Knowledge Base+ in a nutshell

Phase I of the Knowledge Base+ project aims to develop a centralised, shared, above-campus knowledge base of data useful to electronic resources management (ERM) at institutional level.

It aims to provide institutions, and the services they use, with timely, accurate, verified and structured ERM information, including e-resources publication, licensing, subscription and entitlements data.

In partnership with other existing services and initiatives, e.g. Journal Usage Statistics Portal and the License Comparison Tool, the knowledge base also aims to extend and enhance existing data and services rather than creating yet another silo.

The knowledge base is NOT an ERM product and therefore it is not trying to compete with ERM or LMS products in terms of functionality or tools – the focus is on quality metadata, and improving the availability of high quality metadata relevant to UK academic institutions to existing ERM and LMS products.

As far as possible, the knowledge base will be based on open principles using open standards (e.g. COUNTER and ONIX) in machine readable structured formats (e.g. KBART) that enable the data to be imported into existing systems, and shared between related systems, for multiple purposes and reuse. The knowledge base will be accessible to all participants through its own authenticated user interface.

The existence of the knowledge base will start to meet the aim of minimising the costly duplication of staff time and effort in the population, maintenance and correction of existing knowledge bases, include link resolvers, supplier knowledge bases, institutional ERMs, etc.

The project also aims to provide alerting services concerning renewals, title changes, known issues, service availability, etc.

Scope: A full set of key deliverables for Phase I is outlined on the official Knowledge Base+ website. Phase I is more about identifying, piloting and implementing the overarching framework and infrastructure based around a core set of NESLi2, SHEDL, WHEEL and JISC eCollections agreements, rather than providing a fully comprehensive service from day one.

Planning for Phase II will commence in spring of 2012.

What will KB+ contain?

In phase I the knowledge base will contain a representative sample of data about publication, licensing, subscription and entitlements for many existing e-resource deals e.g. nesli2, SHEDL and WHEEL title lists, holdings, machine readable licences, etc.

In selecting the data for phase I of the project we have tried hard to choose data that is of relevance to as many institutions as possible, but recognise that this is a far from comprehensive set of data and that we will want to include full-text databases, ebooks etc in phase II and beyond.

What the data in phase I will allow us to do is test the functionality – import, export, correction, deletion etc – that KB+ seeks to offer, but with data that of importance to as many institutions as possible.

A full list of deliverables in phase I is available.

What’s the benefit of KB+ for Library administrative staff?

  • The potential to reduce the burden of tedious and time-consuming process around managing e-resources.
  • Freed up time to spend on more worthwhile, ‘value added’ services.
  • Increased productivity through shared activity
  • Opportunities to upskill and develop
  • Opportunity to network with other institutions
  • Opportunity to make a difference at a national as well as local level.

See also What’s in it for libraries?

What’s the benefit of KB+ for Library Directors?

  • A reduction in the costly duplication of staff time and effort in the population, maintenance and correction of knowledge bases
  • A contribution to enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of local e-resource management
  • Fewer broken links and incorrect holdings, helping to ensure better value from existing subscribed e-resources.
  • Improved user experience from better access to subscribed e-resources
  • Improved return on investment (ROI) from existing knowledge bases and e-resource management systems (e.g. link resolvers, etc.) which should be enhanced by taking feeds from the centralised knowledge base.
  • The potential to reassign staff activity away from repetitive back-of-house administration.
  • It is recognised that phase 1 of the project is unlikely to deliver major savings before August 2012 – the benefits are likely to become more tangible in the medium to long term and will be articulated in the business case for phase 2 and beyond.

See also What’s in it for libraries?

What’s the benefit of KB+ for publishers, platform hosts, agents, suppliers and system vendors?

  • One authoritative source of key data about e-resources including publication, licensing and subscription information.
  • Timely access to data contextualised for the UK academic library market
  • Centralised service for the population, amendment and verification activity of data for knowledge bases, include link resolvers, supplier knowledgebases, institutional ERMs, etc.
  • Reduction in queries from multiple institutions or consortia.
  • Access to the knowledge base data to update their own databases and improve services to customeRs.
  • Reduction in the costs associated with collating, managing and amending data for knowledge bases in use by UK academic libraries
  • Access to key licence data in a structure machine to machine format

International links

The Project also has links with other international Knowledge base initiatives such as GoKB initiative in the United States looking to pull together global level publication information. Kristin Antelman from North Carolina State University is part of the Community Advisory Group (CAG) and she recently wrote: “Both KB+ and GOKb are about knowing what we (libraries) have so that we can get our resources to our users, and working together to accomplish that. This is far from an easy problem but it makes total sense to own this problem and to solve it.”

Sustainability: What will happen beyond August 2012?

Another output from Phase I of the project will be a business plan and model for further development of the knowledgebase service. It is expected that this will identify the costs and workflows associated with the maintenance and creation of both the data and software tools to manage it. Phase I will not involve costs to individual institutions as it is HEFCE funded.

The Project’s sustainability will depend on the extent of community ownership and the extent to which it succeeds in bringing related service together (hopefully more of a hub than yet another spoke!)

In the medium to long term there is the potential for the development of more radical services and initiatives using data provided from this knowledgebase system in conjunction with other national and local databases (see for e.g Library Data Impact Project) and other emerging shared services.

Academic libraries and institutions have an interest in and responsibility for more than just their e-journals and databases – e-books, open access titles and individual articles, open educational resources and open data all pose new questions for electronic resources management (ERM). The project will also seek to identify the workflows that will allow these to be incorporated into shared ERM from Phase II onwards.

Where does this Project sit within the SCONUL Shared Services initiative?

The SCONUL Shared Services Feasibility Study for UK Higher Education  – was completed November 2009 and included a final report. The SCONUL Shared Services for Electronic Resources Management (ERM) project  arose as one strand from this and was about “helping to understand how ‘above campus’ (consortium or national) electronic resource management might benefit university libraries and what functions such a shared service might encompass” and was completed May 2011. This Knowledge Base+ Project then emerged from this strand.

Further information: SCONUL Shared Services wiki

Knowledge Base+ Community Advisory Group – Jan 12 Meeting

Key issues identified:

  • Involvement of the staff who actually work on e-resources at the coalface will be crucial.
  • What structures and processes are needed to enable the whole community to contribute to the development of the knowledge base? What is the scope for ‘crowdsourcing’?
  • What will the data verification process look like? Who will be involved? How will those involved feedback? How will feedback be provided in a timely fashion so the data is still relevant by the time it is finally made available to the wider community?
  • The Project Team is advised to look at other community-owned initiatives which have worked, e.g. the Kuali OLE project, with a view to learning from their structures and underlying technologies (e.g. use of Google workspaces). In the UK the Journal Usage Statistics Portal (JUSP)  project has also had excellent take-up.
  • Would some kind of ‘voting’ or ‘liking’ functionality be useful to support the verification process? How will changes be suggested or flagged by the community?
  • The burden of contributing must not be overly onerous: almost contributing without knowing you are contributing is the ideal.
  • The platform must be interactive, not passive.
  • What will the underlying processes be, what model will emerge and what technical infrastructure will then be needed?
  • How will the data in the knowledge base be presented so it is immediately useful to local institutional electronic resources management (ERM) processes and workflows? This will affect how the technical infrastructure is designed. See also TERMS for typical institutional ERM workflows.
  • Quality: The data must be perceived to be at least as useful as what institutions have achieved locally – accuracy must be retained or improved over what most have at the moment. How will this be measured?
  • How will expectations be managed? There is a balance to be struck between accuracy and timeliness and a point where “Good enough is good enough”. How will this be judged and agreed?
  • Timeliness: Libraries don’t want yet another system to have to update – how ensure updates are  fed through regularly? The Community Advisory Group suggested that data should be released to the community for checking sooner rather than later.
  • How can we link more closely with key stakeholders such as UKSG, university mission groups, Library Management System (LMS) user groups, etc.?
  • How can we best build trust between the Project and libraries, and between libraries and publishers, agents and vendors?
  • Other useful foundational work to be done:
    • Open data – devise a matrix to show types of data and guidelines on what institutions will be able to do with it (rights in and rights out).
    • Devise a matrix to demonstrate potential value, impact and importance of the different types of data that will be provided and what some of their many practical uses might be at an institutional level.
  • Would an upload area for sharing unverified metadata be useful? There should perhaps be an option to present ‘unverified’ datasets for sharing that could still save people a great deal of time, even if they still have to make some local adjustments?
  • Entitlements data – may make most sense to provide generic information at a macro level (e.g. for each big deal) and then work towards title-by-title entitlements?


The project is overseen by the KB+ Project Board which includes representatives from JISC, JISC Collections and the SCONUL Shared Services Steering Group, which is continuing to explore other aspects of library shared services e.g. the potential for shared LMS activities.

Representatives from other key stakeholders such as EDINA and MIMAS are also part of the Project Board. Under the Project Board there is also a Technical Advisory Group, to provide advice and guidance on the technical infrastructure, and a Community Advisory Group to ensure close liaison between the library community and the project.

The principles underpinning the project are outlined on the Knowledge Base+ project website.