Thoughts on the Scottish Higher Education Digital Library (SHEDL), Sheila Cannell (Edinburgh University)

Added by Sheilacannell on 16 November 2010 11:42

This guest blog is taken from Edinburgh University Director of Library Services Sheila Cannell’s talk at the 9 November 2010 workshop on evaluating the impact of the Scottish Higher Education Digital Library (SHEDL) hosted by the RIN & SCURL.


In 2008 I was chair of the Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries (SCURL), and SCURL Directors quickly saw the benefits for their library service.

However, as we were negotiating in mid-2008, the financial crisis hit, and SHEDL has run alongside the changing financial scenarios since then.  SHEDL is very dependent on the spending in each institution with the publishers being negotiated with because that is the baseline target for the SHEDL negotiation and since 2008, this has been becoming more challenging.

For my institution SHEDL is important.  In the current RIN report by John and Laura Cox, Edinburgh is called the “dominant” user, showing the highest use of SHEDL deals, the highest downloads per head, and the largest (thought not the highest percentage) increase in usage of the 3 publishers in the first year.  I would stress, as others have also, that we were keen to see early trends of the first year of SHEDL usage; but that it is likely that future years may show different trends as SHEDL becomes embedded.  We do know that in the first months of the second year of SHEDL usage, Edinburgh remains the largest user, but that there has been some downward trend in use.

Edinburgh gained some more content due to the SHEDL deals, because we did not already have all the NESLI deals which some other Scottish institutions already had.  SHEDL helped Edinburgh in its strategic e-preference goal, and helped us to push the e-only agenda, leading to reductions in space and staff requirements.  However, it is likely to be the case that in Edinburgh, researchers and students are avid for any content, and are not particularly aware that some of the content comes to them courtesy of SHEDL.  A further benefit to Edinburgh is that the availability of SHEDL deals means that researchers in research pools in other Universities will not have to ask colleagues to share content with them, allowing Edinburgh to keep within its licence conditions.

It is interesting to speculate why Edinburgh has seen the largest increases in the first year.  There may be several reasons, all highlighted in the Cox report: Edinburgh is in all the research pools; Edinburgh has high Chemistry and Medicine presence, and these are important in the publishers in the first year of SHEDL; and Edinburgh’s subject librarians actively promote digital library usage.  Overall researchers and students in Edinburgh, as a research intensive university, demonstrate patterns of usage which have been highlighted in other RIN reports. 

I have some thoughts for the future: 

  • I expect that we will see continued upward rise in usage in all Scottish institutions, as we make more content available.
  • Parity of access in the research pools is important and we should continue to target content which is important for research pools.
  • We need to think about the future of “marketing” SHEDL.  In my view it is less important that end users know that they are using SHEDL content, than that policy makers and funders understand the value of SHEDL to Scottish research.  This should mean that our marketing should be to this group. 
  • The shared information environment in SHEDL has provided useful data about usage and cost per use, which will be replicated in the forthcoming Journals Portal from JISC.  This information is invaluable for negotiation with publishers because it becomes clear that some resources cost much more than other per use.
  • I think it is important to expand the SHEDL portfolio, but this means that we must negotiate with the large publishers, such as Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell, or else the SHEDL portfolio is not central to the full portfolio of resources we make available in our libraries.


Sheila Cannell

Director of Library Services, Edinburgh University Library




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