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UCL Library Services Strategy 2011-2014


Paul Ayris
Director of UCL Library Services & UCL Copyright Officer
President of LIBER (Association of European Research Libraries)

The Library Strategy from UCL Library Services for 2011-14 presents an ambitious plan for development and growth to support UCL’s teaching, learning, research and outreach activities as London’s Global University.

The Library has undertaken a full review of its strategic planning process, performed by RAND Europe, and the result is to be seen in the present document. This Library Services Strategy presents five Key Performance Areas which encapsulate the main emphases on which the Library will concentrate in its strategy for growth in 2011-14. These Key Performance Areas are:

  • Student Experience
  • Research Support
  • Support for Healthcare
  • Space Management
  • Widening Participation and Public Engagement

Following the recommendations of the RAND Europe review, the objectives of these Key Performance Areas are captured in Implementation Plans, to be overseen by the UCL Library Services’ Planning Team, supported by a comprehensive Communication Strategy. The Strategy itself, and the Implementation Plans, will be reviewed annually by the Library’s Planning Team to ensure that they reflect current UCL strategies and priorities.

The Strategy has been produced at a time of unprecedented challenge in the UK Higher Education sector, which has changed – probably forever – following the changes to Higher Education funding and the raising of student tuition fees. These changes are being observed in many European countries – both by Universities and by the European Commission. It is a challenging time in which to produce a new Strategy. What UCL Library Services has done is to take the challenges identified by a PEST analysis (looking at Political, Economic, Social and Technological developments) and to identify the opportunities, which are considerable, that this analysis has offered for growth and development in facilities and services to support UCL.

Main foci of activity for development and growth

What are the main foci of activity which the new Library Strategy has identified? All five Key Performance Areas present important opportunities for the Library to develop/embed new services and facilities in UCL to support staff and students. However, a number of exciting challenges present themselves.

  • Visioning library space for the future
  • New IT developments to support research, teaching and learning
  • Putting the Student Experience at the forefront of the Library’s activities
  • Developing new models for research support
  • Healthcare practice
  • Widening Participation and Public Engagement

The new UCL Bloomsbury Masterplan has as its aim the consolidation of several UCL libraries – notably the UCL Main and Science Libraries – into the Wilkins Building. The first Librarian was appointed to UCL in 1827, but the University has never had a purpose-designed library throughout its entire history. The genius of the Bloomsbury Masterplan is that the plan will consolidate the Main and Science Libraries into one place, modernising throughout the library estate and the facilities which the Library can offer its users. The Ground Floor of the Wilkins Building will be converted to provide IT-enabled social learning spaces, spilling out into the Cloisters, which will be overseen by the Library in partnership with ISD and the Learning Technology Support Service. These spaces will also link to library spaces in each of the new Faculty Hubs, which will be devoted to digital delivery, and spaces for interaction between staff/students and the Library’s teaching outreach. The Learning Laboratory on the Ground Floor of the DMS Watson Building will be retained under the Library’s management, as it is currently the most popular IT-enabled learning space anywhere in UCL. UCL Special Collections, one of the most important collections of rare books, manuscripts and archives in UK Higher Education, will be re-located to the Wilkins Building and offer a public service in collaboration with the UCL Records Office and the Strang Print Room.

Technological developments continue to re-define the learning and research experience. 2011 will see the introduction into UCL of the Primo tool with its Google-type search interface and an underlying Knowledgebase which will give UCL staff and students access to literally millions of digital items from across the globe. 2011 will also see the introduction of new software and a plan to enable every UCL course to have an accompanying digital reading list, available through Moodle, with links to digitised content to support the provision of core readings.

The Student experience is a notable emphasis in the new Library Strategy. One of the ways in which UCL Library Services is tackling this agenda is by looking at opening hours across all 16 sites in the UCL family of libraries. Digital delivery is certainly becoming more and more important, but the fact remains that the number of users of physical libraries and physical library spaces continues to increase. Research Libraries UK reports that across UK research libraries the number of users using library spaces and collections is currently increasing by 10% per year.

In the Strategy period, the Library will review its offerings in the area of research support. It will develop an E-Publishing arm, to complement its current activity in UCL Discovery and UCL’s Open Access mandate, to support UCL researchers. This will make UCL Library Services one of the most progressive institutions in this context in the whole of Europe. The Library will improve the provision of e-resources identified as necessary for researchers in UCL. Sustainable digital curation services will continue to be developed to support the researcher and the student in having long-term access to digital resources.

The Library’s support for Healthcare practice reveals UCL Library Services as a service with one of the largest portfolios in any UK University Library. The NHS provides substantial funding to UCL to support service provision across 8 library sites. UCL’s own status as a foundation partner in the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation will provide a major opportunity for UCL Library Services, in this Strategy period, to provide significant digital services to Francis Crick Institute researchers who are based in this facility in St Pancras.

Another new area of activity is that of Widening Participation and Public Engagement. These are new agendas for the Library, but ones which are central to UCL and to Government policy. UCL Special Collections will be important in developing UCL’s outreach to Schools. Reader Services also has a very significant role to play with Schools in introducing potential UCL applicants to the pace and nature of study in a research-intensive University, working in partnership with academic Departments and their Open Days. During the Strategy period, the Library will also look at the role of its extensive Exhibitions activity to support both agendas.


2011 is a challenging time, but it presents the Library with a number of very important opportunities for development and growth. This Strategy addresses these challenges directly and will deliver a library and information service which is modern and based in the research, teaching, learning and outreach needs of UCL.

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