In this article Elizabth Graham gives a brief introduction to the work of the UK Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib) . The article describes the background and rationale behind the programme before considering some of the themes that have arisen and the possible direction of future developments.
In 1992 the four UK Higher Education Funding bodies (HEFCE, SHEFC, HEFCW and DENI) established a Review Group, chaired by Professor Sir Brian Follett, as an attempt to identify and address some of the problems faced by university libraries, particularly given the new universities created in 1992. The report of the Review Group - the Follett report published in 1993  - comments that there needs to be a sea-change in the way institutions plan and provide for the information needs of those working within them. The report goes on to note that the exploitation of IT is essential to create the library service of the future. A number of highly practical recommendations were made including the need for central investment in IT development projects such as on-demand publishing, electronic journals and navigational tools. Under the auspices of the funding bodies Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)  £15 million was set aside over 3 years from top-sliced funding to implement these recommendations and as a result of this the eLib Programme was born.
During the period 1995-1998, two separate calls for proposals resulted in almost sixty projects being funded in a variety of Programme Areas . The range of projects funded aimed to address a variety of issues. These included support for teaching and learning through improved access to resources, for example, through the on-demand publishing and digitisation areas. Electronic publishing projects investigated different publishing models and were of particular relevance to researchers, as were the document delivery and access to network resources (subject gateway) projects. Skills development within the library community and the integration of the new technologies into daily routine were addressed by the training and awareness strand. In funding these projects the emphasis was very much on developing and improving services which already existed to a greater or lesser extent in university libraries, as opposed to pure research. Since 1995 projects have been supported by a central co-ordination Programme Office based at the University of Warwick.
Among eLibs early projects, MODELS  has been especially influential. Led by UKOLN (the UK Office for Library and Information Networking) , MODELS is based around a series of workshops which address themes of significance to the library and information community by drawing on the expertise of invited practitioners worldwide. Outcomes are recommendations and theoretical models such as the MODELS Information Architecture (MIA) which aims to facilitate understanding and discussion of the issues that must be considered in the development of hybrid information environments . The recommendations aim to influence strategic planning in the UK Higher Education community and beyond. MODELS has already had a significant influence on the direction taken by eLib in its third phase. Discussions at MODELS workshops 3 and 4 led to the call for clumps projects described below. The project is also involved in shaping the concept of the Distributed National Electronic Resource (DNER), in relation to both the technical infrastructure and its vision of the creation of a managed environment.
As eLib's early projects began to deliver, the recognition that there was still much work to be done in this area led to the issuing of a new call for proposals in March 1997. The projects in eLib's third phase have been running since early 1998 and taken as a whole can be seen as an attempt to assimilate the knowledge gained from earlier phases of eLib and the wider community to build exemplar digital libraries for the future. The four strands in this phase are:
Facilitating access to disparate information resources whether print or electronic and wherever they are located is one of the key themes of eLib Phase 3. This issue is among those addressed by the five projects funded in the hybrid libraries strand, which aim to bring together technologies from new developments, plus the electronic products and services already in libraries, and the historical functions of our local, physical libraries, into well organised, accessible hybrid libraries . The ability to search across these resources is key and the hybrid libraries search engine described in an article by Ian Upton elsewhere in this issue  is an important step towards meeting this goal.
A most important role for the hybrid library projects is to disseminate what they have learned as widely as possible. They have worked very hard at a wide variety of dissemination activities, including a conference presenting the work of eLib Phase 3 projects to be held on 24-25th November 1999 in London . Suggestions for further dissemination activities which support and assist the takeup and implementation of hybrid library services are warmly welcomed.
The Anderson report of 1995  examines the need for libraries to share resources more effectively in order to support the needs of researchers more efficiently. One way of achieving this will be to make library catalogues cross-searchable, linking them virtually using Z39.50. The ethos behind the four eLib clumps projects is that of working towards resource sharing in higher education libraries through the creation of virtual library union catalogues. They are doing very useful research on the practical problems of using Z39.50 on a large scale. Clumps projects are also contributing to research into collection level description, metadata which will highlight a library's collection strengths allowing pre-selection of relevant catalogues before searching, thus improving efficiency.
Although funded by and for the UK Higher Education community it goes without saying that a successful programme cannot afford to be introspective. The eLib Programme has proved successful at forging links with a significant number of bodies both within UK academia and beyond. At project level, although lead sites must be Higher Education Institutions, partners include public libraries (in the RIDING  and CAIRNS  clumps), library suppliers (Agora ) and publishers (HERON ). One project (JEDDS ) had three partners in the Southern hemisphere. Many of eLib's early subject gateway projects such as EEVL , OMNI  and SOSIG  are making the transition to faculty level hubs under the newly-established Resource Discovery Network to be formally launched on 19th November 1999. As a matter of course these will establish links with stakeholders in the appropriate subject area such as museums and professional societies.
Projects within the eLib Programme have also made a substantial contribution to the ongoing development of standards. Besides the office's own guidelines , project staff have been involved in the development of Z39.50, collection level description and metadata schema.
The eLib Programme Office aims to support awareness of activities in the wider community through email discussion lists such as the lis-elib Mailbase list  which currently has over 1,000 members and through a programme of events. These range from one day briefings to a 3 day conference which was organised in York in December 1998. Each event organised by eLib aims to include at least one speaker from the wider community to give a sense of perspective. In the past these have included speakers from Germany, the US, Canada, Australia, and from EU-funded projects based in the UK.
The eLib Programme funds one project (CEDARS)  which is examining the strategic, methodological and practical issues involved in the long-term preservation of digital material. The project will also contribute to a national strategy for digital preservation by working closely with a Digital Preservation Coalition, whose establishment has recently been agreed by eLib's funding committee, JCEI (JISC Committee on Electronic Information).
It is obviously far too early to predict what the long-term impact of eLib will be. A report on the Early Impact of eLib Activities on Cultural Change in Higher Education (1997)  found a general recognition that eLib is only a contributor to the general cultural change which is happening in HE, and specifically in the library and information service context. Nonetheless the report did acknowledge that the programme has motivated publishers to participate more fully than previously and that training and awareness projects such as Netskills , Netlinks  and Edulib  were valuable in supporting library staff when roles were being redefined. An external summative evaluation of eLib phases 1 and 2 is currently underway and this will aid our understanding of eLib's wider impact and the value for money offered to the UK Higher Education community.
In summary, the eLib Programme Office continues to work with JCEI to develop a long-term strategy for dealing with digital material. Many deliverables from eLib projects are subsumed within the wider national strategies, such as the JISC Collections Policy  which endeavours to describe the parameters of the national collection, to set out policies for its development, and to identify areas for collaboration with data providers and data users outwith the Higher Education sector. The Collections Policy also includes an outline of the concept of the DNER. The vision of the DNER informs decisions taken by JCEI and has the potential to provide real improvements in the presentation of JISC resources and associated services  through the integration of resources through linking, cross-searching and tailoring these to the needs of specific communities.
eLib Development Co-ordinator
eLib Programme Office
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL
For citation purposes:
Elizabeth Graham, "eLib: the UK Electronic Libraries Programme", Exploit Interactive, issue 3, 25 October 1999
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