Introducing the National Monograph Strategy

Today I presented an open webinar on the project and thought I’d share the recording of the presentation (it’s a blackboard collaborate recording and lasts about 30 mins in total and approx., 15 minutes for the actual presentation).

Below are the slides I used (they’re also embedded in the recording).

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.

What are Your Top 3 Monograph Problems?

The project recently held its first expert workshop to explore the monographs problem space.

With this first workshop we wanted to begin surfacing as many of the possible problems that the monograph strategy might need to address – the project tried not to constrain the discussions or problem statements too much; at this stage we want to get as many of the problems out in the open as possible, we can do the refining, editing and prioritising later.

NMS workshop

The workshop was very participant led, and used a version of the open-space technology approach for the meeting.

This provided the project with an opportunity to make sure the participants could lead on the discussions and we would be able to capture the kinds of problems that they wanted to discuss and note down.

These problems were then mapped against some headline themes: Create, Publish, Receive and Store, Access, and Use.

The day ended with participants voting on their top 3 problems (these are the green post-it notes), and noting why they were voting for that particular problem.

nms voting


Below is a ‘booklet’ with all the problem statements that were produced on the day in their raw, unadulterated form.

A challenge

You can see where the participants have placed their votes for the top problems a monographs strategy needs to address.

Now we’d like to know what yours are – there’s a full list at the National monographs Strategy project Ideascale site where you can vote on your top three.

It’s probably worth noting that two of the highest voted problems aren’t on that list, these were:

  1. Who is the NMS for? Understanding the NMS vision from different stakeholder perspectives: What are the benfits and incentives (and who pays)?
  2. Defining the ‘National’ in National Monographs Strategy: This is a very similar question to above, but who’s the strategy for?

We have decided that these problems are so fundamental to the project that they have to be addressed in order to develop a successful strategy – We simply have to do them!

So… We’d love to hear from you on your top three problems, so feel free to take a look at Ideascale and vote on the ones you feel are critical:

Or comment below and add one we haven’t got yet. 

nms wall


Finally – These problems are still in their raw and unrefined condition (but, I think you’ll agree there not bad for a one-day workshop, especially given the number of statements that were produced) so over the coming weeks the NMS team will be refining these statements so we have a set of clear problems with which we can kick-off our second workshop to begin exploring the solutions space.

We’ll be posting the refined versions of the problems very shortly.

Mapping Stakeholders and User Journeys

Warning: This post is largely an excuse to post a few photos of elaborate post-it note creations!

The NMS team (and our collaborators at LiveWork) recently spent a day thinking about the various stakeholders that are affected by the project and its aim to develop a national strategy for the collection, preservation and digitisation of monographs.

We began by mapping the stakeholder landscape and visually representing this complex, interrelated and multi-stakeholder space. We wrote as many of the stakeholders in the space down on post-it notes and stuck them on the wall.

This visual representation allowed us to begin mapping the key actors, actions and behaviours as well as other factors such as technology and policy.

NMS stakeholder map

It also enabled us to begin tracing some of the user journeys through this landscape.

We can map out the important ‘actions’ that occur when a user interacts with a monograph, such as being aware of a title, searching, finding, using and so on.

What you begin to build is a user lifecycle.
NMS user lifecycle

Against this lifecycle we can begin to see where, for different users, the significant interactions and touch points are, as well as the actual and potential pain points.

What this process has helped us do is begin to see through some of the complexity of this space by focusing on the users of monographs and their interactions with them.

This is inevitably a simplification – but it is an important start to ensuring that we follow our own principle of delivering benefits to users, especially students and researchers.

NMS stakeholder map and lifecycle

These stakeholder and user journey maps will be important both for our experts workshop where these will provide a frame and context to the activities we’ll be doing, but also for the ongoing project and ensuring that it is able to identify the right opportunities in this space for effective interventions.

As the project progresses,this map and these journeys will become more refined and will begin to provide us with a user-focused framework within which potential solutions can begin to be dropped.


The ‘Evidence based’ Principle

Last week my colleague Ben Showers outlined the principles that have been drawn up for the NMS project.  There are six in total and they combine together to govern how we approach the project.

The fourth of these principles ‘evidence-based’ will be of particular importance to the work I’ll be undertaking in gathering and analysing data and creating the Monograph Problem Report from which the project will work with its Expert Advisory Panel and the wider community to create an outline of possible solutions.

The scope of the NMS project is broad and the range of stakeholders wide. In attempting to both outline the problem and present a possible range of solutions it’s important we are able to effectively refine and prioritise problem areas and any relevant solutions . Ultimately any future strategy will be based on these, and  our various communities need to be satisfied as to the suitability of the decisions made.

4058156606_02fffdee07_mThis is where the ‘evidence-based’ principle comes in. We’ll be undertaking a whole range of research such as the landscape report. But we also want to ensure we focus on tangible values. While there is value in qualitative evidence and we are already gathering personal views and anecdotes, my role will be to complement this with more qualitative data to ensure problems and benefits can be understood in economic terms. Not just economics in financial terms but also in terms of production, distribution, exchange, consumption; the conditions which impact how the ‘business’ of monographs is changing.

With this in mind we’re currently working to identify and collate any existing reports or research undertaken in this area with a view to identifying any gaps in the data. The next step will be to design ways of gathering new data to fill in those gaps and approach libraries to collaborate with us on this.  Once we feel we have a complete picture of the data out there then the task of analysing the data with a view to estimating economic value begins – no mean feat!

As the work progresses in the coming months I’m sure I shall be in direct contact with many of you as I seek to enhance the data gathered.

In the meantime, if you have any additional research, reports or studies that they think we should be analysing as part of this activity please drop your links into the comment box just below or contact us directly via email.

Project Principles

The NMS project has spent some time recently developing some draft principles that we intend to use as a set of rules for how we approach the project.

Over the next few months we’ll blog about the individual principles in a little more detail – starting with our aim to be evidence-led.

We think these are pretty important, and would love to get your thoughts on them. What have we missed? What should we be doing? Which of these doesn’t make any sense?

1. Think in the open

Many eyeballs tame complexity

The monographs landscape is a complex one, with multiple stakeholders, diverse and interrelated components and significant amounts of work already taking place. So, we want to make sure we’re open about what we’re exploring and the ideas we’re developing: We don’t want to miss anything.

You’ll always be able to comment on the documents we’re developing, and attend workshops the project will be running to get your input into the work.

2. Community led

We want to ensure that what we do is led and makes a difference to the academic community for whom we’re working on behalf. We will be engaging with these communities as much as possible throughout the project via workshops and webinars, as well as by making our drafts available for comment via the blog.

3. No Solutions

At least not until November 2013! We need to understand the  challenges and the drivers for change within the monographs landscape before we explore the possible solutions.

Once we really understand the problems then we can begin to map those to potential solutions. We’ll begin the mapping process in late October.

In the meantime we realise there will be lots of potential ideas and possible solutions that we’ll be wanting to capture, so we have created a solutions log. We’ll fill the log up and then come back to it in a few months time.

4. Evidence based

The project is keen to make sure any proposed solutions are prioritised for maximum benefit. The way we plan to do this is to make sure we capture any relevant data available on the potential benefits of a solution.

These benefits may not be simply financial; they may improve student experience, reduce risk etc.

See Sarah Dunne’s post going into more depth on this subject.

5. It’s not repetition, it’s iteration

The project will proceed through a process of short sprints that will help ensure that at the end of each sprint we can reflect on what has been done and iterate if necessary. Each iteration moves us forwards, rather than covering the same ground.

6. Deliver benefits (for teaching, learning and research)

In order for the project to be a success the eventual strategy will support libraries, publishers and content providers in delivering real benefits for teachers, learners and researchers.

Help us to Map the Monographs Landscape

One of the principles of the National Monographs Strategy project is to make all our documents and reports openly available for comment and community input.

We hope, that by taking this open approach, we can ensure we don’t miss anything important and get different perspectives on the work.

We want to encourage active participation in the project and would really appreciate thoughts, ideas and comments on specific outputs from the project and more generally about the work and its approach.

So, with that in mind, the project has recently started drafting a ‘map’ or overview of the current monographs landscape.

My colleague Peter Findlay has put together a report that begins to highlight the main components of the Monographs landscape and the relevant references, tools and resources associated with those different areas.


Mapping a landscape like the one associated with monographs isn’t an easy one – there’s lots of work already taking place and it’s easy to miss something important.

To make sure we capture as much as possible, and that we’re not making assumptions about what we are choosing, we need your help. 

Please take a look at the landscape report and feel free to comment on it (apologies for telling you how to suck eggs! But Google Docs is a little different to Word, so you’ll need to select the thing you want to comment on, go to the ‘insert’ menu and select ‘comment’).

We want to make sure we have the full picture – when the time comes to begin navigating this landscape it will be important that we have all the information we can get.

Also, if you promise to comment, we promise to stop using the extended mapping metaphor!

We really would welcome your comments on the landscape report. Or, if you’d prefer, drop your thoughts, ideas and links into the comment box just below post, condense your comments into or 140 characters or less on twitter (using #monographsUK) or contact us directly via email.


NMS at the SCONUL conference

The National Monographs Strategy project saw the light of day for the first time recently at the SCONUL conference in Dublin.

This was an opportunity to talk a little bit about the project and our approach, and more importantly, a chance to get some initial feedback and input into the project from around 20 senior library managers and directors.

The workshop was fairly intensive – we worked the participants hard. But the results were very rich, and have already been incorporated into the landscape work the project is currently undertaking (more on that shortly!).

The session started with a very brief overview of the project and outlined some of the main components of the current monographs landscape that the project has begun to map.

After providing an overview of the project and landscape the room was divided up into 4 sections, with people assigned a particular challenge ares (these were: Document supply and ILL, Collection strategy and management, Preservation and curation and, Monograph publishing models). We then asked participants to:

  1. Work individually to note down as many drivers  for change in their specific challenge area;
  2. After about 5 mins, delegates came together to compare drivers for their area. These were then rationalised, de-duplicated and where necessary, deaccessioned!
  3. Each group was asked to prioritise their top three drivers, and any next steps/opportunities that are relevant to that area (if there was time).
  4. Each group reported back their top 3 drivers.
What follows are the notes from the session, with the top three priority areas for each challenge and possible next steps:

Document Supply and Inter-library lending

Three top priority drivers for change:

Fast supply to users (user experience): Google instant results/expectation of instantaneous content; Print on demand; Just-in-Time library model; Less need for ILL; User experience; open access.

Reduced budgets (financial): Demonstrating value for money (and need for shared services); cost/economics of monographs; reducing acquisitions budgets.

Repurposing space (space and demonstrating VfM): Repurposing space for students/researchers; Study, not storage; Rental costs Vs. Storage costs; consortial approach to de-duplication/storage/study space.

Some possible next steps:

  • Need to engage with national libraries (including Scottish and Irish) and other large, trusted, suppliers;
  • Focus on digital delivery (ebooks);
  • Engage Google, microsoft, Netflix, Apple etc (we can’t do this by ourselves!?);
  • Explore international exemplars (Australia, N. America etc);
  • Use existing tools (CCM etc);
  • Shared activity around space (i.e., storage, and UKRR);
  • Role of KB+ (specifically around ebooks).

Collection Strategy and Management

 Three top priority drivers for change:

Space (repurposing use of space): Managing legacy collections; shared storage and retrieval; rightsizing collections.

Changing publishing models (from ownership to rental): Slice and dice model for high demand materials; PDA; rental models; MOOCs, online learning; preservation/protection.

Cost and Value (Making the most of limited resources).

Some possible next steps:

  • Focus on quick wins. Longer term = changing mindsets.
  • Importance of PDA and scanning of course readings/materials (and ILL);
  • Institutional strategy i.e., strategic move to delivery via VLE for course materials;
  • Reciprocal arrangements (walk-in access etc)

Preservation and Curation

Three top priority drivers for change:

Sharing/saving costs (shared savings of a national approach): Sharing costs of digital preservation; efficiency of national collection; saving staff time; de-duplication of local effort; national e-monograph approach; non-print legal deposit.

Improving access (access to unique collections): improving access to non-HE/national collections; access to unique collections.

Quantifying costs (understanding the cost Vs value equation): quantify cost of digital curation; monograph as a format may not be efficient/represent value.

Next steps:

  • Build on existing search/access platforms such as Search25, Copac;
  • Develop a consortia framework (and social capital ?)
  • Development of metadata frameworks and standards.
  • Explore UKRR and possible data on financial benefit of de-duplication of curation/preservation.

 Underpinning this whole area was the need for a legal/deposit framework (to cover areas such as the deterioration of physical collections etc).

Monograph Publishing Models

Three top priority drivers for change:

Technology (transformative impact of digital technologies): Changes in technology and consumption of content; pressure for digital/digitised texts; accessibility and usability of e-readers.

Cost (the new economics of publishing): Open Access; Ownership Vs. Renting; costs associated with renting; re-use/double-dipping of content (repackaging content); bundles Vs. single items; costs of production; success of ‘big deals’ in e-journals and the economies of scale; economics of the long-tail.

Container (the format of the monograph): Open Access; self-publishing; textbooks; changing academic practice; fractured publishing; REF and research assessments.

There were no clear next steps from this group. This was partly a symptom of this being a more challenging area generally, and also the relative immaturity of this area of the landscape. It is an emergent component with serious wider implications.

Finally, a couple of pictures of librarians hard at work during the session!

The start of something new!

Hello and welcome to the blog for the National Monograph Strategy project.

The scholarly monograph – the book-length result of dedicated research, the gold standard for authorative academic publication – finds itself in a precarious position. It’s no longer sustainable, facing a number of grave challenges.

Understanding these challenges  is a key part of this project to explore the potential of a national strategy:  a collaborative approach to the collection, preservation, supply and digitisation of scholarly monographs.

A particularly tricky set of problems… but with your help we think we can navigate the complex challenges and begin to map some potential solutions and deliver three substantive outputs by December 2013:

  1. A landscape study: A report that provides a coherent picture of the monographs issue that encompasses the recent, relevant work done to explore the monograph issue.
  2. The monograph problem: A report defining and assigning value for the problems that need to be addressed by a national monograph strategy.
  3. The monograph solutions: An outline of the possible solutions which could address the problems identified.

Given the complex nature of the landscape we’re exploring we plan to use an iterative methodology. The project will undertake a series of sprints that will each include an open community event enabling meaningful engagement in the project, and helping ensure a result that meets the needs and expectations of the UK academic library community.

But we won’t just be engaging the academic library community, oh no. We also want to hear from others: students, researchers, senior managers, and beyond universities and colleges we want to speak to people from the cultural heritage sector, as well as the public and private sectors.

We want a broad range of perspectives, and a variety of voices.

There is a bit more about the background of the project on the About the Project page.

In the meantime: Stay tuned – we’ll be talking a lot about monographs in the coming weeks and months!