Library Support: Presenting Jisc’s offer

Part of the work to transform Jisc’s library support services includes presenting a clearer image to our users of what our offer to libraries is. With that in mind, we have begun to refresh our Library Support page.

The aim of the refresh was not to present just a list of our services as before, but rather align those services to functions carried out by libraries while explaining how those services offer time saving, sector wide efficiencies and benefits. In developing the page, I drew upon the areas set out in Techniques in Electronic Management (TERMS) as developed by Graham Stone, previously of University of Huddersfield and Jill Emery, Portland State University and in conjunction with the library community. TERMS addressed electronic resources so I wanted to ensure the functions identified, for example, Discovery and Delivery, were still relevant for non-electronic based resources such as print books and archives, which several of our services support. Any feedback on the terminology or the page would certainly be welcome as this page needs to work for the people it is aimed at.

The new page also includes details of any events, training as well as the latest news relevant to libraries. Further pages will be developed over the next few months to provide more detail about our offer in this area.

Library + Data + Labs = what exactly?

An account of the Jisc & HESA Library Data Labs Showcase and its future

Libraries are information and data centres like few others, both by the nature of their business and through the data they collect. However, with so much information, it is not easy to make effective use of the data they possess given their increasingly limited time and resources. Therefore it is timely that the Business Intelligence project, a joint initiative between Jisc and the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), provided an experimentation opportunity to libraries to explore the potential of using the data and analytics tools available in the recently developed Heidi-Plus service.

What is the Library Data Labs project?

Library Data Labs is the third in a series of development cycles in the Business Intelligence project and followed the successful format of the two previous cohorts which involved working with university strategic planners. In addition to producing new business insights with the data available, the aim of those cohorts was to produce data-visualised dashboards which could be made available to others via the Heidi-Plus service.

This project differed in that it included library data with the aim of producing library-specific insights. Five cross-institutional teams from 23 different university libraries and one Jisc team worked for three months from mid-July to the beginning of October. Each team was led by a Product Owner and supported by a Jisc Scrum Master, who brought the teams together and guided them through the project using an Agile methodology. Teams were tasked with producing user stories to determine the questions that teams wanted the data visualisations to answer. Teams also committed to a scrum meeting one day per week across the 3 month project working iteratively and as a team to source the relevant data and produce their visualisations. Training in Tableau software was included with ongoing support provided throughout as well as specialist support for sourcing data provided by data experts from Cetis.

What did the project achieve?

The project culminated with the showcase event in Manchester on 6th October. All six teams presented their dashboards to each other and our expert panel: Jonathan Waller, Director of Information and Analysis, HESA; Keith Cole, Executive Director of Digital Resources, Jisc; and Elizabeth Malone, Chair of the SCONUL Statistics Steering Group and Co-director of Library & Learning Services, Kingston University. It was particularly useful to have representation from SCONUL given the nature of the data being presented on the day. Each team addressed different library questions, resulting in a wide variety of dashboards being produced.

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  • Team Mary examined the impact of library space on student satisfaction across institutions and also the use of library facilities by different groups, including FTEs; alumni; mature students; distance learners; etc. and cross-institutional subject groups. They also produced a mapping of the Question 16 data from the NSS against each element of the SCONUL return data, perhaps providing greater insight as to the basis of the NSS score.
  • Team Simon’s approach included demonstrating how dashboards could help support the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) aspirations, and understand trends and progress in open access publishing, looking green and gold OA. Another dashboard offered a ‘one-stop benchmarking shop’ enabling library directors to benchmark their library’s performance against other institutions, understand the impact of library metrics, including space issues, on student satisfaction, and identify important trends in the sector.
  • Team Elizabeth explored data at a more local level using information about electronic resources usage at the department or school level and also by student type. This could offer many distinct insights from the suitability of a resource for a particular group to providing evidence for subscription negotiations.
  • Team Frankie wanted to compare library spend on a given subject with comparator institutions and look at who was ‘excellent’ in a given subject using data available from NSS, REF and SCONUL data. With the administration of electronic resources budgets difficult to assign to subjects, this was not an easy task and the team issued a challenge to SCONUL and the library community to look at this and other data issues.
  • Team Ian again had a more local based approach but none-the-less several distinct and impressive dashboards were produced. The first explored the need to analyse the value of e-journal subscription deals by looking at usage and cost and the likely effects of swapping titles in and out of a deal, and the cost effectiveness of the deal itself. Another dashboard involved mapping JACS to Dewey to understand student satisfaction and print resource provision.
  • Team Jisc decided to take full advantage of the fact that it possessed usage data for all institutions using JUSP to look sector wide. For the first time, JUSP and IRUS-UK data were combined to give a truer picture of individual journal usage. Overlaying this usage data were a series of ‘quality’ measures such as Impact Factor and Altmetrics to examine the correlation, if any, between usage and ‘quality’. The financial implications of these deals was also presented and the potential for institutional profiling according to Jisc Bands and various mission groups was proffered as a potential add-on to the JUSP service in the future.

After each presentation, the panel members provided individual feedback and the audience voted on the viability of the dashboards for the future using a red, amber, green approach. Many of the dashboards received mostly green votes, indicating the desire to see the dashboards go into service via Heidi-Plus. Those dashboards that focussed more on local data understandably received more amber votes than green, but that was purely because as they exist at the moment, the Heidi-Plus service, being a national service is not the most suitable place. The Jisc team’s dashboards received entirely green votes but some further development work will be done to make these available to members.

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A storify of participants’ tweets are available from the day.

The data

The image below shows the data sources we used with the size indicating the frequency of use within teams’ dashboards.

Data Word Cloud

What’s next for Library Data Labs?

Although the project is geared toward producing proof of concept dashboards only, the enthusiastic response among the showcase participants for what they saw and also the further development and enhancement of the dashboards described by the teams, demonstrated the appetite for such dashboards to continue into some form of service.

Despite the positive response, it is clear that the data available to the library community at present is not necessarily what is needed to begin to answer the questions that libraries need to answer now and into the future. This project has highlighted an opportunity for SCONUL and other data suppliers to examine their data to ensure it is relevant for the expanding evidence base required of and by libraries.

Jisc and HESA will shortlist the dashboards created by the library teams and determine which can go forward into the Heidi-Plus service. Jisc will also explore the continuation of Team Graham’s dashboards in helping to inform Jisc Collections’ negotiations in the future and providing a visualised institutional profiling offer via JUSP.

In 2017, it is planned that the process used in Heidi-Lab and Library Data Labs project is taken forward as a service offering so look out for a call for participants to join a new cycle of dashboard development.

If you want to keep up with the wider Business Intelligence project, or find out about upcoming dashboards, announcements will be posted on the Jiscmail list: JISC-HESA-BUSINESS-INTEL@JISCMAIL.AC.UK. If you want to get access to Heidi-Plus via your institution, then email


The Vision and the transformation going forward

Jisc’s vision is to transform our library support services by developing a more effective, efficient and cohesive set of library services.

Our aim is to develop a modular approach to our library support services, presenting services that more clearly support library activities, for example acquisition, evaluation or preservation. Instead of developing one all-encompassing library support service, we will continue to provide services separately, for example JUSP and KB+, but moving between our services for a particular library activity will become a more seamless and intuitive experience. This will allow libraries the flexibility to use our services to best suit their individual needs and in conjunction with their own third party services.

Plan in more detail

In order to achieve our vision, we will carry out a programme of work, of which the main activities are:

  • Developing a National Bibliographic Knowledgebase (NBK)
  • Orchestrating the data used by each of the library support services, standardising data sources between services and eliminating unnecessary duplication of effort
  • Working on a more detailed understanding of how our library support services support librarians’ activities – for example, from acquisition and licensing through to usage gathering and perpetual access. This will enable us to present Jisc services to librarians in a clear, consistent way through improvements to service interfaces
  • Consolidating maintenance systems/web and making more effective use of cloud infrastructure. API development will support and deliver on the data orchestration activity
  • We will take an iterative approach to developments, both enhancing and integrating existing services and taking the initiative with new opportunities and challenges for the library sector.

Affected services & impact on you

A number of services will be impacted from this development work, including primarily:

  • Jisc Collections
  • JUSP
  • KB+
  • The Keepers Registry

However, the impact is intended to be minimal on user’s experience as much of the work is about the underlying technology and data and centralising and standardising these key service elements. What impact there will be, is when improvements are made to interfaces, but it is expected that these will be entirely positive and beneficial to users of all these services.


Activity Detailed activity: Deliverables/Outputs Due date
Developing a National Bibliographic Knowledgebase (NBK)
  • Selection of preferred supplier and contract placed
  • Library catalogue data available in NBK and beta service available
October 2016
July 2018
Data Orchestration & Standards
  • Authority data sources identified for services
  • Plan produced for proposed data changes
July 2017
Workflow mapping and user interface design
  • User consultation and testing of wireframes with community agreement on workflow approach
July 2017
Consolidation of maintenance systems/web and API development
  • Exploit cloud environment
  • Develop APIs for centralised data sources
July 2017
Access management – develop a single sign-on to support working across services
  • Consolidate service account details
July 2017

Consultation mechanisms

A new Advisory Group, with sector-wide representation, will be created to support and advise on the transformation project.

If you have any queries about any aspect of this message or our approach, then please follow updates via this blog or get in touch with me:

Siobhán Burke, Library Support Services Programme Manager

Or contact your Jisc Account manager.


The National Bibliographic Knowledgebase

Jisc has been working very closely with representatives from the academic library sector (and in particular RLUK, SCONUL and the British Library) to refine and articulate requirements for a new large scale national service. The proposed title of the service is the National Bibliographic Knowledgebase (or NBK for short).


National Bibliographic Knowledgebase

This is essentially the Knowledgebase that the National Monograph Strategy Roadmap set out as its first and most significant recommendation and which will be the foundation upon which a number of important functions and activities will depend. The data underpinning the Knowledgebase will rely – on the first instance – on libraries of all types allowing their bibliographic and holdings data to be aggregated by a designated service provider into a single system that is capable of working at greater scale and ingesting more diverse library data at much faster rates than is currently the case with the Jisc Copac service.

I’ve been taking every opportunity I can to set out the high level plans for the new service and one of the recent conferences I presented at was the SCONUL 2016 conference in Cardiff. I showed a presentation called SCONUL 2016- Building the Case which graphically and textually describes the objectives and the scope of the service; sets out the problems we are aiming to tackle; and finishes by suggesting some value proposition thought experiments and some sustainability ideas.

It’s important to note though that this initiative is now into an active procurement phase where Jisc is in dialogue with short-listed suppliers to negotiate and clarify how the NBK will be created and delivered for the benefit of UK academic and specialist libraries and their users. The schedule is ambitious – both for selecting and contracting a supplier to build the NBK (in place by November 2016); and for delivering a richly functioned production-level service with integrated data sources (by November 2018).

Most important of all, however, is to underline that the building of this system must be a shared community endeavour rather than something that Jisc simply attempts to procure and deliver at a reasonable cost to whoever is interested at the point of use. We are working closely with RLUK, SCONUL, the British Library, individual representatives from academic libraries, with publishers, licensing organisations, and service providers to try and really think through how to realise transformational change.  That change must involve improving the quality and comprehensiveness of information across the bibliographic data ecosystem; but must also involve more effective and efficient access to e-books and digital surrogates of print books.

Those interested in both strands of work might find the recent presentation at the LIBER conference of interest (LIBER 2016 BD-NMS_PM_NG_FINAL) which features analysis and results from our digital access pilot project.

Fingers crossed that we emerge in early November with a solid specification and a strong plan for building the type of data foundation that supports emerging and evolving ideas around a National Digital Library.


Launching the transformation project for Jisc’s library support services

With the release of the Jisc library support services: enhancing efficiency and effectiveness report and Head of Library Services and Jisc Collections Director, Liam Earney’s blog post to coincide with SCONUL‘s summer conference theme of ‘library transformation’, this project will now begin in earnest.

We already know what we want to achieve in 2016-17 and colleagues working in and around our library support services, primarily Jisc Collections, JUSP and KB+ will be meeting to work out a plan to implement the recommendations.

More detailed information will follow through the summer.