Working with our members in new ways - Mon, 15 Mar 2021

Over the last year, SCONUL has adapted the way that we operate to meet the challenges of the pandemic and members’ immediate needs, for example working at speed to deliver webinars, open data sets and advocacy. As the sector emerges from this crisis, the Board and office have considered how we can best deliver our strategic aims while keeping the best of new and old ways of working.


New initiatives

Our core strategic aims remain unchanged but we plan to deliver these differently. Over the next year we will be running three streams of work looking at:


The rapid transition to digital delivery for blended teaching and learning, and the implications for the shape and design of library services. This programme will be called From adaptive practice to service redesign.


The staffing, skills and organisational development challenges and opportunities arising from the pandemic. This programme will be called The Dynamic Workforce: Developing an agile, resilient workforce to meet the evolving needs of the institution.


How existing and emerging technologies might be deployed to meet the demands of institutions that are looking afresh at how they deliver on their core missions. This programme will be called Embracing disruption: new technologies, markets and new uses for existing technologies.


Alongside this, our work on the cost and value of content will continue, focusing on ebooks, journal negotiations including with Elsevier, and developments in open access including the UKRI OA policy which is expected this summer.


Hold the date

Further information about these programmes will be sent out over the next week and members will have an opportunity to register your interest in each or all of these. In the meantime, there are three dates for your diary:


11.00 – 13.00 Monday 29th March:

Shared international perspectives on libraries’ responses to the pandemic, with Joanna Ball, Head of Roskilde University Library and Open Science at the Royal Danish Library; Jill Benn, University Librarian at the University of Western Australia; Louise Jones, University Librarian at Chinese University of Hong Kong and Andrew Barker, Director of Library Services at Lancaster University.


13.00 – 15.00 Wednesday 31 March:

SCONUL Content Forum: looking at the sectors’ long- and short-term strategic response to the challenges of the etextbooks and ebooks provision.


13.00 – 15.00 Wednesday 28 April:

The campus experience post-Covid: what does this mean for library spaces? This event will look at the use of library spaces in the post-Covid era. It will include the launch of research by Dr Andrew Cox, University of Sheffield, on drivers for the usage of library spaces in the UK and a panel discussion on the impact of Covid on the use of library space.


We will be opening registration for these events shortly.


How we will work

We want to give members the opportunity to share and learn from our collective responses to the crisis and to think creatively about the future. Each work stream will include a series of virtual events bringing members together to discuss and shape our collective future.


We will create opportunities for you to share innovation and best practice; to debate the trends and issues that will shape the future of the sector; and to hear from expert contributors from within and beyond the sector. Some events will have a clear strategic focus and others will address more operational issues providing opportunities for those leading practice areas to debate and discuss the way forward.


We will be using an events platform to deliver this work which will allow you to register your interest in particular themes and areas and for events, to follow the unfolding debate and receive updates on the work.  


We hope that this work will help inform the conversations that we need to have with our stakeholders inside and beyond the institution. The current crisis has placed libraries centre stage In discussions about university life. At points this has meant a strong focus on the physical library and at others on the online delivery of content and support for online teaching and research. We see an opportunity for libraries to assert their vital central role in the physical and virtual life of their institution.


Communities of interest groups

We will be establishing community of interest groups to operate alongside these programmes. These groups will be semi-autonomous and self-organising and will provide opportunities for future and developing leaders to come together and share their expertise, to learn from each other, and to provide the community with the benefits of their collective knowledge and wisdom. Initially three groups will be established as a pilot and we will be announcing further details shortly.


Our services

These work streams will replace the SCONUL Summer Conference in 2021 and we will keep under review how we might combine this work with physical events when this becomes possible.


As you will be aware, the Access Scheme remains suspended for the time being. We remain strongly committed to the scheme and will be consulting members on how and when it might be reopen safely over coming months. A further announcement on this will follow.


 The SCONUL Statistics remain important for members, enabling you to benchmark your services against your peers. It is crucial that these remain current and we are pleased to announce that a full review of the statistics will be taking place over the next 18 months, starting by looking at the collection of EDI data. We have a brief out for a consultant to support with this initial phase of the work, and further details will follow.


We continue to provide our deputies and new directors groups and we are recruiting now for new members of these groups.  More information on these is available on our website. If you are interested in signing up, please do register your interest with


The remaining SCONUL services continue to operate, including our action learning sets; mentoring scheme; consultants register; newsletter and briefings.


Members may be aware that we are continuing to explore with Jisc and Unsub the scope for a national agreement for SCONUL members for this service. Your response to our survey showed a very high level but not universal wish to see such a service introduced and this is the basis for our current discussions with both parties. We will share further details with you as soon as we’re able.


For more information on any of these developments, please do drop me a line at