16 October 2013–The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) are developing a framework agreement for online reference materials which could save library services across England around £6 million over a 3-year contract period.

The deal is part-funded by Arts Council England who awarded SCL a grant of £36,000 to manage the procurement process.

A three-year contract has been agreed with JISC Collections, who will manage licence agreements with digital rights owners and publishers of online reference material on the SCL’s behalf. Jisc already provide a similar service to academic libraries in the UK.

The initiative builds on the SCL’s Universal Offers launched earlier this year. Arts Council England’s Envisioning the Library of the Future report of May 2013 lists making use of digital technology as a priority for public libraries.

Ayub Khan of Warwickshire Libraries and Janet Wood of Stockport Libraries are jointly leading the SCL procurement project. They said the collective discounts achieved for Reference Online, the subscription-based content service, would bring considerable savings – and provide a quality online reference offer throughout England.

SCL President Janene Cox said: “This is an excellent example of how libraries can broker better deals by working together. It will benefit all public library customers and ensure the best service is delivered.”

Ben Taplin, Project Manager at JISC Collections, said: “We are delighted to be managing Reference Online on behalf of SCL. We understand the value the framework offers to public libraries and their users, and hope to use our experience in licensing and negotiating in the education sector to build on its successes and bring further savings on the resources that public libraries deliver.”

Brian Ashley, Director Libraries Arts Council England commented: “Libraries’ place at the heart of our communities will involve greater use of digital technology and creative media. An initiative like this is a positive step towards building more sustainable and resilient libraries. It shows what can be achieved through collaboration and innovative ways of working; and it directly benefits more people across England by giving them access to a wealth of information through their local library.”