The 2016 UK School Library survey conducted by Softlink on behalf of the school library sector looked at key trends and issues impacting school libraries.

The main findings from the survey concluded:

“Budgets, support from management, and physical space are significant challenges for many school libraries across the UK. These challenges align with the top priorities for school libraries, raising the profile of their school library, increasing engagement, looking at implementing eBooks and use of online resources.“

Similarly, the FE Sector is also under increased pressure to meet student expectations of learning support against a backdrop of area reviews, mergers, changing curricular focus and budget cuts.

Many of the librarians and teachers we talk to on a daily basis tell us about the budget cuts you are facing and the limited budgets you have to work within. The 2016 UK School Library survey found that library budgets at 58% of the respondent’s schools did not increase from the previous year and more worryingly, 33% of schools indicated their library budget decreased.

So with limited budgets why would libraries invest in e-resources?

Access available 24/7

Most e-resources – certainly those available via JCS – allow users simultaneous access to the content in and out of school or college hours for both staff and students. Students can therefore make use of them for homework and independent study, and teachers for their planning.

Each ‘page’ in reference databases such as Proquest’s History Study Center and Gale’s In Context Titles have a unique URL so teachers can direct students to specific articles, videos or images. Some resources, such as the Hodder Education A Level Magazines Archive, include a lesson builder tool which allows teachers to group together articles and share them directly with students (and colleagues).

24/7 access also means students can use the resources during the holidays, for example over Easter when they are revising for exams and during the summer holidays when EPQ students will be doing much of their research.

This level of access brings real value to the cost of e-resources.

eResources – an extremely affordable way to access large amounts of trusted information

With the increased variety of courses offered in FE Colleges (including moves to HE offerings), and the growing popularity of the EPQ, schools and colleges are now under pressure to provide reference material covering a hugely diverse range of topics. It would be impossible to afford and store the vast number of physical resources needed to support each student with their individual projects.

In Terri McCargar’s guest blog, ‘E-resource provision and usage at Latymer Upper School, London’ Keith Noakes Head of RS and Philosophy says:

“Access to the range and quality of journals via JSTOR is vital for EPQ; almost impossible without it.”

Online resources which have so much depth, breadth and variety of material, as well as many handy research tools, are therefore the perfect (and affordable) solution for supporting the EPQ and wide range of college courses.

“The JSTOR Further Education College Collection is great for us, particularly as it would be difficult and expensive to provide the high level resources our HE and A-Level learners need by any other means. It has excellent subject coverage, so no matter what topic the students select, information will be available.” Dr Sarah Crudge, Library and Learning Resources Manager, Tresham College

eResources maximise the value of ICT investments

If your school or college has invested in learning technologies such as a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), interactive whiteboards, tablets (and computers) then online resources can help to make the best use of these technologies, ensuring regular and appropriate use.

Providing access to resources via your VLE or Intranet saves staff and students a lot of time because the effort to find and vet the resources has been done for them already. It also ensures students to access resources from a secure and safe learning environment.

These days, most e-resources can also be used on a range of electronic devices including mobile phones. A great way to encourage students to use their beloved mobile phones for something more productive!

eResources are updated regularly

The huge benefit of being digital, e-resources can be updated quickly and easily without the publisher having to reprint material and the school or college buy each new edition. Resources such as online encyclopaedias can be kept topical and latest articles added without any change to a subscription.

The JCS publishers do like to hear what topics you want covered, so please contact our support team if you have any requests. The publisher of MASSOLIT is particularly keen for more lecture suggestions.

Retaining your e-resources budget year on year

Showing senior management that your e-resources are being used will help ensure continuation of your subscription(s). Most of the JCS publishers provide usage statistics, see the full details for each resource here.

Usage statistics show when and what parts of the resource are being used. So if you see periods in the year when resources are used less often you know when to promote them more perhaps by showing teachers and students how the resource can support specific projects or topics.

You can also email teachers links to the support materials provided by the publishers to encourage and support them in using the resources. From blogs and webinars to lesson plans, subject guides, and promotional materials, there are lots of material to support teachers and help you maximise your subscription.

And finally…

It’s our experience that librarians understand that quality e-resources are essential for students to achieve success in today’s digital world. That it’s no longer an option to just provide a physical library; students need 24/7 online access to accurate and authoritative information which will also help develop essential digital literacy and research skills.
The challenge for librarians is therefore to ensure that teaching staff, senior management also appreciate that e-resources from academic publishers are essential for teaching and learning in the digital age and that they offer great value for money.

We hope this blog has helped and if you face problems negotiating budget for e-resources you are able to draw on the points above to argue your case.