Refining the Monograph Problems

NMS problem statements on Ideascale

The NMS team recently met to begin trying to refine and rationalise the problem statements that came out of our September experts workshop.

We posted all the problem statements in a recent post and also added them to an Ideascale site to enable people to vote on their priority ones.

So, here is our attempt to refine some of the problem statements – actually, what we’ve mainly done is reframe the statements as questions, which will hopefully allow us to seek answers to those questions in our second workshop later this month.


What is the future and purpose of the ‘book’?
[The purpose and future of the book]
Changing user behaviour is putting new demands on the systems that create and manage monographs.

What will a sustainable business model for publishing monographs look like?
[The sustainability of publishing]
The sustainability of current business models for publishing monographs are under threat.

How to better manage library collections & acquisitions?

[No National picture]
Librarians have no way of knowing what is available in other libraries and therefore are unable to make decisions on how to manage their collections.

[Sharing acquisition]
Purchasing and processing monographs involves duplication of resource across all institutions.

[Un-Catalogued material]
Libraries don’t know what they have or what other libraries have as vast amounts of material is uncatalogued due to lack of resources.

[The rationale for discovery]
Libraries may be restricted (locally) in their ability to act collaboratively to solve issues of discovery at a national level

How to avoid duplication of effort in digitisation? 
[Duplication of effort in digital copy production (Digitise Once!)]
There is duplication of effort in digital copy production. We need to know the nature and extent of duplication.

How to deal with potential licensing barriers in the new uses of monograph content?
[Licensing can be a barrier/Accessing the National collection]
Researchers and students want to access monographs when they want and on whatever device they want. Licences for content don’t always permit librarians the flexibility to meet these demands.

How to measure the impact of a monograph?
[Lack of impact metrics]
There is currently no agreed way to demonstrate the value of the monograph to research.

How to allocate preservation resources?
[Sustaining collections and access (print and digital)]
Researchers need access to a comprehensive collection. Preservation resources are finite. We need to ensure that preservation resources are allocated strategically to produce as comprehensive a collection as possible.

How to rationalise stock and minimise impact on services?
[Lack of space]
Libraries are restricted in the space available for monographs and need to find out where they can rationalise stock while minimising the impact on services to users.

How to reduce the impact of non-standard purchasing models as a barrier to access?
Proliferation of different purchasing models for monographs means:
a) reduced productivity for librarians who have to deal with a lot of different publishers
b) users have to learn too many different interfaces leading to non-ideal user experience

How can we better involve specialist libraries?
[Sustainably involve specialist libraries]
Researchers can’t always find and access relevant material that is held in specialist libraries and other types of non HE institution.

How to prioritise funding? (National and/vs. Institutional)
[Funding priorities (National and Institutional)]
Libraries may be restricted in their ability to act collaboratively to solve monograph issues.

How to increase the trust in digital alternatives of the monograph?
[Community attitudes towards preservation]
Digital alternatives to access a print version of the monograph aren’t always trusted by users.

How can we incentivise academic involvement in online learning material provision?
[Incentivising academic involvement in online learning material provision]
There is increasing demand from students for learning materials to be delivered online which requires both academic and library collaboration for the effective provision of online content.

We also had a post-workshop suggestion which seems worth including here too:

Can we make the benefits of sharing outweigh the costs of collaboration?
[Financial flows and the costs of collaboration]
This was a suggestion for a problem articulating the financial challenges that any strategy will need to address.


This, of course, is not the end. Rather we’ll be using these questions as a starting point for discussions on what potential answers might looks like to these questions: What the solutions to these problems might look like.

Furthermore, over the life of the project these problem statements will continue to be refined, added to and amended to ensure that our list of potential solutions are addressing the right problems.

2 thoughts on “Refining the Monograph Problems

  1. Pat Simons

    Thanks for the webinar today. Unfortunately our technology wasn’t functioning very well and I wanted to ask about the place of open access monographs in this project.
    This includes newly published material and also digitised older material.

    1. Ben Showers Post author

      Hi Pat – Yes, at this stage in the project these are all part of our considerations. It may be that we refined our focus as the project comes to drafting its report – but we want to make sure these newer and heritage materials are part of our thinking.

      We also have a number of OA publishers in the expert group so they are very much part of the conversation.



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