Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Spring 1999

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Consortia Building and Electronic Licensing as Vehicles for Re-Engineering Academic Library Services: The Case of the Technical Knowledge Center and Library of Denmark (DTV)

Lars Bjoernshauge
Technical Knowledge Center & Library of Denmark


The Technical Knowledge Center and Library of Denmark (DTV) has broken the vicious circle of zero growth funding, price increases, and journal cancellations. It required concentrated efforts in consortia building, electronic licensing, phasing out paper editions, staff reductions, as well as investments in staff education and development of integrated electronic services. Now the users at the Technical University of Denmark have easier access to much more content for the same funding. The developments have given rise to new forms of co-operation with publishers and other libraries in the region.

This paper outlines the re-engineering plan and highlights effects on services and staff. The DTV approach to re-engineering has attracted considerable international attention (Butler 1999).


DTV is the university library at the Technical University of Denmark. Just like other STM libraries, DTV has experienced the problems of zero growth funding, price increases in information resources, and journal cancellations. From 1990 to 1997 the number of library subscriptions dropped 40%. Given that there was little probability that additional funding could be provided from 1998 onwards, management drew up a plan for the library board to consider.

In reality, further cancellations would bring the concept of the comprehensive academic library into question. Something radical had to be done in order to change the negative trend.

The plan had the following main actions:

The library board approved the plan in June 1997 and the university board approved it in September 1997.

Implementing the Re-Engineering Plan

Developing Integrated Electronic Services

DTV has long-standing traditions in developing information technology (IT) for library services1 and has a relatively large IT development department. Therefore the development of systems for providing integrated electronic services was already underway.

Since 1996 a subject gateway, the Internet Pointer Guide ({http://ipg.dtv.dk/}) on civil engineering and science, has been in operation. In January 1998 the first version of the DTV Article Database Service (DADS) was released for the university. This version included an integrated service based on the INSPEC Database, tables of contents for 4,000 journals from Swets and some 300 Elsevier journals. All of the files were stored locally on servers at DTV (Ardoe et al. 1998).

In order to increase the content of this service, DTV engaged in efforts to build consortia in Denmark and the Nordic countries. The first consortium (for Academic Press) was established in spring 1998 and since then a number of other regional consortia have been established (for Springer, Kluwer, Elsevier, IEL, etc.).

To date the DADS service holds some 10 million records and provides full-text access to 1.1 million articles.

This development in itself has meant significant savings in library operations, especially in document delivery services, ILL operations, and customer services.

Reducing "Library Paper Work"

At the same time, the process of phasing out paper editions began. Initially the library stopped handling the paper editions of 300 Elsevier titles. Later the Academic Press titles were left untouched and just placed in boxes in the basement. These paper editions were canceled for 1999.

This process will be further expanded to journals from other publishers. During the last two years, publishers have increasingly offered license agreements which provide discounts for subscribing to electronic versions only. This fuels the above process.

Staff Reductions

The key component of the plan, in financial terms, was the staff reductions. In order to make funds available for the continuous development of integrated systems, consortial licensing, and investments in staff education, 13 out of 80 staff were made redundant.

The above developments -- phasing out paper editions, and user access to content including a large number of journal titles usually borrowed from other suppliers -- in themselves reduced workloads across departments.

The fact that users now have three to four volumes of some 3,000 journals directly accessible from their desktops significantly decreases the amount of shelving, reshelving, photocopying, etc.

The process for staff reductions was agreed upon in the liaison committee and with the unions, and an outplacement agency was involved in order to assist the 13 staff in getting new jobs; the majority succeeded before the six month notice period had expired.

Staff Training and Education

The radical changes in library operations and services inherent in the re-engineering plan called for new staff qualifications, competencies, and attitudes; therefore investment in education and training was a very important part of the plan. Under a project supported by external funding, the JULIA project, an extensive in-house training programme was launched by the end of 1997 (Bjoernshauge 1998; Find 1998).

A very important feature was the leasing of computers for all staff to install in their homes. Everything, including telecommunication expenses, is paid for by the library. The majority of the staff are taking an approved IT course called the PC Driver's License. Many staff members are engaged in different net-based training courses. All of this education takes place after working hours.

An autonomous in-house training network, more or less independent of management control, has been developed. A team manages in-house training and courses are run on demand.

Despite the staff reductions -- which under other circumstances would bring up negative and reluctant attitudes -- we are now witnessing a very optimistic outlook to the future of the library from the staff's point of view.

Preliminary Effect of the Re-Engineering Plan

Economic Benefits

As indicated in figure 1, a considerable change in spending has taken place. A reduction in salaries has been transferred to the acquisition of more content.

[DTV key financial figures 96-97 & 98-99]

The economic benefits are a reflection of significant changes in the library operations.

End User Access to Content: Implications for Library Operations

Due to extensive access to electronic journals and the integration of search and retrieval facilities in the DADS service, there has been a significant change across departments. As outlined above, daily library operations have been run by 15% less staff and with no significant problems or complaints from users.

The amount of new content (some 3,000 journals are now available 24 hours a day, most of them integrated in the DADS service) and easy access have diminished document delivery operations and improved customer service significantly. The fact that journals are no longer processed in the OPAC has led to significant savings as well.

[DTV Article Database Service

The feedback from key users is that library and information services at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) are excellent.

Re-Organising Journal Subscriptions Campuswide

DTU's 33 departments2 had 1,800 journal subscriptions in 1998. In order to assist DTV in entering into campus agreements on electronic databases and journal packages, DTV drew up a plan for centralisation of the subscriptions on campus. The recommendation was that departments would cancel all subscriptions for 1999 and transfer funds equal the expenses for the 1998 editions to DTV. Hereafter DTV would renew the subscription if necessary (there were a number of duplicate subscriptions) and enter into license agreements where electronic editions were available. Furthermore DTV announced that price increases were paid for by DTV funds.

The plan was approved and supported by university management. Additional funding was made available to cover price increases. An additional motivator was included in the re-organisation model: for the next year (year 2000 editions) the price increase will only be applicable for departments that keep the paper editions. The majority of subscriptions (1,100) were transferred to DTV. Currently renewal of these voluntary agreements between departments and DTV is underway. We expect that some 500 additional subscriptions will be transferred, and probably 1,000 paper editions will be canceled from the year 2000.

The re-organisation has led to considerable savings campuswide and has made it easier for DTV to calculate economic impacts of license agreements. The most important element for users is that they have gained desktop access to a vastly increased number of electronic journals.

This re-organisation has not been limited to departments within the university. DTV has made similar arrangements with two departments from another university with considerable benefits for both parties.

Consortia Building

An important feature in helping the re-engineering process to succeed has been the effort made to establish co-operation with other Danish and Nordic institutions. DTV has taken the lead in consortial licensing of resources. License agreements are currently in effect with the following publishers for their complete packages (all journals):

In addition, 650 Elsevier journals are available through a consortium. Consortia in the pipeline, with licenses already signed by DTV, are INSPEC, SwetScan (tables of contents), Web of Science, SciFinder, MCB, Highwire, Scandinavian University Press to mention a few. Furthermore a number of licenses with societies are in place and will be subject to consortial licensing: IOP, ACS, APS, AIP, OSA, etc.

The point here is that the process of re-engineering a single library today cannot take place without entering into co-operative arrangements with other libraries and indeed without co-operation and creative negotiations with publishers. As a matter of fact, I consider the publishers and societies very important and positive players in this process (Bjoernshauge 1999b).

Institutional and Organisational Prerequisites and Effects of the Re-Engineering

It is rather obvious that the above changes cannot take place unless a number of prerequisites are in place:

Commitment from university management:
The main concern here is economics. The process has proven that more, better, and faster services have been provided without demands for increased funding. As a matter of fact, university management has actively supported the re-organisation process financially!

Acceptance from department heads and end users (researchers and students):
The voluntary agreements with departments for centralisation of journal subscriptions and the increased and easy access to more content has generated a lot of positive feedback.

Adequate staff competence:
The presence of highly skilled IT staff and generally well trained staff, especially in the application of IT in all library operations, has made the transition rather easy to accomplish. The JULIA project has contributed a lot in this respect.

Commitment from the staff:
Despite the fact that staff reductions have taken place, the current staff is very committed to the direction towards which DTV is developing. For years management has stressed the developments in the environment (the university, the publishing industry, etc.) and emphasised that continuous changes are necessary if the library should survive in these competitive and turbulent years.

Commitment from library management:
The most important part is that library management is prepared to pave the way for the necessary decisions and ensure that external and internal stakeholders are consulted and committed during the process. An important feature of managing knowledge organisations is the ability to cope with rather unpredictable conditions, where planning, even short term planning, is very difficult. But most important is that management is able to give the staff space to make decisions, make mistakes, and learn.

Organisational Changes

A number of organisational changes have been implemented during the process. It is obvious that staff reductions and changes in workloads and work processes lead to a restructuring of the organisation. Delegation of responsibility and decision making throughout the organisation are important features here, as well as encouraging cross departmental and project work.

Due to the efforts in consortia building and electronic licensing, a new department has been established. The contract management department now handles license agreements, calculates economic implications, consolidates journal subscriptions from different libraries, etc.

It is foreseeable that further organisational changes will emerge as the borders between serials management, consortia management, and systems management become increasingly blurred.

Further Developments

As a consequence of the developments in consortia building, electronic licensing, and the development of integrated electronic library services, a whole set of new roles for DTV is emerging.

Due to co-operative efforts DTV now operates as license administrator, license reseller, content aggregator, service provider (INSPEC), and lately as systems provider.

Four Danish universities have entered into agreements with DTV on the DADS service and agreements with a number of other Danish and Nordic institutions are in the pipeline.

What is emerging is a restructuring of the institutional structure of the academic library landscape, where parallels to the developments in the scientific publishing business are at hand.

Concluding Remarks

The turbulence in the environment causes a lot of problems and challenges for the management of academic libraries (Butler 1999; Odlyzko 1999). However developments in scientific publishing and in technology in general open possibilities for institutions which are willing to take risks.

So far the lessons learned from the re-engineering process at DTV are very promising.

More, better, and cheaper services have been developed through deliberate efforts in consortia building, electronic licensing, human resource management, and systems development.

A whole new set of roles and business opportunities for the academic library are visible if management is willing to put aside the traditional modes of operation.

If the academic library wants to be an important player in the information chain of the future, new approaches and experiments are needed (Bjoernshauge 1999b). The greatest risk for academic libraries is to stick to well-known services and priorities.


1 DTV is a development partner for EXLIBRIS (ALEPH library automation system), has been partner in several EU-funded projects (Europagate, Copinet, Universe, and Gaia) and was the first institution outside CERN to have a WEB-server installed.

2 DTU research and education is focused on civil engineering, sciences, biosciences and technology management.


Ardoe, A. et al. 1998. Integrating article databases and full text archives into a digital journal collection. Lecture Notes in Computer Science Vol.1513, 1998, 641-642.

Bjoernshauge, L. 1998. Developing the skills for public library electronic collection management: the JULIA-project, Technical Knowledge Center & Library of Denmark. 1998 Annual General Meeting of the EARL Council [Online]. Available: http://www.earl.org.uk/events/presentations/lars/index.html [Note: Link is no longer publicly accessible, 7/31/00] [November 24th, 1998]

Bjoernshauge, L. 1999a. Opinion paper: from interlending and document delivery to co-operative collections and document access. Interlending and Document Supply, volume 27, no. 1, 1999 pp. 30-32.

Bjoernshauge, L. 1999b. Taking the big steps towards the digital library - lessons learned from a re-engineering process at the Technical Knowledge Center & Library of Denmark. Vine vol. 110 (in print).

Butler, D. 1999. The writing is on the web for science journals in print. Nature January 21st, 1999.

Find, S. 1998. Changing the Culture - Job Design, Work Processes and Qualifications in the Hybrid Library. The IFLA conference, Amsterdam. [Online]. Available: http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla64/135-96e.htm [August, 1998]

Odlyzko, A. Competition and cooperation: Libraries and publishers in the transition to electronic scholarly journals. [Online]. Available: {http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~odlyzko/doc/competition.cooperation.pdf}. To appear in J. Electronic Publishing, http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/, in J. Scholarly Publishing, and in The Transition from Paper: A Vision of Scientific Communication in 2020, S. Berry and A. Moffat, eds., Springer, 1999


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