Creating a shared library management system for Wales

Image courtesy of Cardiff University.
A student in the library of WHELF member Cardiff University (Image courtesy of Cardiff University)
The Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum (WHELF) is a partnership to deliver a management system across Welsh university libraries, thought to be the first of its kind in the UK. Programme manager Gareth Owen explains how the THELMA award-winning project will bring benefits to its members.

On Sunday 6 December library and IT staff at the National Library of Wales were busy making final checks before the new library management system (LMS) went live.

The successful launch of the new system, Ex Libris Alma and Primo, marked a key milestone in the programme to deliver a shared library management system across key organisations in Wales. Swansea University, Aberystwyth University and the University of South Wales had already gone live with the same LMS and by the end of 2016 the remaining universities in Wales and the National Health Service libraries in Wales will also be using the same LMS.

This programme of work started back in 2012 and following a successful Jisc-funded business case which provided a practical vision and roadmap for a shared LMS and anticipated a range of potential benefits.

These include efficiency gains and user benefits, including:

  • Obtaining leverage on pricing in the procurement process, through consortial purchasing; with potential for percentage discounts on licensing, implementation and support costs.
  • Opportunity to share a system which offers improved workflows, resulting in more efficient use of staff time across the partners.
  • Sharing of costs on licensing, development, infrastructure/hosting and staffing to reduce duplication of effort across the partners.
  • Ability to collaborate effectively on shared challenges, such as release of open data, development of mobile apps etc, and share systems knowledge.
  • Potential to increase efficiencies through more sharing in the creation and management of bibliographic records across a consortium, and/or make it more efficient by use of a shared knowledge base approach.
  • Ability to share management information and use this across the consortium for benchmarking and demonstrating value for money.
  • Ability to share technical developments across a consortium (for example, shared development of mobile apps).
  • The opportunity to build new services on top of a shared LMS – for example, a Union Catalogue for Wales HE; shared inter-library loan facilities, reciprocal borrowing
  • Opportunity to create a ‘level playing field’ across all institutions in relation to provision of common core functionality – eg: electronic resource management, resource discovery layer etc.

This programme is being delivered under the banner of WHELF, which includes all 10 Welsh higher education institutions and Welsh NHS Libraries, to deliver on a vision of collaboration and shared services, bringing benefits to customers across Wales.

Benefits have already been achieved, including a significant discount through procuring the LMS as a consortium, cost savings achieved by sharing programme management costs and the provision of a customer and staff interface in both Welsh and English.

However,  WHELF is committed to building on this shared platform and the benefits already achieved by working to develop further collaboration opportunities, such as shared cataloguing and reciprocal borrowing across these organisations.

WHELF is developing a long-term benefits realisation framework to drive this work and ensure that the benefits are achieved.  I hope to share some more thinking on this very soon.

In the meantime, work will continue with implementing the shared LMS across more universities in Wales.

Gareth Owen is programme manager at WHELF Shared LMS. Find out more about WHELF at:

Gareth Owen
Gareth Owen is programme Manager at the WHELF Shared LMS