Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
MONDAY 29 APRIL 2002
40. But if the British Library is the number
one library in the world for its collections then that in itself
would have a status. The British Library electronic research library
would presumably have that cachet that scientists are looking
(Sir Brian Follett) I think so.
41. It is a huge marketing possibility here
for the British Library to take over the historic monopolies that
all these obscure journals have previously enjoyed, and then you
will return to the Treasury far in excess of £30 million
(Mrs Brindley) I think it is very clear that changes
to the scholarly communication system, which you are right to
allude to, have got to be owned by the researchers themselves
and the institutions. That is where you need to see the change.
In one or two disciplines it is very clear that it is moving fast
but in most disciplines it quite simply is not. As we move from
basically collecting print to also increasingly collecting electronically,
there is one other issue which we have not alluded to yet, which
is the need to extend our legal deposit arrangements from the
print to the electronic world. And that would be an absolutely
core requirement to that because at the present time publishers
are required to deposit with the UK copyright; librariesanything
that is published in print but there is no equal requirement for
legal deposit of electronic journals or electronic publications.
So potentially, until we get that legislation, there will be quite
a major gap in our collections that will pt at risk our premier
position, so that is a point we need to address.
42. Can I put to you one final question and
it is to do with the question of cost again? Earlier, Sir Brian,
you mentioned the figure of £150 million that was spent on
acquisitions of journals that would have been £400 million
without the role of the British Library making them available
nationally. My question is, what assessment have you made, if
any, of the scale of the duplication that still exists and if
I can quote the obvious example of the universities nearest to
my constituency, UMIST, Manchester Metropolitan, Victoria University
in Manchester, Salford University a mile and a half in the other
direction, how on earth can you possibly justify each of those
four universities having fully fledged research libraries and
each buying every month their own copy of the Journal of Theoretical
(Sir Howard Newby) The answer is we cannot and
we do not.
43. The question is whether there is a lot of
money involved or whether there is going to be a bid to the spending
review either this year or the spending review in three years'
time or whether the electronic research library can be developed
entirely by readjusting the existing budgets through eliminating
the duplication of multiple purchasing?
(Sir Howard Newby) First of all, Manchester is, of
course, a rather sensitive issue at the moment. As it happens
the four universities in the city of Manchester do collaborate
very closely and have reciprocal library rights. Leaving that
to one side, your general point is quite right. What Brian's group
was asked to consider was whether as a funding council together
with our partners we needed to put in place rather more robust
mechanisms for co-ordination which might exist in Manchester but
might not exist between Manchester and somewhere else or indeed
over specific subject disciplines nationally. There is also an
issue about whether very specialist centres need to be created
and sustained serving a national remit or whether we just leave
it to the laissez-faire of the university individual collecting
policies. We rather suspect we should not leave it to individual
collection policies in individual universities.
44. Are you working on a more robust mechanism?
(Sir Howard Newby) That is what we have asked Brian's
group to come up with.
Chairman: Thank you, gentlemen. I want to move
on to electronic resources in a more focused way. Paul, would
you like to start?
45. Just a question on the technicalities. Are
people accessing new information electronically? Are they reading
it online or downloading it and reading it offline?
(Mrs Brindley) I think it is both. Licensing arrangements
are different, so in many cases you can read on screen freely
but if you choose to print off that can be done.
46. As the volume of access electronically has
grown and grown are there the problems of accession over too many
people trying to get on to the site or does it get sluggish at
particular times of the day?
(Mrs Brindley) I think that is partly a question for
(Sir Howard Newby) Yes. The individual universities,
I can say that I think all the major research universities encourage
a degree of reading offline and I think all of them now have created
a cache system so if you are accessing, whether it is the British
Library or indeed overseas, you are not wasting or using resources
unnecessarily by constantly going online.
(Sir Howard Newby) My old university at Southampton
certainly operated a very successful cache system which enabled
that to happen effectively. This is an issue we need to keep an
eye on constantly as a sector.
48. You are not getting any problems with the
capacity of the system? I am thinking of the PRO where they crashed
(Sir Howard Newby) Touch wood, not yet. One of the
things that JISC has successfully doneand I think this
is an achievement that we can be very proud of actuallyit
has constantly kept ahead of the game in that regard. JANET, the
network created by JISC, was created a long, long time ago, a
long time before the internet so that when the internet came along
it was unproblematic as far as most academics were concerned and
indeed these days as far as most students are concerned. We have
always tried to upgrade the academic network, JANET, to keep ahead
of any likelihood of predicted demand and so far we have managed
to do that.
Chairman: Valerie, do you want to come in on
Valerie Davey: No, I think mine has been covered.
I was concerned particularly, as David has pointed out, about
the information between the provider, the publisher and this.
Like David, I am working gradually towards why is there a publisher.
I think my point has been covered, thank you, Chair.
Chairman: Let us move on to the relationship
between the British Library and the universities. I think Meg
Munn wants to take you to task on this.
49. Given what we have been talking about, about
the different resources that there are, and given the way that
higher education is developing and the fact that we want to open
up access and ensure more people can get access. How are you going
to be able to ensure that there is an equality of access to quality
resources for all researchers from all universities wherever they
might be based?
(Sir Howard Newby) I think at the moment, because
JANET is run as a national system and because the agreements we
have, including our strategic alliance with the British Library,
are nationally based then we can say with our hand on our heart
that as far as researchers are concerned, staff in any British
higher education institution, broadly speaking, have equality
of access to online materials, I do not think there is a problem
there. I did hint earlier that there is a wider problem because
we have to recognise that today's research is tomorrow's teaching
materials. Many of the users, of course, these days are students.
It began as an issue of researchers but now students are the major
users of JANET. We have to see how we can ensure access by studentsfull-time,
part-time, in their halls of residence, not just in the library
and so on and so forththat has been a challenge, to try
to keep ahead of that growth in demand. The technology has changed
very rapidly and we have had to have successive waves of investment
in our education institutions to keep up with that and that will
remain a challenge, there is no doubt about that.
50. Moving away a bit from the electronic information,
given what was said earlier about all the stuff that goes back
lots and lots of years, it has not all going to be there electronically
for a long, long time, and what was said in your memorandum about
the fact that universities which have a longer history of research
will have more research information available and given the newer
universities, how are we going to get over that problem?
(Sir Howard Newby) Certainly we have encouraged universities
to come together locally and regionally so they can organise themselves
into groupings which offer reciprocal rights to both students
and staff. In other words, if you are in a relatively new institution
which has not had a history of building up its collection, both
staff and students at that institution should be able to access
what they need on a 24 hour basis either from Boston Spa or from
a local institution with a longer history as far as its library
is concerned, and indeed vice versa. That has worked pretty well,
(Mrs Brindley) I think we do see ourselves through
Sir Brian's review co-ordinating much more at a regional level
this equality of physical access. Certainly the British Library
is playing its part in that by being part of a national referral
scheme so that, if you like, the first port of call is where you
are, the second port of call may be Manchester or may be your
region and then you will be fast tracked through to the British
Library. That is becoming quite an integrated referral scheme.
We work too, of course, with the public librariespartly
again because of our positioningvery much to increasingly
use the public library as the vehicle through which we would deliver
British Library services for the citizen, but also the life long
learner, if you like, and the setting up of learning centres in
public libraries is a critical part of that complementary infrastructure.
In fact, of course, many students actually work in public libraries
so it is getting that new system to work together.
51. Yes. Certainly I would see that as a very
important aspect if we are looking at people coming in at an older
age, perhapsnot students going away physically to university
and they have other demands on lifeactually using those
facilities. Do you feel those resources are adequately publicised
in terms of people knowing that they can have that level of access
and those systems are in place?
(Mrs Brindley) Yes. I think it is quite early days.
We are just putting into place some of these national referral
schemes. We have one, for example, in the M25 region that works
right across all libraries within the M25, which is just one example.
I think it is very early days and I think our work, particularly
with the public libraries, has got a long way to go to get to
fruition, to get to understand that actually people do have access
to the British Library, they may not know they have got access
to the British Library and in one sense that does not matter but
they do have access. The whole inter-lending system which our
Boston Spa site supports, not just document delivery but the inter-lending
of books, the public library is a major user of that.
52. To push you here on that for a moment. The
picture one always gets of higher education is of the research
rich universities having more books, more access, more librarians,
more of everything. In a sense, is not HEFCE in a way missing
a trick here? Is this not the one waythis wonderful central
resourceof compensating those universities that do not
have rich endowments and are research rich in every sense? Is
this not the way to compensate? We go to universities, we went
to Manchester and they had this very good system of sharing library
resource, that does not occur everywhere and you do not have that
advantage of a mix of universities in one town.
(Sir Howard Newby) First of all, we have invested
heavilydisproportionately heavilyin the learning
resources in new universities and they have actually responded
in quite innovative ways. On the whole they have not tended to
go down the route of, if you like, if I can put it this way, the
traditional library but rather to invest in learning centres which
combine access, yes to books and periodicals and so on, on the
one hand, but online access to electronic materials, on the other.
If you go into one of these buildings it is rather like a cross
between a library and an internet café. The finest learning
centre I have been in recently has been at the University of Sunderland
and I would commend any of you if you are in that part of the
world to go and look at it, it is really wonderful. It provides
the kind of environment which is attractive to the kinds of students
we want to bring in.
53. Is it open 24 hours?
(Sir Howard Newby) It is indeed open 24 hours, it
is 24 seven.
Ms Munn: Let us have a late night visit then,
54. Thank you, Meg.
(Sir Howard Newby) You will be interested to learn,
Chairman, that in SunderlandI know this for a fact I was
there recentlyone of the peak periods is between, let us
get this right, 2 am and 6 am when students have finished with
some of their social activity but need to go in to meet their
55. Good quality research.
(Sir Howard Newby) Indeed. Where the sector has, I
think, been successful, there is always a constant challenge.
Indeed, it has been negotiating national agreements over copyright
for learning materials, this has not been easy. There has recently
been a legal challenge in one particular case so that all the
universities and colleges, under a national agreement, can make
available to students photocopied and other kinds of reproduced
materials for learning purposes and we have been quite successful
in negotiating that. I think the new universities have been far
more innovative in the way they have approached students' needs
for learning and teaching than the older universities which are
rather sort of stuck with their historical inheritance in terms
of buildings and infrastructure.
(Sir Brian Follett) Can I add. I agree with you, the
fact that in many ways Super JANET itself is a good example of
providing a remarkably world class network to all institutions
regardless by taking money off the very top of the budget line
to provide that. Really that is what is happening in many ways
with some of the research resources and that is one way in which
a research electronic library has grown. You have been talking
particularly in the last few minutes about the teaching and learning
side, and of course they are connected, but in many ways the research
problem is a question of vast amounts of information, any one
piece of which will only be accessed by the odd individual. The
situation in teaching and learning is really the opposite way
round, relatively small amounts of material which will accessed
by tens of thousands of individuals, perhaps simultaneously. That
is a very interesting challenge. Now it could have been done within
this one committee that I am chairing, in fact it was decided,
I think wisely, not to mix them together because there is a bit
of apples and pears. JISC which runs the network has been charged,
and has begun working heavily now on providing over the network
what are called managed learning environments. Those managed learning
environments also include the capacity to access learning materials
over the web. That is being done particularly because of the new
responsibilities that JISC has for FE. When I happened to write
a report on this JISC about 18 months ago, it was made very clear
to me by the further education principals I met that they were
delighted to join the higher education network, they have got
access to a wonderful network, but they did expect that the emphasis
would shift and that their priorities, which are mass access to
teaching and learning material, would figure much more prominently,
and that is rapidly under way. The irony is that not only are
there difficulties with copyright on teaching and learning materials,
the truth is that for all our talk there are not all that many
good electronic teaching and learning materials available.
56. Could I pursue the question about access
by looking at the issue of the recharge costs? At the moment,
the British Library takes 50 per cent of its inquiries from higher
education, and I think you have already said 25 per cent from
(Sir Howard Newby) Business, yes.
57. You quoted Glaxo Wellcome in particular.
(Sir Howard Newby) Yes.
58. Assume a particular university carries nothing
from tax, that is because the recharge is between the library
and the individual university. What is the differential between
the conventional recharge cost to an individual university and
a typical recharge cost to a commercial organisation?
(Mrs Brindley) For the same service, for example for
a document supplied, there is not a differential charge because
of the Treasury rules for charging. We work very clearly within
the Treasury guidelines. For the same service we are obliged to
charge the same price. That said, the sort of thing we were talking
about earlier in terms of some of the more highly value added
services that we were planning, we would only offer those on a
fully commercial basis.
59. Again, looking forward to the establishment
of the electronic resource library, if an individual, not registered
with the university, wishes to access that, will there be a charge
to an individual, somebody who simply has a lifelong passion in
(Mrs Brindley) I think unless, for example, they could
convince their public library to fund them or some other organisation
they were affiliated to, if they came simply as an individual
they would be charged, yes.