How to improve public access to digital content in academic libraries

Added by Sarah on 01 September 2006 15:12

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A new report from the RIN recommends new ways to give the public easy access to digital content in academic libraries.

News release - 1 September 2006

The report addresses issues raised in the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology’s Scientific publications - free for all?. In its response to the Select Committee, the Government recognised that public access to journal articles and other content is patchy at best. At the request of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the RIN assembled an expert group to advise on how best to improve the position.

The RIN report identifies three key areas where improvements can be made. First, a major obstacle to easy access is the complex wording of publishers’ and aggregators’ licenses, which means that libraries are unclear whether or not they can provide access for members of the public to digital content. The creation of a UK Register of Licenses, with a common agreement on phraseology, should therefore be created as a matter of urgency.

Second, universities and college face technical challenges in providing access for members of the public only to the resources where such access is allowed. Local solutions are wasteful, inconsistent, and difficult for users. A national approach is required.  Third, administrative and other issues arise when providing a managed environment for the public to gain access to digital resources. Universities and colleges need help at a UK level in order to cope with these issues. The report recommends that the Inspire programme should be should be funded to provide the UK level of support that is required.

Public access to licensed content held in academic universities is available at…


Michael Jubb - Director, Research Information Network, email: - telephone: 020 7412 7285

Sarah Gentleman - Communications Officer, Research Information Network, email: - telephone: 020 7412 7241

Notes to editors:

The Inspire Programme: The Inspire programme is an initiative that has made significant steps towards establishing a national system to facilitate managed access for learners to the materials held in libraries across England, and especially those in the higher education sector.  The programme is funded by the DfES in co-operation with the DCMS, through the Museums Libraries and Archives Partnership (MLA); and by the British Library, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), and the Museums Libraries and Archives Council through the Regional Libraries Advisory Group (RLAG). 

About the Research Information Network:

The Research Information Network (RIN) is a new organization, established for an initial three-year period, with £3 million of funding, by a consortium made up of the four UK Higher Education funding bodies; the three National Libraries; and the eight Research Councils.
The RIN’s mission is: ‘To lead and co-ordinate new developments in the collaborative provision of research information for the benefit of researchers in the UK’ The key role of the RIN is to give the strategic leadership required to establish a national framework for research information provision, and to generate effective and sustainable arrangements for meeting the information needs of the professional research community.The domain across which the RIN operates covers all disciplines and subjects, from the physical and life sciences to the social sciences, the arts and humanities. Consequently, the RIN addresses the different and distinct information requirements of the various research communities, not only in higher education, but in a range of other sectors. 

The RIN is also mindful of the overlapping needs of other users, particularly teachers and learners.The RIN?s remit covers a similarly wide range of information sources, providers and types.  It includes published books and serials; manuscripts; museum collections; grey literature; sounds and images; and datasets produced and held in a wide range of formats. Such resources may be digital or not, and the RIN recognizes the continued need, for many researchers, to operate in a hybrid digital and non-digital world.

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