E-Content Report


The success of a shared library management system will be determined by the quality and comprehensiveness of the data that it contains, and therefore the content to which the system facilitates access. The services Scottish academic libraries provide has always required the careful management of metadata. In managing electronic resources, we find ourselves looking after increasingly complex licence information in addition to “traditional” bibliographic information.

While there remain significant differences between institutions in terms of what e-content is  offered to users, recent analysis of subscriptions across SCURL members shows that there is a significant overlap in the e-resources offered. It could be argued that this is the beginnings of a shared Scottish collection and it makes sense that the data we use to manage this and facilitate access and discovery is shared wherever possible.

This brief report aims to look at what electronic content is common to Scottish HEIs and could be argued to represent a “shared” collection.


In recent years, the major shift in procurement of content, and e-content in particular, has been the advent of collaborative procurement. Libraries cooperating around the drafting of invitations to tender, supplier selection, review and performance monitoring has seen improved supply times, higher levels of discount and forced suppliers into greater efforts in developing and enhancing online systems. In short, an improved service.

In Scotland, this has been taken further with the set-up and delivery of SHEDL, the Scottish Higher Education Digital Library. Drawing on efforts made in other countries and with the industry and experience of key members of staff at Scottish institutions, SHEDL has successfully delivered content, from a range of key publishers, representing around 15% of HE Library spend in Scotland likely to increase further, we are moving towards a genuinely shared e-collection with key resources from key publishers available to staff and students across the HE sector in Scotland.

At time of writing there are periodical deals with 10 publishers, summarised in Table 1.

Publisher No of Titles Total Subscribers
American Chemical Society






Cambridge University Press



Edinburgh University Press








Oxford University Press





Project Muse – Standard



Project Muse – Premium



Project Muse – Humanities



Springer – journals



Table 1. Summary of take up of SHEDL deals, 2012.

What we can take from this data is that a set of 763 titles is available to all 17 SHEDL signatories, representing the core Scottish e-collection as it currently stands. The Project Muse deal is something of an outlier, insofar as the content accessible is variable depending on the deal taken by individual HEIs.

Springer’s deal offers access to a further 2000 titles on the SpringerLink platform, making the “shared collection” of current titles, some 2763 titles in all. Small, in terms of the total number of published journals available.


A similar analysis of the NESLI deals taken by Scottish universities reveals that there are two key packages that are taken by a critical mass of libraries, as follows:




Elsevier Freedom Collection 2212                                      13
Wiley Online Library 1529                                      11

Table 2. “Core” NESLI deals.

A further 3741 titles, then, that are taken by 11 libraries, arguably a critical mass of the Scottish HE library sector and a part of what we are all collectively offering our staff and students.

There are a number of other NESLI deals taken by a significant number of libraries, but short of what might be described as critical mass in terms of ubiquity around the Scottish HE sector. Table 3 shows the breakdown of the number of subscribers to these collections, clearly important collections of material. Of note in this table is the SAGE collection, which represents a significant potential addition to the “shared” collection in terms of number of titles.




IOP Publishing






American Association for the Advancement of Science



BMJ Journals Online Collection



Cell Press



Royal Society of Chemistry



Table 3. Other NESLI deals.

Managing access to these collections involves every library in a series of increasingly complex tasks in deciphering licence information, providing access, handling authentication, budgeting  and cataloguing issues as well as handling queries and troubleshooting. In short, libraries managing the same data in broadly similar ways, the same work being repeated across the sector.

Other shared/common e-content

The data gathered for SCURL shows that among the packages taken outside of the major consortia approaches of SHEDL and NESLI, one or two stand out as being of note, at least in terms of number of subscribers, note that these may be packages direct from publishers or aggregated collections through third party content providers




Association for Computing Machinery, including conference proceedings.



ASM (American Society for Microbiology)



ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers)



Lexis Library – UK



Westlaw – UK



HeinOnline Law Library



Journals at Ovid


Ebsco – PsychArticles



Ebsco – Business Scource Premier



Ebsco – GreenFile


Ebsco – Psychology and Behavioural Science Collection


Table 4. Non-consortia packages. 

Open access and free ejournals.

In the light of the Finch report, published in July of 2012, there is government backing for making more content available on an Open Access basis, that is free at the point of use. The report backs the “gold” approach, with its assumption that the cost of publication will be met by the author (or their supporting institution) at the point of publication.

Many SCURL members have already made significant moves into Open Access via the setting up and management of institutional repositories making increasing amounts of content available to all, free of charge. New models of publishing exemplified by services such as BioMed Central and others are challenging the traditional notion of how scholarly content is made available.

The long term impact of the move to open access (and the government’s controversial support for the “gold” route) remains to be seen, with considerable financial impacts on universities still likely. It will, however, expand the range of material free at the point of use and available to the HE community as a whole.

JISC Collections has been successful in making a range of content available to the HE sector, free at the point of use, this can also be considered as part of a shared collection.

As a result of this and other initiatives, there are a range of ejournals that are “free” and part of a shared collection by default. There may be some questions raised over the academic quality of many of these publications, so selectivity is a factor here but there is a sizeable collection already available to the sector.

Table 5 gives a summary of a typical set, based on the collection offered at the University of Stirling, but available to all. Content provided through the JISC is given separately.



Directory of Open Access Journals


European commission – Economic and Financial Affairs


Freely Accessible Arts & Humanities Journals


Freely Accessible Business Journals


Freely Accessible General Interest Journals


Freely Accessible Government Documents


Freely Accessible Journals


Freely Accessible Pre-print Services


Freely Accessible Science Journals


Freely Accessible Social Science Journals


HighWire Press Free Journals


History Cooperative


Ingenta Free/ Open Access Journals


ScienceDirect Free and Delayed Acess Titles




JISC Free Resources
19th Century British Library Newspapers I and II


19th Century British Pamphlets


20th Century House of Commons Parliamentary Papers

100,000 papers 5.2 million documents

American Chemical Society Legacy Archives


BFI InView
Brill Journal Archive Online


British Periodicals Collection I And II (PAO)


Cambridge Journals Digital Archive


Carl Giles Digital Archive

15,000 cartoon images; 5000 pages of related paperwork

Digital Library of Core Resources on Ireland

620,000 pages; around 80 key journals; 210 monographs; more than 2,500 manuscript pages

Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Reports

Covering the period 1974–1996 in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Eastern Europe

T&F Geography, Planning, Urban and Environment Online Archive


Burney Collection


Web of Science Backfiles

Science Citation Index Expanded 1970-1980; Social Sciences Citation Index 1970-1980; and Arts & Humanities Citation Index 1975-1980

Table 5. Free e-collection sample.


Managing this shared collection presents a new challenge and an opportunity to explore new ways of working. SHEDL offers a single, shared collection – it makes sense, therefore, that this collection is managed (i.e. access to licence information, titles included in deals etc) is managed once for the whole SHEDL group, rather than the same data being held at every HEI with the potential for error inherent in that duplication.

The embryonic  KB+ service should offer that facility – the database holds subs lists gathered direct from the publisher and can be accessed by each institution, ensuring consistent data across the SHEDL consortium and the wider NESLI group. The initial release of KB+ is now available and  institutions are being brought on board in small groups of 10 or so over the course of 2012-2013, starting with the institutions who have been helping with testing and development. Release 2 of this service is to be launched in February of 2013 and a date for a session aimed at Scottish HEIs is also planned.

It should allow the title lists and licence of a publisher to be managed one time and pushed to all SHEDL members, saving that work being repeated across several members. This element of the KB+ service has yet to be proven, but the concept has been discussed with, and is understood by, the developers working on the project and is a key deliverable for the SHEDL members informing the KB+ project. This will clearly offer tangible benefits in terms of staff time across the SHEDL membership as well as consolidate the key selling point in SHEDL negotiations, namely the single point of contact with Scottish HE. In short, it should form the basis of a shared Scottish ERM system.


Ebooks, defined as “an electronic version of a printed book which can be read on a computer or a specifically designed handheld device”, though will include works which may never have existed as printed texts, have become a core part of the service for Scottish HE libraries over the last 5-10 years and now represent at least 25% of spend on monographs in most libraries. The first consortia ebook purchasing framework has been in place, successfully, since 2008 and all SCOPNet members have taken advantage of expanding ebook collections with aggregators.

In terms of a shared collection, the SHEDL agreement with Springer offers over 29,000 titles to all SHEDL members. This is a deal taken by 17 libraries, representing the beginnings of a shared ebook collection. Further negotiations with other ebook publishers are ongoing and it is expected that this element of the SHEDL offering will expand over the coming years. This collection was further expanded by the end of 2012 with the completion of the deal with CUP offering access in perpetuity to ebooks (with the exclusion of some textbook content) from 2005, 2006 and 2012, with further, time-limited access to content from 2007-2011 and new content coming on stream through 2013.

In considering other sources of ebook content we must consider the GoogleBooks, Project Gutenberg and the Haithi Trust, making digital versions of titles available, particularly titles in the public domain. They represent a possible route to building access to a collection of electronic content alongside new free ebook sources such as the Directory of Open Access ebooks, which currently offers 1200 ebooks from a range of respected publishers.

Ebooks licencing is also likely to be part of future developments of KB+, affording the same savings in terms of staff time and data consistency as outlined in relation to ejournals.


The work done to date in analysing the overlap in the digital collections in Scottish HE shows that there is a significant number of journal packages common to most libraries in the sector, the potential basis for a larger shared collection.

As the proportion of HE collections that overlaps grows, the case for managing that collection from a shared management system becomes clearer. Whether a shared ERM-type service, such as that being developed as KB+., will deliver the necessary functionality is, as yet, unproven but ostensibly such as service would allow the collection to be controlled at a level above the institution.

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