Glasgow Colleges


Six Glasgow colleges have operated a shared library management system since 1998. In 2008, support for the colleges’ then Library Management System, Horizon, was discontinued. The colleges took the joint decision to migrate collectively to their current shared LMS, Symphony (Sirsi Dynix).

Six Glasgow colleges currently operate a shared Library Management System:

  • Anniesland College
  • Cardonald College
  • City of Glasgow College
  • Langside College
  • North Glasgow College
  • Stow College

Collectively, these colleges make up the Next Generation Libraries Group (NGL).  Across the colleges, there are approximately 33,000 registered Library accounts; this number will peak at around 43,000 by the end of the academic session.


Each college has its own separate instance of Symphony with a large degree of customisation necessary to meet individual college requirements.

Each college has its own college-branded OPAC interface. All colleges have different policies and approximately 200 customised reports are generated across the group.

There is one centrally managed database of bibliographic records which the six College Libraries share. Records are imported from either of the colleges’ z39.50 targets (British Library and Library of Congress) or added manually. Each library adds items with its own location and collection details.

The group was an early adopter of the JISC FE ebrary programme, ensuring that each College had their own ebrary Marc records in the system, searchable via the OPAC. However, an attempt to adopt a single e-book strategy was thwarted by publisher restrictions. As a result, each College continues to have its own e-book records with College specific URLs in the individual 856 fields. Consequently, there are 18,000 e-book records across the six Colleges for 3,000 items.

Content is not shared and there are no formal reciprocal borrowing arrangements, nor any culture of cross-college borrowing.

Support and Development

System support was originally provided by the Glasgow Colleges Group, however, when this was disbanded in 2006, Cardonald College and Glasgow Metropolitan College (now City of Glasgow College) took the initiative to co-manage the service to ensure continuity of service to staff and students.

Service Level Agreements are in place between the two supporting Colleges, Cardonald College and City of Glasgow College and the remaining four colleges. Cardonald College provides network support and handles the financial administration and City of Glasgow College provides systems administration.


City of Glasgow College employs 1 FTE Systems Administrator with Cardonald College employing a 0.4 FTE network engineer to support the project. Their salaries, on-costs and expenses are recharged to the group, along with the annual maintenance charges for the system.

In addition to providing centralised help and support, the System Administrator works with college librarians to create and implement policies, liaises with college IT teams and student records offices, and trains new staff.

The System Administrator also horizon scans on behalf of the colleges and produces an annual development plan.


There is an NGL steering up which focuses on service delivery and resolving any HR, administrative or financial issues. All members are equal with each member having one vote. Strategic decisions and changes to service delivery which impact on colleges, are made in consultation with the Glasgow Colleges Library Group. This group is made up of library practitioners from the colleges in the consortium and meets every 6-8 weeks; any changes are ratified to College Principals.

The service is continually developing in response to student and staff needs. The annual development plan prioritizing service improvements is agreed with library representatives from all colleges.


Initially, costs for the service were split equally between all colleges in the Consortium. However, in November 2008, Principals agreed that the funding model for the service should be changed to take account of college size and volume of activity. Costs were subsequently recovered on the basis of a 50% fixed element for all colleges and 50% spread by WSUMs (Weighted Student Units of Measurement). In 2011 the model was adjusted to take account of the merger of three colleges to form City of Glasgow College. Costs are currently recovered on the basis of WSUMs, leaving the proportion paid by each partner approximately unchanged.

If a request for change benefits only one college, that college will pay the associated costs and ‘buy’ the Systems Administrator’s time to implement the change. If applicable, benefits are then shared by all Colleges. For example, for work relating to the City of Glasgow College merger, a test server was purchased and configured by the college, from which all members now benefit.


Throughout periods of significant change in the form of college mergers, restructuring and system migration, service continuity has been maintained for college staff and students.

The group has benefited from shared hardware and software purchasing. It is unlikely individual colleges would have been able to afford to purchase Symphony on their own or individually maintain the necessary infrastructure.

As a result of the Consortium, the colleges have a secure, supported and stable LMS with 97% up time (downtime includes the regular maintenance schedule which sees the system offline for several hours at weekends each quarter).

Undoubtedly, the role of a dedicated Systems administrator is key to the success of the shared LMS within the Glasgow Colleges group. As most of the colleges don’t have local LMS expertise or resources to provide the LMS infrastructure required, they benefit considerably from a dedicated Systems Administrator who acts as a single point of contact for help, enquiries and support.

All colleges benefit from a shared development plan produced each year by the Systems administrator. Support and development areas are listed on the plan with timescales attached.

College librarians share information and training documentation including cataloguing guidelines via a portal, The Hub, (

The group has demonstrated flexibility and adaptability throughout periods of great change in FE in Glasgow. Despite the significant organisational changes, including several college mergers, the shared LMS has endured which really is the ultimate testimony to the success of the Glasgow Colleges collaborative working.

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