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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Research Libraries Network
A new national initiative – the Research Libraries Network (RLN) – is set to transform the way research information is collected, organized, preserved and accessed across the UK. The RLN will bring together the UK’s four higher education funding bodies, the British Library, the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales and the eight members of Research Councils UK to develop the UK’s first national framework aimed at addressing the information needs of researchers.
The financial, technological and organizational demands on university and research libraries are huge. They include the transition to electronic publishing, the increasing volume and cost of information, new models for publishing and disseminating research (such as Open Archives), researchers’ changing patterns of behaviour, massive growth in the volume of publicly-funded research, and government initiatives to foster innovation and technology transfer.
The RLN aims to provide the unified and focused strategic leadership needed to address these demands. Set up following the recommendations of the Research Support Libraries Group (RSLG), and endorsed by the House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Skills, the RLN will:
provide strategic leadership for collaboration between publicly-funded research information providers and their users – to develop effective, efficient and integrated information resources and services to support UK research;
co-ordinate action to propose and specify solutions to meet researchers’ changing needs – building on the earlier studies into UK researchers’ needs carried out by the RSLG; and
act as a high-level advocate for research information, across the UK and internationally.
The RLN will be set up in autumn 2004, initially for three years up to the end of July 2007. It will be led by an executive unit, with a budget of up to £3 million, which will be based at the British Library and take strategic guidance from an advisory board.
Initially the RLN’s work is likely to include feasibility studies and market research to shape the longer-term programme. Early emphasis is likely to be on improved knowledge of and access to existing resources (for example, by developing search tools and “union catalogues” which give a single point of access to a number of different collections). Future potential workstreams include collaborative work on developing and preserving digital archives, maximizing access for professional researchers to key collections, and working towards collaborative development of collections to ensure access to the widest possible range of research materials.
Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, said: “The creation of the RLN is important and timely. It will enable us to scale up our collaborative work with the UK’s key research bodies, to understand the needs of all researchers, to develop the widest possible national print and digital collections, and to improve access to key resources. It provides a real opportunity to create a UK research information system which is unparalleled in its support of research and knowledge transfer”.
Sir Howard Newby, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said: “The Research Libraries Network will provide a unique service to UK researchers by actively promoting dialogue and collaboration between research information providers and users at all levels. This world-first initiative will consolidate the UK’s strong position in the international research market, building on well established traditions of joint working and progressive thinking”.
Geoffrey Crossick, spokesman for Research Councils UK and Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Board added: “Research information resources are of critical importance to research activity in this country, as much for science and engineering as for the social sciences and the arts and humanities. A UK-wide strategy for their development is needed, and that is why the Research Councils have made a collective commitment, through Research Councils UK, to the new Research Libraries Network”.