UKRR: Twelve years of lessons learned

UKRR: Twelve years of lessons learned

15 October 2019

The UK Research Reserve (UKRR) was a project which enabled UK research libraries to release space through the co-ordinated disposal of print journals. The project ran for 12 years and went through three different phases, with an adjusted model for each phase, before transferring over to the British Library as a business-as-usual (BAU) service. Inevitably this meant that the UKRR project teams were able to learn valuable lessons and reflect in the design of a sustainable service going forward.

The top three key lessons taken from the experience of running UKRR have been:

  1. Importance of advocacy
    At its inception UKRR was a potentially controversial concept, and part of the success in overcoming this rests upon advocating effectively, both to get new institutions on board and to ensure that any concerns of key stakeholders were addressed effectively. As the project progressed, the type of institutions involved widened, from Research Library UK (RLUK) members, branching out to include non-RLUK members, and, in Phase 3, the first non-Higher Education library. However, with only thirty-six UKRR participants so far there is great scope for more partners to be involved, and this requires promotion of the benefits the service can bring, as well as the ability to address concerns about what UKRR might mean at an institutional level.
  2. Building trust
    The UKRR was a collaborative venture involving numerous stakeholders. Disposal of printed collections is controversial within the academic community and therefore a risk-averse approach was applied, focusing on co-ordinated retention (and close scrutiny of rare items) alongside de-duplication. As this approach demonstrated real benefits with minimal impact on access, the trust within the community developed and the approach accepted.
  3. Importance of System thinking
    The original system and process design that had developed over the 12 years supported the delivery of an outcome that far exceeded the predicted benefits – 4:1 return on investment. Notwithstanding, going forward this needed a review in order to design a more streamlined and therefore sustainable service reflecting user needs. This required an overhaul of related systems including - Jisc move from Suncat to NBK, the transfer of Larch from ICL to the BL and the re-platforming of the BL database. Based on this new architecture, the BL process was reengineered thus reducing the process steps from 116 to 38. This new approach places more emphasis on right-1st-time list submissions, a more agile process, managed by a smaller, but highly skilled BL team.

UKRR as-a-service will continue to play an important role for research libraries to meet their needs in releasing space and preserving the wealth of the nationwide research collections while maintaining access. The lessons learned since 2007 have helped to shape the new service design and under the aegis of the British Library, could open the door to further opportunities.

To find out more about the project, the lessons learned, and the future service, please read the UKRR Final Report.