FIL @ the BL: November 2009
Posted by gazjjohnson on 9 November, 2009
On Friday (6th November) I went down to the British Library (BL) conference centre to attend the Forum for Interlending’s (FIL) autumn event. With my recent switch to having a Document Supply feather in my cap, I was eager to further develop my knowledge of this field. I attended the FIL Conference back in 2006 and that was like dipping into a different and surprising world. This time wasn’t quite as bad given that I’ve been working in a world of new conventions for the past month. What was noticeable was a definite shift from the research focussed repository based community I’ve been involved in for years. At the BL there was a more cross sectoral audience (governmental, public, FE etc) rather than simply an HE focus. There was also a greater bibliophilic under-swell in some of the talks which felt somewhat alien, That said it was a very useful day (the morning more than the afternoon I will confess) and what follows are my attempt to turn my notes into something readable.
Barry Smith, Head of Marketing, BL – What’s new from Document Supply
Barry’s talk was the primary reason I was in attendance, as I was wanting to get a handle on changes the BL has in store. He commented that the BL has been doing things traditionally for many years and are hoping to move to new services – four of which he was highlighting today.
This is a name I’ve heard and one which it seems over the coming months the whole DS&R team. And probably seizable segments of our user community will become familiar with.
There have been issues experienced with Adobe Digital Editions in recent months, caused in part by changes from Adobe which also affected the service. The BL has decided that there is a need for a new route to deliver electronic copies of articles. Currently options are Adobe-DE, Arial, FileOpen, The choice they have made is FileOpen. This is the system used by a vast number of services around the world. What it seems to offer are improvements to DRM (digital rights management) for end-users who may have had problems with some Adobe DE in the past.
Unencrypted supply for course packs are available (under CLA) and the ultimate goal is to remove DRM from material supplied entirely, but this is some time off. Part of the choice of Fileopen is that there is only a need to download the software once for all users and no forced upgrades. It also reads Adobe PDF formats ver 4-9. UEA are a pioneer (Michael Robbins) in using it.
The BL advocate moving across from SED (Adobe Digital Editions) to SED (FileOpen) in 2010. For the end uer they will receive an email similar to that they currently get under Adobe-SED with a download link. It was suggested that potentially the BL may withdraw Adobe based SED by the end of 2010, not confirmed but seems likely from the talk.
EthOS 12 months on
Lessons have been learned (one librarian I spoke to has ended up paying three times their fee this year due to demand from Ethos). Currently 109 participant universities (71 following our model, 34 user pays). The emerging trend is that more institutions are moving to user pays model, due to levels of demand. Participation of UK HEIs was quicker than expected and demand from users higher than expected (10,771 theses requests in 08, 79,353 in 09) . Also the economic crisis has impacted on UKHE and therefore ETHoS as well. Ability to digitise and supply out stretching ability. The 30 days turn around promised wasn’t possible (90 days more common). Now demand falling, and so able to fulfil this time promise.
The plan was to move from beta to live in early 2010 (which was a surprise as I had assumed we were already – finally – in the live service). But first they want to get Oxbridge on board first, both of whom seem likely to join. Metadata records will be made available and harvestable by 3rd parties – and therefore make the theses more discoverable at the point of launch. The BL have found the Ethos model of interesrt in other countries around the world too.
HE Subscription Model – 12 months on
There are currently two options
- Subscription model: with a subscription (£500-5,000) plus current charges (£4.95 copies/£9loan)
- Transactional model where there’s an increase on charges per item (£5.40 copies/£9.90 loans).
It is anticipated that there will be a 10% increase in transactional charges in 2010. 47 institutions have signed up to transactional route. With the rises in price in Aug 2010 it is however anticipated that 95% of people will go down the subscription route. Personally I don;t know where the BL get this 95% figure from, it seemed to be conjured from the air – I would be surprised if it turns out to be as cut and dried as they seemed to suggest.
Future activities – Total Library
The use of BL is global, even by other DS lending libraries. 84% of requests are currently fulfilled and the aim is to bring this rate up to 100%. This will be achieved by partnerships with 3rd party vendors. A recent pilot scheme achieved a 96% rate. The plan is a live service to roll out in 2010 (March/April), delayed from Q3 2009. This will include any research related document that a customer wants, not just those held by the BL.
For all requests BL and BLDSC can’t supply they will go to their extended list of suppliers (retrieval services). Some items will involve a copyright fee and so some documents will be more expensive to source. There will be standard charges where a collection exists, for those where retrieval services are needed the charge will be variable. There will likely be a need to declare how much a user or service is prepared to pay for a document to be found.
Jerry Shillito & Peter Robinson Reading rooms or Doc Supply: Mixing and Matching BL services for the benefit of the customer.
This talk began with a general overview of the more than 150M items (and more as this figure was some years old)that make up the BL’s collections. Of this over 8M consulted a year with an additional 1M a year acquired. It followed with an overview of the BL locations at St Pancras, Colindale and Boston Spa facilities and collections. It was noted that in the next two/three years Colindale will close and collections will merge into the other two sites. Then Jerry went through access to materials on site, information which is available on their website. Electronic requests are the easiest and fastest way to request material to be retrieved. Phone/email are taken but take longer to respond. Some rare items still require a paper ticket and a personal visit.
The BL has 112K registered readers, with 500k individual visits. Almost 75% are academic researchers – which includes students of all levels. Those who use document supply are a similar cross section of the public. Zetoc is joint Mimas/JISC/BL and access to e-TOC 1993-date. BL Direct is 5 year slice of Zetoc.
He noted an easy guide as to what they can’t supply – generally if an item has a DSC shelf mark then it can be supplied; but many things don’t. No-loanable items include legal deposit materials, pre-1900 (as loans), pre-1850 (as photocopies), CD-ROMs (even if attached to books due to legal concerns), market research reports ad electronic resources (e.g. databases). If they can’t supply, then a visit to the BL is a possibility to consult the item. Alternatively there are the imaging services.
Stewart Gillies, Accessing the Newspaper Collection – and moving it
Giles gave an overview of the collections – 53k newspaper/magazine titles, collected via legal deposit. 2,500 titles taken as legal deposit each week. UK National papers are all held including from 1801 onwards Sunday editions held as well. It Also holds overseas, European and Slavonic language newspapers as well, some back to 1631. Commonwealth newspapers from around the globe also make up a portion of the collection. On the other hand Asian, African and mid-east titles are held by at St Pancras BL and not Colindale site. Noted comics (UK) are also collected, from at least the 60s.
To find them on the BL catalogue, you need to use the Newspaper Catalogue Subset search as the main catalogue will currently not find them. However, the new beta version of the BL catalogue may improve matters. NEWSPLAN was a programme for archiving and saving via microfilm regional newspapers. A website exists that lists them, many of which are not held directly by the BL, but the locations are.
Recently BL has been involved in some major newspaper digitisation projects. One is the 17/18th Century Burney Collection (1,200 titles or 1M pages) – freely accessible to academic libraries via JISC. Also 19th Century digitisation project for almost 50 titles (national and local) – again freely available to HE and FE via JISC [www.jisc-collections.ac.uk/19thblib].
Stewart noted that 15% of the collection cannot be used due to fragility of poor quality paper, and use by researchers further degrades the quality of those items they do keep (as a comic book collector I can well appreciate is!). Colindale is not ideal in terms of environmental maintenance and is over 70 years old and too expensive to renovate. The split of the newspapers between there and the main BL site also causes issues for readers. By 2012 St Pancras will be the hub for access (digital and microfilm), and the physical collections will go to Boston Spa. By 2017 the aim is to satisfy 80% requests electronically. If funding allows the BL would like to extend the subscription to significant title archives (e.g. Guardian, NY Times etc). For now they are working on getting current newspapers to be deposited in a suitable born-digital format, though this is only at a pilot stage.
These sessions were followed by an excellent lunch, for which I must commend both the BL’s caterers and the FIL committee for their choice of venue!
Helen O’Neill, The London Library, Past, Present & Future
The Library was founded in 1841, pre-public libraries act, with a focus on lending in a corner of St James’ Square. Now the largest independent lending library in the world. A subscription organisation and as a charitable organisation relies on the income. Noted that a number of famous literary people have been associated with the library. Collections span C16 to present day, with a million books in the library. 97% are available for loan.
The history of the library is a history of change – they do not wish to lose volumes and want them all to be shelved and openly accessible (which aside from 3% they are). Therefore there has been a need for physical expansion up, down and left and right. It also offers a full range of standard reader services such as enquiries, loans, book retrieval etc. In 2000 need for expansion, approached library members for guidance – overwhelmingly express the desire for stock to remain in one location. Thus the library needed to preserve the best of the past, but to use new technologies to meet needs of wider membership and ensure future curation of book stock. Work on building progressed in phases, but during this period they managed to maintain full services throughout.
Ben Taylor and Abigail Moss, Transforming London’s public library services: the role of request handling
In a spin and buzzword heavy session Abigail spoke about how this is part of the London Cultural Improvement programme, partnered with the MLA. They have less public libraries in London per capita than elsewhere in the rest of the country; although 99% of Londoners live with 1 mile of a public library. As a result they have higher visitations than the average across the whole of the UK, although they have a slight dip in average satisfaction. She mentioned the forthcoming General Election and reduction in funding that they face. Libraries currently take 40% of cultural council budgets – and costs per capita 40% more than the rest of the UK public libraries. A major problem is with 33 different library authorities adopting different technologies inter-working is made harder. Platform for change means the aim is to improve staff, reduce overhead, improve services and bring all 33 services up to the same level. Which in plain English is cutting costs while trying to make everyone work harder to deliver a better service.
Ben moved on to talk about the role of inter-lending,and RedQuadrant management consultancy for whom he works. Focus was on fiscal savings, and were commissioned by the London Library Change Programme Board. Estimated that £5m could be saved by implementing the review. The demand/supply diagram they used was a way to conceptualise how the system currently worked to library managers and councillors. Noted one solution adopted by a library service was to opt out of ILL and just buy the book from Amazon, as it would arrive much faster and more reliably. Again a lot of this talk wasn’t especially relevant to my interests, although as an overview of a wide scale review it did have its moments of interest. Sadly it was a confused and confusing presentation delivered at lighting speed with little of true relevance and context for those outside of London public libraries.
Frances Lill, BL Catalogue Beta
What she was talking about is not a new catalogue just a new UI which will cover more material than the current engine. Rather than only searching 13M items it now searches over 90M items (including A/V materials) and the intention is to increase this still further. It takes a Google approach to simplifying searching, but also has social web functionalities allowing users to note and tag records themselves. These are in the public domain, although notes are moderated. . Single word title searches (e.g. Nature) are an improved functionality example.
As an interface it looks closer to Amazon, and indeed may well be using the same technology at a guess, or is inspired by it at least. It looks very promising as a resource, and will doubtless be very useful for people once it launches. Also will offer requesting functionality for people who go direct to the BL rather than make use of a DS service.
Jason Murray and Peter Robinson, Services for Visually impaired (readers and remote users)
Demonstrated two readers for helping visually impaired readers (MyReader2), which looked rather clunky, but once running was more impressive. Could adapt colours size, read the text and even splice text together if separated by pictures. Being used as a study aid by others who don’t have visual problems, which is fine so long as those with genuine need given priority. Other kit (ScanR aka Daniel) reads the text aloud. Then finally attempted to show program called Supernova – which is magnifier of other computer applications, which sadly didn’t work. Also noted the BL has physical things for disabled readers as well such as adjustable desks.
Peter then spoke about services for visually impaired distance customers and the requirements under law for them to satisfy them. As always reasonable adjustments are the key. Alternative formats in print – colour of paper or enlarged text – orders to firstname.lastname@example.org. Electronic copies can be sent as unencrypted PDF (e.g. can be read out loud by Adobe reader) – allows for conversion to plain text by user.
As an overview of the BL, their services, plans, forthcoming developments and collections this was an excellent day. The afternoon sessions while each contained something of interest was more London-centric and left me a little cold at times. If it hadn’t been for the session from the BL on accessibility at the end I’d have been very disappointed with the afternoon. I’ll also make a personal plea to the organisers to hold speakers to time within their slots, please. That said it was an excellent venue, great food, and very convenient for my train home. I have come away with a better understanding of a wide range of issues, and look forward to attending the next such event. So long as it’s not all about London…