From Stored Knowledge to Smart Knowledge

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1 From Stored Knowledge to Smart Knowledge The British Library s Content Strategy

2 From Stored Knowledge to Smart Knowledge: The British Library s Content Strategy Introduction The British Library The UK s national library is one of the greatest libraries in the world. Our purpose is to make our intellectual heritage accessible to everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment. We build, curate and preserve the UK s national collection of published, written and digital content. We make our collections and expertise accessible to researchers from all disciplines, and we help businesses to grow with access to information and advice. We engage the public with enriching and enjoyable cultural experiences, and we inspire young people to explore our collections and develop enquiring minds. We have a global role, contributing to the advancement of knowledge around the world and we partner with others to connect people with information wherever it is held. The purpose of a content strategy A content strategy describes why a library selects what it selects and it sets out the principles which will inform selection in future. The present Content Strategy is the framework which guides the Library s acquisition streams Legal Deposit, purchased acquisitions, voluntary deposit (for example of sound recordings), donation and exchange. Its purpose is to give staff and users alike a clear sense of how the Library is taking its acquisitions activity forwards. It is expressed in summary form as Key Principles, which are reproduced below. Why use the word content? The Strategy uses the word content to highlight the fact that collecting, though it will always be core to the Library, is not the whole story. While the Library will continue to add works to its collections, collecting UK and foreign materials, it will also further develop its connecting activity, linking to content it does not intend to hold within its own storage facilities (a typical form of connecting is the licensing of electronic journals by subscription e-journals do not always need to be held by the Library itself). Connecting to material can mean better value-for-money longterm and an enhanced service for our users.

3 General Approach Disciplines and subjects The Library seeks to express its content activity in the way our users best understand it. Because the Library s single largest audience is the academic one academics being the greatest users of our reading rooms, our online services and our document supply service we have aligned ourselves to the way in which they understand content. Academic research, broadly speaking, is arranged by discipline, i.e. Arts & Humanities, Science, Technology and Medicine, and Social Sciences (which includes business). Because these categories also tend to make sense to our other audiences (business, other professionals and practitioners, and the general public), this Library has taken a similar approach. The Library also describes its content activity in terms of the subjects within each Discipline. Subject flexibility Academic research is often interdisciplinary, with new and complex subjects defying easy classification. Formats including maps, news, and official publications have their own kinds of knowledge and modes of enquiry, too. For these reasons our Content Strategy builds in flexibility so that we can manage content activity which cuts across boundaries. Reflecting and responding to external changes The information world continues to change rapidly: technology improves and user expectations increase. Published and unpublished content has become bigger, more numerous, more complicated. There has been a great deal of debate about open access, the idea that research publications should be made available much more widely than in the past, free at the point of use. In general, readers have a much greater expectation that libraries will deliver content to them without their having to be actually within the physical confines of the library. Publishers increasingly choose a digital format for their publications, sometimes maintaining a print version but often not. Legal Deposit is particularly relevant to the print to digital transition: following Non-Print Regulation in April 2013, the

4 Library s traditional Legal Deposit role is greatly extended to include digital publication. Sharing this responsibility with other Legal Deposit Libraries, the British Library has made extensive preparations for the technical and logistical challenges ahead. The Content Strategy recognises the unprecedented scale of these changes, creating a framework which is sufficiently flexible to adapt to new unpredictable changes while seeking to offer, where legally possible, more and more content to audiences beyond the Library s physical premises. The Library is realistic and pragmatic about what it can achieve in this environment: it is not achievable or appropriate to collect everything. In this context, we will not, for example, undertake comprehensive collecting, collect research datasets, or collect apps. A strategic review of the acquisitions budget We will conduct a strategic review of the acquisitions budget allocation by Discipline, so that it better reflects our priorities and costs. Staff expertise Finally, the Strategy recognises how complex selection and the processes which support it are. In selecting content whether collecting or connecting the expertise of the Library s staff is vital to our success.

5 Key Principles 1. The Library will present its content development primarily in terms of disciplines and subjects The Library will present its content development activity in terms of disciplines and subjects. The Library believes this is the best way to be responsive to the research communities it serves. The Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, and Science, Technology and Medicine form the three key disciplines in which content activity is now organised, with subjects providing further focus (for example, within Arts & Humanities, subjects such as European Studies and English Language & Literature). The relative priority given to content development by subject will reflect: The priorities of UK research funders; Users needs, usage, and demand; and The framework of national provision. We will aim for coherence within the disciplines, recognising that a comprehensive approach is neither financially sustainable nor appropriate for our users needs. 2. We will articulate a small number of subject priorities within each discipline Each Discipline will set out a small number of subject priorities, which will enable the Library to offer deeper content and a wider range of services to specific research communities. One current example, within Social Sciences, is the Management and Business Studies Portal, which offers rights-cleared full text research reports, summaries, working papers, and exclusive articles by leading researchers and consultants to the UK management research and practice community. The criteria through which subject priorities will be selected are as follows: The Library can offer particularly rich content and services for the researcher, There is strong researcher demand for content in the subject, The subject is a priority of UK research funders, The researcher is under-served by other providers We will review our subject priorities in 2015 and adjust them in response to the changing environment and the success of our approach. 3. We will overlay format expertise across subjects Although the discipline and subject-based articulation of our content will take primacy, for reasons of curatorial expertise and operational management we will continue to consider some aspects of selection in format terms. Formats in which we will continue to develop content include web archives, heritage archives and manuscripts, maps, intellectual property documentation, official publications, news media and sound and vision. We will develop better matrix working between subject curators and format experts for example, between content development in politics and web archives.

6 4. The UK s publications received through Legal Deposit will underpin content development (if in scope) The Library is transforming its digital content development following the Regulations for non-print legal deposit, which came into effect in This will secure the UK s immense digitally-published heritage for the long-term, delivering a step change in our digital collection activity. We are now harvesting the vast freely-accessible UK web domain annually and conducting more focused collecting around themes of national interest. We have started to implement the selection, archiving and provision of reading room access to e-journals, e-books, digital newspapers, accelerating the print to digital transition within our UK collections. We will stop collecting print material where we can collect similar content digitally. We are implementing new methods of curatorial selection to include contemporary UK legal deposit content. The Library s approach, wherever possible, will be to keep print provision secure for a transitional period as we move to digital. We will manage this transition, balancing the current demand with the long term imperative of securing the most vulnerable types of content. We are working in collaboration with the Legal Deposit Libraries and the publishing industry through specially designed joint governance arrangements for this purpose. Although the implementation of non-print Legal Deposit regulations has been critical to preventing a 21st century digital black hole, the use of this material is restricted to the premises of the Legal Deposit libraries and therefore it represents only one key strand of our activity. Where collection through Legal Deposit is not permitted by regulation, we will continue to work within a voluntary framework, for instance in collecting UK audio-visual content. 5. We will select content in terms of its research value While the UK publishes high quality research across the discipline range 1, in any given subject we will supplement legal deposit content (as well as voluntary deposit and donations through contemporary acquisitions, both from the UK and overseas) by selecting content on the basis of its research value. This means that we will place far greater emphasis on the research priorities of our users and holistic methods of assessing value such as ranking schemes, publisher reputation and user feedback, rather than traditional methods of selection such as publishing country of origin, geography or language. 6. Connecting to content will become more important Outside UK legal deposit, voluntary deposit and donation the Library will prefer to connect to content, except in circumstances where connection is not technically feasible or when we wish to hold and preserve the materials for the long term. Connection is enabled by the digital environment, as the Library does not have to hold content in order to provide access to it. Connecting to content is not cost free, as considerable resources are expended in selecting content and managing access to it. In this context, we will consider the requirement for long-term preservation and we will 1 International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base: a report prepared for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Elsevier, p.4-5

7 negotiate access and re-use rights as part of the licensing/purchasing agreements in accordance with the service model required (this could be for a fixed term or in perpetuity). We will be transparent with our users about those categories of material to which we do not intend to provide long-term preservation. 7. We will support inter- and multi-disciplinary research needs Inter-disciplinarity and multi-disciplinarity are constructed by researchers themselves to meet their specific needs and every individual content item has the potential for inter- and multi-disciplinary use. This is particularly relevant for our unique material, but is not limited to it. For instance the Pinter Archive can be of relevance for studies of literature, linguistics, politics, immigration, human rights and probably many more. The co-availability of material across disciplines and subjects underpins the inter- and multi-disciplinary scope of the Library s content and forms a unique selling point for researchers. Because any method of classifying organisational activity creates artificial barriers, however useful the classification, the Library will manage content activity across the disciplines as well as within them, paying particular heed to the Research Councils and other funders emphasis on multidisciplinary research. 2 We will identify inter- and multi-disciplinary priorities that we are particularly well-placed to meet. We will actively develop content across discipline boundaries through specific themes (for example, Sport and Society). Area studies for example American Studies or European Studies are crossdisciplinary: we will develop and manage a matrix relationship between individual subjects and area studies. 8. We will continue to invest in heritage materials The Library will continue to collect actively, through purchase and donation, material of major significance to UK and global heritage. Recent examples include the remarkable 7th century St. Cuthbert Gospel, and the draft score of Benjamin Britten s much-loved The Young Person s Guide to the Orchestra. This activity will be both physical and digital; for example, we recently acquired the 40,000 s in the poet Wendy Cope s digital archive. Funding for heritage items will continue to come from mixed sources, and we will continue to seek external funds for exceptional, highly-priced heritage items. Where practical, we will fundraise for lower-value heritage items too 9. We will conduct a strategic review of the acquisitions budget Currently the Library allocates its acquisition budget partly by subject and partly by format. Our allocation is the legacy of many service-driven initiatives over several decades. Therefore, we will conduct a strategic review of the acquisitions budget, determining an appropriate balance by subject and format. We will use a model which takes into account content development through UK legal deposit, voluntary deposit and donation; subject priorities and coherence within each discipline; pricing; usage and demand; and life-cycle costs. The implementation of any changes to the acquisitions budget will be incremental and will take several years to achieve, especially where we have entered into multi-year contracts for journal subscriptions. 2 Research Council UK sets out its multidisciplinary priorities at

8 10. The Library will continue to make the print-to-digital transition We will prioritise collection of and connection to digital content over print wherever possible as a strategic response to the accelerating pace of change in the external environment. In addition to legal deposit, we will collect through digital voluntary arrangements (for example, audio) and digital donation (for example, personal digital archives of writers and scientists). We will continue to license and subscribe to digital content in order to provide improved functionality for our users. For example in STM licensed e-books offer the advantage of searching across large aggregations of content. We will also connect to dynamic digital content such as datasets. In order to collect and connect to digital content at scale we will continue to make step-change improvements to our digital infrastructure across the content life-cycle, from acquisition through preservation to access. 11. We will add value to content through curation and encourage our users to add value through community The Library will continue to engage with researchers, learners and visitors to supplement our curatorial expertise with the expertise of our user communities, and in so doing, add value to content. For example, the Library has used its curatorial expertise in audio combined with the engagement of researchers and the public in The Listening Project, in collaboration with the BBC. In a recent digital maps project, 725 scanned maps of 17th, 18th and 19th century England and Wales were geo-referenced through crowd-sourcing in less than a week, with the additional geospatial data now part of the Library s permanent digital collection. The combination of curation with community will provide an increasingly important catalytic process in enriching our content. 12. The Library will develop a without walls approach to access We will increasingly make our content available through online services. We will work with publishers and content providers to make incremental improvements in digital access to content through multiple access channels and to break down the barriers that prevent discovery of and access to physical and digital resources within the legal framework of intellectual property rights and legal deposit legislation.

9 Action Plan To implement the Content Strategy the Library will: Publish executive summaries of its discipline-based content strategies, by end of Q1 2013/14 Determine a list of subjects within each discipline, highlighting particular areas for engagement activity and service development, by end Q2 2013/14 Develop format based policies where appropriate, by end Q2 2013/14 Integrate non-print Legal Deposit processes within the overall content development approach, beginning from Q1 2013/14 Consider practical options for the Library to better connect to content, implementing chosen options by end Q4 2014/15 Conduct a strategic review of the acquisitions budget, by end Q3 2013/14 Develop a community of practice internally to maintain flexibility and knowledge sharing, initiated by end Q2 2013/14 Throughout implementation the Library will listen to feedback from its stakeholders, informing its approach. By the end of 2014/15 the Library will have re-aligned its content development according to the work it has carried out under the Content Strategy.

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