Scottish Digital Library Consortium


The Scottish Digital Library Consortium (SDLC – was founded by the National Library of Scotland and the University of Edinburgh in 1999, first as the Scottish Voyager Consortium, then as the Scottish Endeavor Consortium in 2004, and finally, as it is today, the Scottish Digital Library Consortium in 2006.


There are 11 member institutions. Consortium membership is broad, consisting of special, national and higher education libraries from across Scotland. Geographically, libraries tend to be based in central and the east of Scotland.

Current member libraries are The University of Edinburgh, The National Library of Scotland (both managing partners), Heriot Watt University, The Royal Observatory Edinburgh, The University of Abertay Dundee, The Signet Library, The University of St Andrews, Scottish Government, The University of Stirling, The University of Aberdeen, and Robert Gordon University.

Shared Services

Members can subscribe to one or a combination of the three services supported by the SDLC. Six libraries use Ex Libris’ Voyager as their Library Management System. Six use DSpace, hosted by the University of Edinburgh, as their repository. In 2009 the SDLC worked with seven member institutions to implement WebFeat, a federated search solution, which was replaced in 2011 after the same seven SDLC institutions worked collaboratively to procure two Discovery Services; EBSCO’s Discovery Service and Serials Solutions’ Summon.


The SDLC is governed by a Board of representatives from the member libraries. The chair of the Board alternates each year between the University of Edinburgh and the National Library of Scotland.  There are four Board meetings each year and an AGM at the end of each year.

For each service, the SDLC co-ordinates a user group, which provides regular contact for libraries using the same services.  Members can share experiences, request responses to shared issues and contribute to the development of products and services.


Each of the six institutions using the shared LMS has a separate Voyager database with customised web interfaces. Only the software and hardware is shared. There is no shared content other than content ‘bundles’ negotiated at a national level (eg SHEDL). Bibliographic records can be shared via individual record import (similar to RLUK and OCLC record downloads). Some Consortium sites contribute records to RLUK and OCLC, this is done separately for each site as SDLC members use different classification systems. All sites have some site specific local customisation. Most are legacy systems which would require substantial effort to reclassify.

Any client based activity is devolved to sites. All sites are enabled to run their own client side system administration. The SDLC provides support for any issues which require either additional development or discussion with Ex Libris or the Consortium’s Facilities Management support which is looked after by the University of Edinburgh. This includes support for hardware, security, connectivity and operating systems (Solaris / Unix, Oracle, Tomcat, Apache).


Institutions using the hosted repository service pay a one off implementation fee and thereafter an annual maintenance charge. For Voyager customers, sites pay a yearly maintenance fee. This is made up of the maintenance fee passed on to Ex Libris (based on size of database and number of clients required), the internal costs of infrastructure, SAN storage, backups, and facilities management of the infrastructure by Edinburgh, and a nominal administration fee. Within this they purchase a set number of support hours, standard for each site.

The discovery service was created out of an open procurement, and due to the nature of the products the Consortium has no formal charged support model in place – all recurrent charges are passed between the member and the relevant vendor.


Currently the SDLC funds one software developer post. Previously there was a dedicated full time Consortium manager to negotiate agreements with suppliers, manage contracts and work closely with member libraries to co-ordinate implementation, development and support of services. As the Consortium has matured, this role has been absorbed by University of Edinburgh Digital Library staff.

Support and Development

There is no dedicated SDLC systems administrator. Support is absorbed by existing Digital Library teams at both the University of Edinburgh and the National Library of Scotland.  In the first year of support a site needs more support hours, after which support time is expected to drop to a standard level.

Support teams at the SDLC and the NLS submit incidents to Ex Libris on behalf of all sites. There is a cost saving for members as direct first line support is provided by the Consortium.

When a site joins support staff spend time on induction training covering the support relationship and software training.  After implementation, training is based on need and specific to topic.

University of Edinburgh Facilities Management look after the infrastructure for the LMS and for repositories. Digital Library developers at the University of Edinburgh provide the support and development for the institutions using DSpace repositories. There is a single Service Level Agreement in place for all sites, detailing support agreements and service targets.

The LMS is very stable so there are few major incidents or faults to deal with. Most requests are related to upgrades, development and service enhancement.

Consortium Benefits

The SDLC members benefit from shared expertise across a number of institutions, with members providing complimentary skills from a variety of staff.  Collaborative working helps build relationships across the Scottish HE sector with sharing of expertise and experience often extending beyond the SDLC and its services.

By using a hosted service, members can choose to make significant savings on capital and recurrent costs relating to infrastructure, IT staff, and training. Smaller institutions that may otherwise not have their own resources to deliver some services, benefit from the Consortium’s collective resources to do so.

Members and their users benefit from a stable and reliable system – the SDLC aims for 99% service availability and has exceeded this target consistently for several years. In addition, SDLC members benefit from a flexible test / development / disaster recovery environment which allows the Consortium to work closely as test partners with the LMS vendor, Ex Libris, and permits ad-hoc customisation and development work for partners.

Training provided by suppliers can be expensive. The Consortium run cascaded training for specific topics e.g. OPAC customisation. It also arranges for co-ordinated training from Ex Libris (and other external vendors) which allows the Consortium to join together to share training costs. In addition, ad hoc training is provided for each site on a request basis. Members benefit shared knowledge and expertise.

Working as a group, the Consortium has greater influence in negotiations and communications with suppliers than each member would alone.  Smaller libraries benefit from having an equal voice and, significantly, all members see the benefit of more favourable product pricing.

SDLC institutions participated in a joint Discovery Procurement project in 2010. One procurement exercise, led by the University of Edinburgh benefited seven institutions and resulted in the purchase of two systems as member institutions were able to elect the solution to best meet their needs. There were considerable benefits to all member institutions both in resource and cost savings.

SDLC repository customers benefit from the expertise of developers at the University of Edinburgh, two of which are DSpace committers. By joining the SDLC the members have a supported hosting platform for their repository and access to technical staff with expertise to which they may not have access in their own institution.  A majority of institutions use DSpace in conjunction with the PURE research management system.  This is an active community also supported by work at EDINA and the Repository Fringe held each August in Edinburgh which raises the profile of Scottish repositories.

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