UK Research Reserve (UKRR): collaboration and space saving across the UK's Higher Education libraries

UK Research Reserve (UKRR): collaboration and space saving across the UK's Higher Education libraries

15 October 2019

‘…a highly successful project which has evolved into a major ongoing resource…’
Professor Sir Rick Trainor, Chair, UKRR Board

UKRR in figures

  • Supported the processing of 130,000m of print journal materials
  • Released 98,000m of shelf-space in 36 libraries
  • £4.04 saved for every £1 of funding allocated
  • Capital savings of £29.6m
  • Recurrent savings of £17.1m
  • British Library (BL) and participating libraries ensured the retention of 30,000 journal titles
  • 10,000 holdings from 8,000 titles alone filled the gaps in the BL’s own loan collection
  • Enhanced data in the BL’s catalogue for 300,000 individual journal issues
  • Space released in participating libraries re-purposed for a variety of student study and collaboration facilities
  • UKRR dataset made publicly available


The UK Research Reserve (UKRR) was established in 2007 to explore whether, through collaborative documentation, preservation and de-duplication of low use print journals, it would be possible to realise benefits through the generation of space savings across the UK’s HE libraries. UKRR commenced as a pilot, funded by RE’s predecessor HEFCE, in 2007 (Phase 1), then as a project from 2009 - 2019 (Phases 2 and 3) with a total investment of £11.58M. Through the UKRR process every print journal issue is checked against the national collection and two copies are always retained - an access copy at the BL and one further preservation copy within the community (in a Holding Library). Journals were selected because, for this material, the transition from print availability to digital was well underway (including digital back files).

The establishment of UKRR was timely, coinciding with both the growth in published journal output and increases in student numbers. At the time both of these factors placed increasing pressure on university space, particularly in libraries.

The scheme was also met with significant challenges that played a critical role in the eventual process design including, poor quality metadata and negative connotations associated with the disposal of library content. Therefore the UKRR team created robust processes and engaged with stakeholders to inform a scheme that focussed on recognising scarcity and unique or rarely preserved content. 

What now?

To date, 36 libraries have participated in UKRR, including Imperial College London who, until March 2019, managed the three phases of the scheme. The UKRR service is now delivered by the BL, who, as part of phase 3 refined the process and re-platformed the UKRR system ensuring its sustainability and legacy into the future. Enhanced data is now available through the BL’s catalogue and Jisc’s National Bibliographic Knowledgebase (NBK), a service which helps libraries collaboratively manage their collections. In addition and in order to preserve the robust processes originally created for the scheme, Research Libraries UK (RLUK) have put in place a Collaborative Collection Retention Agreement (CCRA) to ensure that material preservation continues to be upheld as a principle of the scheme by signatories and thus participating institutions.

Moving forward, interested organisations are continuing to exploring whether the UKRR processes, proven to be successful for print journals, can be extended to monographs, with initial research conducted by the UKRR team advocating for an emphasis on collaborative preservation.

Imperial College London have made the UKRR Final Report available to all through their online repository.

More information on the support provided by Research England to the information infrastructure on which researchers depend.