The UK’s Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) has just inked a deal with JISC Collections, a group which “supports the procurement of digital content for education and research in the UK,” that it claims “could save millions of pounds” through management of license agreements with digital rights owners and online reference publishers for the SCL.

The deal, already written up in glowing terms in The Bookseller, was partly financed by Arts Council England, which gave SCL a grant of £36,000 ($57,600) towards it. According to the SCL, it could save up to £6 million ($9.6 million) per year over a three-year contract period.

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

Yes, perhaps it is unfair to get sniffy and skeptical about such an announcement. After all, not all things can be funded from the same sources. Resource allocation and balancing services are essential responsibilities for all public service providers.

Still, the tone of this announcement, and of the coverage of it, stands in marked contrast to the dire reports around the rest of the UK public library sector. Contrast another UK professional librarians’ organization, the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals, and its vote of no confidence in Arts Council England’s ultimate overlord, Ed Vaizey. And the bleeding out of UK library funding as local authorities provide central government with a fig leaf to cover its abdication of responsibility. And all for want of much-needed lucre.

I really hope there’s some way to reallocate those savings from the SCL/JISC deal into supporting other library services. Because in the circumstances, it’s the only justification for such a jaunty tone.


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