Guest editorial

Interlending & Document Supply

ISSN: 0264-1615

Article publication date: 11 November 2014



Baker, D. (2014), "Guest editorial", Interlending & Document Supply, Vol. 42 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Guest editorial

Article Type: Editorial From: Interlending & Document Supply, Volume 42, Issue 4

During the course of my career working in UK university libraries and beyond, I have written six papers for Interlending and Document Supply. The first article appeared in 1992 and the most recent in 2008 (Baker, 1992a, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008a; Baker and Evans, 2007a).

The first of these papers (Baker, 1992a) described the experiments at the University of East Anglia, where I was then University Librarian, to move from just-in-case holdings of hard-copy journal runs to just-in-time access to required articles via the British Library’s Document Supply Centre (BLDSC). The work that we did at that time – not only in terms of the economic modelling that underpinned our decision as to whether or not to keep or cancel our journal subscriptions, but also because we were experimenting with scan-and-send technology to speed up article delivery times – aroused much interest, and a number of complementary publications and conference papers ensued (Baker, 1994a, 1994b, 1995a). One of the main drivers for this experimentation was the need to reduce the spiralling cost of our journals (Baker, 1992b); the other was to reduce the pressure on space and avoid the need to fund an extension to the library building (Baker, 2008b, 2013).

Our initial work showed that there was a cut-off point below which the usage of journals did not justify holding the title on site, and the access to individual articles when required via inter-library loan was a more economical way of satisfying demand. Such hard copy volumes as we did hold could therefore be withdrawn from stock, freeing up much-needed space.

Not all the academic staff saw it that way at the time, and to help convince opponents of the scheme that they were being just as well served as before, we embarked on a partnership with the BLDSC to provide almost same-day service via the scan-and-send technology that was then developing (Tuck, 1986; Baker, 1994a, 1994b). We were the first university library in the UK to do this.

University of East Anglia (UEA) Library was not alone in experiencing the pressures described above, however. The whole of the UK university library sector was experiencing a period of turbulence that resulted in a fundamental review of provision and funding. The Follett Report (1993) and its implementation transformed British academic libraries, not least through the e-Lib programme that it spawned (eLib: the electronic libraries programme, 1995-2001). UEA Library led a number of partnership projects during the eLib programme, including Electronic Document Delivery, the Integrated Solution and Agora. The first of these (Baker, 1995b, 1996, 2004) aimed to develop the earlier scan-and-send work, adding discovery to the service offered to end-users, while the second (Baker, 1999, 2007b, 2008b, 2008c) was one of a number of major hybrid library projects developed as a way of meeting the challenge of combining traditional and digital library provision in the most effective way possible.

When the UEA experiments began in the 1990s, digital developments were an adjunct to traditional library provision. Since then, the speed of change in academic libraries – and libraries more generally – has increased, and the ways in which information and content are discovered and delivered transformed, as Beth Posner points out in her paper in this special issue.

Content is now sourced from multiple providers and the concept of the “walled garden” of knowledge has been overtaken by the trend for open publishing of varied types and quality of content on the Internet (Lynch, 2005; Dempsey, 2006; JISC, 2010; Curtis et al., 2011).

Today’s users require a new set of services and accommodations from the academic library that necessitate a strategic paradigm shift: from building and maintaining a collection to engaging with students and faculty, as well as providing space for study, collaboration and creativity. Traditional organizational boundaries are likely to fade, and the word “library” will cease to adequately describe the suite of both virtual and physical academic support services offered to patrons (University Leadership Council, 2011).

Political, economic, technological and social changes have combined to require wholesale reengineering of library services:

While predictions of radical change in library and information services are by no means new, a confluence of shifts in technology, changing user demands and increasing budget pressures are now forcing academic libraries to either adapt or risk obsolescence. (University Leadership Council, 2011)

Even the hybrid library is looking increasingly untenable as a solution. McGrath notes the speed of change in scholarly communication, in particular, in his literature review:

The modern library is caught between its historical role in managing print materials and new demand for digital resources and services, and it cannot afford to invest indefinitely in both (University Leadership Council, 2011).

The ease with which digital content can be accessed has resulted in the decentralization of information and disintermediation, or the obviating of the need for an intermediary – typically the librarian (Curtis et al., 2011), as Mike McGrath notes in his literature review. Evgenia Vassilakaki’s literature review demonstrates how the new type of mobile library poses challenges for librarians in terms of how to lead and manage changed user needs.

In this special issue, both Joachim Schöpfel and Mike McGrath look at one specific factor in the decline of traditional library services in general and inter-lending and document supply in particular – Open Access (OA). Both authors nevertheless argue that, despite the growth of the OA movement, inter-lending and document supply will still be necessary “in an increasingly complex knowledge environment” (McGrath), especially to provide assistance and advice in locating material.

If libraries are to remain relevant and reverse the trends of falling (physical) use, then focusing on their (positive) role as places of learning, study and research is crucial. Katarina Michnik and Catarina Eriksson provide one example of what librarians might do, by looking at how public libraries argue for the inclusion of non-traditional collections that users need and value. But there is a challenge here in terms of balancing need, expectation and ability to deliver, both to core and new readerships. Derek Marshall provides another through his research into digital collection development in medicine.

The ways in which people research, the changing nature of user ability and expectations and the nature of the results and outcomes which they achieve – at all levels and in all subjects – are being transformed (Baker, 2013; Baker and Evans, 2010, 2013). Librarians need to understand who their users are, what they want and need, how user expectations are changing and how we respond to this. Educational, social, political and economic environments will be so altered that new frameworks and approaches will be required. It will be a key part of the librarian’s future role to assess and confirm the true worth of what is proposed and offered in terms of provision, both physical and virtual, as can be seen in Posner’s paper.

The special issue ends with Mike McGrath’s invaluable survey of current literature on the subject, much of which reinforces the trends and challenges identified here and in the papers that follow this editorial. There are many exciting possible scenarios:

Rather than a facility with four walls, the Library of the Future has no borders. Its staff works to reduce barriers to information access and to apply its expertise to information activities conducted throughout the organization […] Tomorrow’s libraries will be built around the needs of people, and the success of libraries will be measured in how flexible they can be as those needs evolve (Keiser, 2010).

David Michael Baker


Baker, D. (1992a), “Access versus holdings policy with special reference to the University of East Anglia”, Interlending and Document Supply, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 131-137.

Baker, D. (1992b), “Resource allocation in university libraries”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 48, pp. 1-19.

Baker, D. (1994a), “Document delivery: the UEA experience”, Computers in Libraries International 1994: Proceedings of the 8th Annual Conference, Meckler, London.

Baker, D. (1994b), “Document delivery: the UEA experience”, Vine, Vol. 95, pp. 12-15.

Baker, D. (1995a), “Fornitura di documenti o acquisizione permanente: il punto di vista di un’universita inglese La diffusione dell ‘inforinazione in Italia: realta e prospective”, Boston Spa: British Library Document Supply Centre, Milan, 17-18 November, 1993, pp. 11-17.

Baker, D. (1995b), “Electronic document delivery: the integrated solution”, in Hegseth, B. (Ed), Datalib 95: Proceedings of the 12th Seminar, 24-26 October, Norwegian Technical University, Trondheim, pp. 31-43.

Baker, D. (1996), “Counting the cost: the economics of electronic publishing”, Information Europe: EBLIDA Magazine, Vol. 2, pp. 14-16.

Baker, D. (1999), “Very flat Norfolk: a broad horizon for an information landscape in the next century”, in Criddle, S., Dempsey, L. and Heseltine, R. (Eds), Information Landscapes for a Learning Society: Networking and the Future of Libraries 3, UKOLN, Bath, pp. 88-94.

Baker, D. (2002), “Document delivery: breaking the mould”, Interlending and Document Supply, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 171-177.

Baker, D. (2003), “Document delivery: a new paradigm?”, Interlending and Document Supply, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 104-110.

Baker, D. (2004), The Strategic Management of Technology: A Guide for Library and Information Services, Chandos, Oxford.

Baker, D. (2006), “Digital library futures: a UK HE and FE perspective”, Interlending and Document Supply, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 4-8.

Baker, D. (2007b), “Combining the best of both worlds: the hybrid library”, in Earnshaw, R. and Vince, J. (Eds), Digital Convergence: Libraries of the Future, Springer, London, pp. 95-106.

Baker, D. (2008a), “‘Inside every fat man’: balancing the digital library budget”, Interlending and Document Supply, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 213-217.

Baker, D. (2008b), “From needles and haystacks to elephants and fleas: strategic information management in the information age”, New Review of Academic Librarianship, Vol. 14 Nos 1/2, pp. 1-16.

Baker, D. (2008c), “Putting the ‘e’ into libraries and learning: study, pedagogy, content and services in the digital age”, in Griffiths, J.R. and Craven, J. (Eds), Access, Delivery, Performance: The Future of Libraries Without Walls, Facet, London, pp. 39-54.

Baker, D. (2013), “Beyond space: access is all – or is it?”, in Watson, L. (Ed), Better Library and Learning Space: Projects, Trends and Ideas, Facet, London, pp. 151-158.

Baker, D. and Evans, W. (2007a), “From holdings to access – and back”, Interlending and Document Supply, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 85-91.

Baker, D. and Evans, W. (2010), Libraries and Society: Role, Social Responsibility and Future Challenges, Chandos, Oxford.

Baker, D. and Evans, W. (2013), Trends, Discovery and People in the Digital Age, Chandos, Oxford.

Curtis, G., Davies, C. and Hammond, M. (2011), “Academic libraries of the future: scenarios beyond 2020”, British Library, JISC and others, available at:, (accessed 6 October 2014).

Dempsey, L. (2006), “The (digital) library environment: ten years after”, Ariadne, Vol. 46, p. 23, available at: (accessed 6 October 2014).

eLib: The Electronic Libraries Programme (1995-2001), available at: (accessed 29 September 2014).

Joint Information Systems Committee, JISC (2010), Transformation Through Technology: Illustrating JISC’s Impact Across Two Decades, HEFCE, Bristol.

Keiser, B.E. (2010), “Library of the future - today!”, Searcher, Vol. 18 No. 8, pp. 18-54.

Lynch, C. (2005), “Where do we go from here? The next decade for digital libraries”, D-Lib Magazine, Vol. 11 Nos 7/8, p. 6, available at: (accessed 6 October 2014).

The Follett Report (1993), “Joint funding council’s libraries review group: report, the Follett report”, available at: 29 September 2014).

Tuck, B. (1986), “Quartet: a collaborative research in project in digital information exchange”, Vine, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 36-37.

University Leadership Council (2011), Redefining the Academic Library: Managing the Migration to Digital Information Services, The Council, Washington, DC.

Corresponding author

David Michael Baker can be contacted at:

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