What could be shared?

After considering the LMS itself in the first session, participants formed smaller groups again to discuss sharing. Both the benefits and the drawbacks to sharing services and technologies were covered in this session. During session one, all the groups had already started to raise some questions and make some observations about sharing. This session was aimed at exploring these themes in more depth.

Again, the groups had three questions to use as a starting point for their discussions. They also used the points raised through session one, when they defined their ideal LMS as an example of what they might be sharing and a guide for discussion.

The questions were:

  1. Are there any particular areas that would benefit from being shared?
  2. Are there any particular areas where sharing might be a drawback?
  3. How might this work? What are the pros and cons of making a shared LMS work?

As with the first session, the points raised by the four groups had much overlap. The list of points raised is a summary of the contributions made by all the groups when they reported back to the whole group. The reports of the discussions fell into the broad categories of  ‘Benefits’ and ‘Barriers’, and are described below.


  • Support and development could benefit from a shared workload, expertise and costs
  • Better value, better deals on procurement in general, for example in the areas of –
    • Content procurement
    • E-collections
    • Reading Lists
    • Simplified billing and admin procedures
    • Shared staff resources would spread the workload, allow access to expertise between institutions and save time and money, for example in the areas of –
      • Shared user data
      • Citation software
      • Maybe inter library loans (whole discussion on whether ILL would benefit from regional requests or whether it would be made redundant because of shared services)
      • Improving understanding and knowledge
      • Shared creation and management of metadata
      • Better business intelligence through aggregated statistics
      • Shared backroom work, server environment and systems expertise
      • Best practice – learn from each other to improve all services
      • Shared access policies would be beneficial for users
      • Could be a good way of keeping people in Scottish universities as there would be a coherent approach among institutions and movement between Scottish HEIs would be easier
      • Shared authentication would allow users to access the content and services targeted specifically at them
      • Long-term sharing could offset the initially large cost of starting up the shared LMS
      • SHEDL could be used as a model for licensing and e-rights management
      • Access to individual libraries
      • Acquisitions
      • Sharing standards, would need to agree minimum requirement for this


  • Would need a business case to run a shared LMS
  • Agreements and the benefits of sharing an LMS would need to be realized at an institutional level.
  • Payment would need to be agreed for all procurements to ensure that each institution paid a fair share of costs in line with their usage and number of users. Allocation models based on usage might help here.
  • Would the LMS and the services it supported need to be created/managed under the status of a separate legal entity?
  • Would institutions need to be members and would there then be a membership fence? How would this work?
  • Would it be possible to join over time, or would all members need to join at startup?
  • Would the LMS need to be pumped with prime funding initially? SHEDL was started without an injection of funding, but a shared LMS could not be managed via a purely ‘ground up’ approach
  • Could/would library services be outsourced by institutions?
  • Agreements would need to cover the following areas (all potential barriers) –
    • Governance (this needs to be very clear)
    • Intellectual Property (IP) issues
    • Security issues
    • Shared branding/individual branding (would any institution give up their own identity? Would the shared service have it’s own identity?)
    • An access policy across all member institutions
    • Shared borrowing – would this be an option? How might it be managed?
    • Special collections could be a barrier when in a physical format
    • A shared LMS might be costly, so would need to be investigated not just on the costs of the initial purchase, but ongoing maintenance, updates etc.
    • Shared expertise might result in specific expertise not being available where it is needed
    • Staffing could be a barrier –
      • Who would pay for staff?
      • An adaptable and agile system would need adaptable, agile staff to run it – how would this be achieved?
      • Raising expectations among both staff and users of the benefits of a shared LMS could be an issue if the technology and/or services do not deliver
      • Could lead to a monolithic system that would become closed off to innovation
      • Would every institution benefit financially?
      • One size would not fit all – there is a danger of a loss of autonomy and a loss of a competitive advantage for individual institutions
      • Institutions might see an implied sharing of  library access/resources in a shared LMS – this might not appeal to them
      • A shared LMS would need a shared taxonomy to avoid mis-communication – how would this work?
      • Sharing standards, would need to agree minimum requirement for this
      • Potential problems might arise in areas where there is less commonality between institutions
      • Apportioning of all costs associated with the LMS (not just initial startup costs and system costs) could be difficult

The groups also came up with an additional list of things that would need to be in place to make a shared LMS for Scotland work –

Next Steps:

  • A comprehensive definition of minimum requirements
  • A roadmap with realistic timescales
  • Identify the decision makers in each institution and talk to them about the shared LMS – they would need to be supportive for it to work
  • Identify any existing joint agreements that could be used to build on for the shared LMS
  • Work out how to handle change management for the staff on the ground who would be making a shared LMS work – what would it mean for them? How can this be managed in a positive way?
  • Identify institutional expertise in specific areas (e.g. cataloguing, metadata, systems) and build on this as the backbone of the shared LMS

The Next Steps, together with a number of points raised across the sessions, form a useful output of points that we were unable to explore in full on the day. These points form a useful summary of the areas of concern that would need to be addressed if a shared LMS for Scotland was actually to go ahead in the future. They would also offer a good starting point for taking such a project from discussion into practical application.

>> Next section: Would a shared LMS work for Scotland?

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