, and how far through resort to library resources.
One way of overcoming some of these problems would be to provide a single database of reading list material for each course, to which students, lecturers, library staff, and relevant book shops would have access. If fully developed, such a database would enable students to gain information about recommended reading, and whether it was available in the library or the book shop; lecturers would no longer need to provide their reading lists separately to students, the library, and the book shop; whilst the database could also be used to monitor use of the various options for obtaining material.
Although there can never be a universal solution the Review Group recommends that some demonstrator projects should be funded through the JISC along these lines, to illustrate how the integration of bibliographic information can benefit teachers, students, librarians, publishers and booksellers.
More generally, it is important that systematic planning between library and ng staff is seen as a responsibility of the institution, and not simply of individual staff working in isolation. With the advent of opportunities for computer-based learning, stimulated in UK higher education by initiatives such as the CTI subject-based resource centres and the TLTP programme, ad hoc approaches are even less adequate. The library as a resource base for independent learning should be a partner in course delivery, and its management co-ordinated with the general planning of teaching and learning within the institution.
The Review Group thus recommends that as part of their overall information planning, institutions should ensure that there is effective co-ordination between teaching staff and those responsible for the library and related provision; and that clear mechanisms exist to implement and monitor this co-ordination.
The Group also recommends that the existence of these procedures should be taken into account in quality audits undertaken by the HEQC and the teaching quality assessments made by the funding councils.

Current Funding Arrangements: Teaching

At present, most institutions provide resources for the teaching elements of their library and information services from the general income which comes to them in the form of block grant and fees. In neither case is there any explicit or earmarked element to cover library and related costs.
The Review Group considered whether there would be advantage in recommending that the funding councils should operate a separate library related calculation in the teaching funding formula, and considered earlier examples of such approaches, including that operated by the ILEA in respect of its polytechnics in the 1970s.
The Review Group does not consider that there is any general case for departing from the block grant principle in respect of funding council teaching grant for library and related services within institutions. This does not preclude limited, carefully targeted, initiatives to promote particular areas of development or to sustain aspects of provision which cannot be supported by individual institutions from within their block grant. However in most cases it must be sensible to place responsibility for assessing resource needs at local institutional level, on the basis that it is institutions themselves who can best judge these needs. Any more centralised approach would immediately run up against difficulties of inflexibility and insensitivity.
Bearing in mind the recommendation in paragraph 103, the Review Group thus recommends that funding council resources to provide for libraries in support of teaching and learning should continue to be allocated through the block grant, and that each institution should remain responsible for distributing these funds internally. This reflects the important principle that responsibility for ensuring that the library needs of students and staff lies with their host institution; each institution may find various ways of discharging that responsibility, but it is clear where it lies.

Additional Needs and Additional Resources

On the evidence of developments already taking place and in spite of the undoubted achievements of many libraries in recent years, there is scope for improving the management and delivery of library services with the resources currently available, provided there is effective planning and definition of objectives and priorities. These points were discussed in chapter four.
Nevertheless, the Review Group believes that there are also some problems which not be addressed without further resources. Chapter three has already discussed increasing pressure on resources, and the Review Group has identified two particular pressure points which, while not equally intense in every institution, are nevertheless widely felt throughout the sector.


Widespread concern was reported in returns to the LISU survey about the pressure on space for readers in many libraries. It is, of course, difficult to quantify the precise scale of the problems nationally: apart from anything else, the definition of what space should be taken into account is not straightforward given the wide range of different services provided by libraries, and their development in recent years. The LISU survey has nevertheless provided some valuable data on space issues which are sufficiently robust to support the conclusion that there are major pressures on space in the system as a whole.
The nature and the extent of the problem varies from one institution to another, but the cumulative picture is clear. The total number of library seats available for readers was virtually unchanged between 1986-87 and 1991-92 (the period covered by the LISU survey). Over the same period, there was a 40 per cent growth in FTE student numbers. Growth has continued since, and in 1993-94 numbers are approximately 70 per cent higher than in 1986-87.
Other space which might be suitable as an alternative in some cases only increased by a very small amount over this same period. The LISU data show that in the five years to 1991-92, there were only very modest increases of (on average) 1.2 per cent a year in the number of seats available in seminar rooms and in the number of seats with IT equipment associated with them. In any case simply placing a group of students in a oom and expecting them to be able to undertake the same kind of work as they could in a library is unrealistic. This is especially so in cases where students need to use books or other materials (including software, resource packs and non-book media) which have restrictions on how far, or for how long, they may be taken out of the library itself. Taken with the developing patterns of demand discussed above, these data strongly suggest a worsening shortfall with potentially serious effects on teaching and learning quality.
The statistical data are reinforced by the qualitative responses to the LISU survey. A majority of the respondents (57 per cent in all) cited shortages of space, seating, and accommodation for users and stock as being the single most important problem which they expected to encounter in the next five years. This was evident in all types of institution; 72 per cent of specialist colleges and 70 per cent of education and general colleges cited this as a problem, as did 65 per cent of pre-1992 universities and 50 per cent of post-1992 universities. Only in the case of large and postgraduate institutions did this seem less pressing, with only 25 per cent of such respondents stating that it would be a major problem.
A further pressure on space arises from the changing nature of the space required. For increasing numbers of readers, the traditional notion of what constitutes a reader space (viz. a table and chair with good lighting) is no longer always adequate. With growing emphasis on a more diverse range of resources to support students' learning, libraries need to redefine space needs and working practices to accommodate the needs of students for non-traditional resources (such as charts, plans, non-book media, project packs, and computer resources). Indeed, more and more courses will require group or team work on projects and students will need access to space where material being worked on can be reviewed and discussed in more than a hushed whisper.
The library should thus provide an environment where a student can work with a e of learning resources to hand, and where the environment is conducive to study. This requires, amongst other things, provision of both quiet study space and facilities for group study and discussion. It should fall to the library to provide adequate study space where students and their teachers can effectively use the resources available.
It is possible that longer opening hours can make some contribution to meeting additional space needs. The LISU survey provides some evidence of demand for longer opening hours (27 per cent of respondents cited users as demanding longer hours), and equally some evidence of reductions of opening hours as a result of pressure on resources.
With average weekly hours of opening in the range 60 to 65, it is very likely that improvements in the availability of library services can be achieved through longer opening hours. Individual circumstances will vary, and longer opening hours (even with minimal services) would require some additional investment of resources. However, the averages identified in the LISU survey fall substantially short of the recommendation of 75 hours per week made in the Australian Ross Report, 1990 (Op. cit., section 3.9, pp 55-57). Even if libraries were to open the equivalent of only 12 hours a day over a seven day week, this would represent a weekly total of 84 hours, substantially above the present levels. During term time in particular, such changes could bring valuable benefits, and although the costs would not be negligible this could offer an efficient way of providing some increase in space usage.
Institutions should consider these possibilities seriously, and the Group therefore recommends that each institution should review the opening hours of its libraries, with a view to assessing the advantages of longer opening hours, and taking advantage of these.
But overall this will not solve the space pressures identified. Most students need access to libraries during the normal working day, since it is during this period that they are on site for other purposes, and when it is most appropriate for them to use libraries. Providing late or overnight access, or extensive opening at weekends, certainly helps in some cases, but it is not always practical and certainly does not provide a complete solution. Considerations of personal safety, difficulties of using the library when full support staff and advice and information services are not available, and the practical problems of students living off campus, can all limit the added value of extended access.
A further contribution to dealing with pressure on space for readers may lie in converting storage space to seating space. The Review Group recommends that institutions should consider the scope for high density storage arrangements and the space savings this would allow. Similarly more radical stock disposal policies, aimed at enabling shelf space to be converted to reader space, should also be considered. Such approaches should be adopted where feasible, but over the system as a whole they are unlikely to solve the space problem.
The Review Group thus concludes that despite the scope for overcoming some difficulties through longer opening hours and reductions in storage space, there is clear evidence of a serious shortage of space for readers in many institutions.
The Review Group therefore recommends a flexible but closely focused development initiative concerned with space and its management. This would be a medium term programme providing funding in response to bids from HEIs, aimed in particular at helping institutions to meet the additional needs for library space which recent expansion in student numbers has created.
The Review Group estimates that the total funds required over the UK to meet alls created between 1988-89 and 1992-93 is approximately 140 million (details of how this estimate has been arrived at are contained in Annex D. It should be noted in particular that it does not take account of any shortfalls in space arising from growth before 1988, nor of the effects of containing growth in student numbers after 1992-93. Information about increases in space available relates to the period up to 1991-92, the final year covered by the LISU survey). Institutions as a whole should be expected to find two thirds of this sum, with the remaining third (approximately 50 million) being provided in the form of earmarked capital grants by the funding councils. Not all institutions will be equally able to contribute funds, and the ratio of council to institutional funding will vary for each project.
This initiative should promote the efficient use of space. Funding would be provided in support of projects to build, remodel or adapt space. In each case, institutions would be expected to contribute to total costs, but the extent of their contribution would depend on their financial circumstances, the nature of the project, and the funding councils' assessment of priorities. The initiative would also include support for the development of better space management, and the development of high density storage space. It would cover discard operations, remote stores and more flexible use of space. Those seeking funds would need to demonstrate a clear strategy for developing their library facilities, explain how needs have been assessed and indicate how the proposals will address the library's objectives. In assessing bids, the councils should pay attention to how an institution has managed its library provision in the recent past.
The funding councils should seek additional funds for this programme, but in any case the Review Group believes that this initiative should command a high priority for whatever capital resources the funding councils have available.

Stock and Materials

A second concern is how far the availability of stock and materials has kept pace with the growth in student numbers and the load on libraries arising from this.
Money to provide for books and other materials has come under increasing pressure because of the cost increases described in chapter three. This has been compounded by changes in students' book-buying practices, also noted there. This trend may be reinforced by changes in teaching methods, since in the case of modular structures where students take a series of discrete courses many different texts will be needed, making investment in textbooks by students less attractive to them.
One approach which has sought to bypass the need to provide books and other commercially published materials for undergraduate teaching has been the development of "study packs" or "customised course readers". In some institutions there is evidence that these have had a significant impact, although the pattern is variable. However, the recently concluded agreement between the CVCP and the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) which clarified the terms on which such activity could be undertaken legitimately mean that study packs will become increasingly expensive, and this often useful avenue of development may well therefore be blocked.
Another way of dealing with some of the pressures on materials is the extension of short loan collections. The definition of this term is in itself variable, but in general such collections are aimed at meeting needs for multiple copies of texts which are of central importance to an undergraduate course. The content of such a collection may change very frequently, and even when its stock remains unchanged throughout a term or an academic year, the shelf life of the material held is usually fairly short as books wear out or are superseded. To be effective, the management of short loan collections needs to be closely and carefully co-ordinated with teaching staff.
Short loan collections form an essential part of library provision for undergraduate students (particularly those in their first and second years), and all institutions should ensure that they are provided. The recurrent cost of such provision will normally consume only a modest proportion of a library's acquisitions budget, but can be highly effective in meeting students' needs. Institutions should therefore ensure that the acquisition of short loan materials is not reduced in order to protect other areas of acquisitions, particularly journal collections.
The Review Group considered whether it should recommend the immediate investment of funding council resources in an initiative to increase the provision of short loan collections. It concluded however that given their value and their existing widespread use, it should be possible for institutions to provide adequate funds from within the total resources provided to them. The Review Group recommends that each institution should review whether it is investing an appropriate proportion of its library budget in the development of such collections as part of its overall library and information strategy.

Library Networking and Collaboration in support of Teaching

One approach to dealing with pressures on space and stock might be sought in greater collaboration and resource sharing between institutions. The benefits of such arrangements vary according to the nature and extent of collaboration, but may include reduced acquisitions costs arising from co-ordinated purchasing policies, and a broadening of the range of facilities available to users from collaborating institutions.
The possibilities of co-operation between libraries in different higher education institutions, and between such libraries and those provided as part of the public library service or elsewhere, has long been a subject of discussion. The 1967 Parry pter 2), for instance, examined the value of co-operation between higher education institutions and large public libraries in support of undergraduate provision; and considered examples of collaboration between higher education libraries in areas where there was some concentration of institutions. More recently, the Australian Ross Report, 1990 (Chapter 5) also devoted considerable space to this issue, in light in particular of the Australian Government's policies for the development and amalgamation of institutions.
In the United Kingdom, there are many examples of local coordinating and networking arrangements between libraries, some involving both academic and public libraries, some simply academic ones. Such cooperation is not new. For example, the Sheffield Libraries Co-ordinating Committee has a history stretching back over 50 years, and the Newcastle arrangements began informally 20 years ago (and persist largely on this basis). In addition, in almost every part of the country there is a regional library network, sometimes informally called the "Regional Bureau" Systems of this kind include all types of libraries, but are in general dominated by public libraries. They were originally concerned primarily with inter-library lending, but some regions have recently developed a wider range of activities. Under such regional lending arrangements academic libraries tend to be substantial net lenders. There are in addition various library or local information plans (LIPs), which express in formal terms relationships between different libraries and information services.
In order to inform their discussions, representatives of the Review Group visited four metropolitan areas where different aspects of inter-library cooperation and networking were considered (these were: Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle and London. The following discussion draws on the results of these meetings, and the Group is grateful to representatives of the institutions involved for their contributions). The Group has also drawn on experience of co-operation between the Universities of Sussex and Brighton.
Participating libraries and their users can derive much benefit from cooperation. The formal statement of aims and objectives which governs the Manchester arrangements under the Consortium of Academic Libraries In Manchester (CALIM) summarises this point well by stating as a general aim: "To encourage resource sharing in the spirit of enlightened self interest". This is a powerful motive. Even so, it needs to be recognised that the benefits of such arrangements rarely extend to meeting mainstream needs of undergraduates. Many librarians are also anxious to emphasise that cooperative arrangements involve costs as well as benefits, and where these fail to balance in a broad sense, then it may be difficult to pursue cooperative arrangements in a way which will enable their benefits to be realised.
On balance, the Group considers that there are significant benefits to be obtained from collaboration, particularly in metropolitan areas where there are several institutions on neighbouring sites, and where properly structured and managed cooperation agreements are most likely to work. Benefits may include, for instance, giving users from collaborating institutions access to each others holdings and thus to a wider range of material than would otherwise be the case; a coordinated opening hours policy, so that cooperating institutions can share the burden of opening outside core hours; and coordinated acquisition and retention policies in appropriate areas. There may also be particular advantages for smaller institutions, which may be able to gain access to facilities on a scale which they would be unable to support solely from their own resources.
In considering the scope for cooperative arrangements, it became clear that there was no single model which would apply to all circumstances. Nonetheless, there are a number of factors which are common to most successful collaborative arrangements. These include:
.A clear statement governing the purpose and scope of collaborative arrangements, h forms the basis of agreement between collaborating libraries and institutions. This ensures that all those party to the arrangement are clear about their rights and responsibilities.
A clear framework governing the management of cooperative arrangements, to which the staff of each participating institution are committed. This is essential and might include a management committee, meeting regularly, possibly with its own secretariat.
Strong support from senior institutional management, and from academic departments. This is important to the success of collaborative arrangements. The statement of purpose referred to at (a) above should therefore be discussed with teaching departments and senior management, and should reflect such discussion.
Collaborative arrangements which take full account of the practical implications for users and staff in each cooperating institution. This may include the provision of training and support for users from outside an institution.
The physical proximity of institutions, and the convenience of shared use for both students and staff.
The Review Group believes that the principal responsibility for establishing and maintaining local and regional co-operative arrangements between libraries should remain with individual institutions themselves. They must reach their own assessment of relative costs and benefits, and develop cooperative arrangements to the extent to which they believe it will benefit their users. The development of such arrangements should not however obscure the responsibility of individual institutions to arrange for the principal library needs of their own student population to be met.
There is scope for promoting further cooperation and the Review Group recommends that the funding councils should make available pump-priming funds as an incentive to the development of cooperative arrangements, and to help realise the benefits and overall efficiency savings to be obtained. A maximum of 500,000 should be made available over three years for this purpose. Such funds should be made available to help cover the initial costs of establishing or developing schemes, and to underwrite short term costs which participating institutions may initially face.
Bids should be invited from consortia of institutions to develop networking and cooperative arrangements between them. A clear statement of the objectives of proposed arrangements, the contribution they would make to supporting teaching provision, and the full commitment of participating institutions, would all be required. Participating institutions would be expected to contribute to the costs of a project, and normally to provide matching funds.

Teaching Quality Assessment and Quality Audit

One of the most important developments in higher education in recent years has been the increased attention given to quality assessment and quality audit. In addition to institutions' own quality assessment and control procedures, the Government has required the funding councils to establish quality assessment committees, and to take account of the quality of teaching in their funding decisions. Considerable attention is being given both by the funding councils, the CVCP and individual institutions to methods for assessing and assuring quality in teaching and learning in higher education.
The funding councils' methods for the assessment of quality are still developing, and the range of criteria being used in reaching judgements are evolving. The Higher Education Quality Council (HEQC) is similarly at an early stage of its work. It has lear, however, that there has been relatively little explicit attention given to the contribution of library and related services to maintaining and improving the quality of teaching and learning.
Drawing on the performance indicators being proposed in chapter four, the Review Group considers that there is scope for giving more attention to library and related issues in the overall assessment of teaching quality. This would have the benefit of providing both some external evaluation of quality in library provision, set in its appropriate context, and also of encouraging individual institutions to examine their own quality assurance procedures in relation to library provision. In this latter case in particular, this would form a significant aspect of implementation of the overall recommendations being made by the Review Group concerning library strategic planning, integrated management, and the definition of library service objectives.
The Review Group therefore recommends that both the HEQC and the funding councils should take systematic and explicit account of the quality of library and related services in the assessments of teaching quality which they undertake, and in auditing each institution's quality assurance processes. They should give high priority to this recommendation.

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