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Case study - European libraries and cloud computing

Who we are

We are part of a major public research university with 11 constituent faculties, within which there are over 100 departments, institutes and research centres. We have a large library system that comprises 18 libraries located across several sites, linked together by a central networking catalogue and request system for over 2 million books. Since 2004, we have been collecting the scholarly work of internal researchers to make it freely available on the internet via an open access repository. The intention is that material we curate will remain accessible indefinitely.

As a public funded body, we have to procure ICT goods and services ethically, fairly and transparently in line with European Union and our national legislation. The overall process is dictated by the general procurement processes of our university. The procurement action is usually initiated by IT managers that are responsible for the services. Our Procurement Services is involved in advising on and overseeing all procedural aspects in the procurement process so that it is compliant with legal requirements. The form of procurement varies depending on the nature, cost and complexity of the item(s) to be purchased. Procurement above €70,000 involves a full EU tender process.

Why the cloud?

Shifting to cloud solutions gives libraries an opportunity to save time, resources and re-allocate resources to improve service. Moving away from local storage, sharing and reusing resources to move to science2.0 (Open Science) is understood as a systemic change in the modus operandi of doing research and organising science. These are the main benefits envisaged by libraries for the cloud adoption.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t any risks and downfalls with cloud computing. For example, there are security issues. Some archives cannot be stored in the cloud because the cloud is perceived as insecure; there are legal issues related to the fact that we don’t always know which jurisdiction’s national legislation governs storage of data in the cloud and use of cloud services; and there are privacy issues associated with the nature of data – certainly some research involves medical data that bring confidentiality issues because of the sensitive nature of the data. To date, libraries have adopted cloud storage solutions mainly to manage the day-to-day operation of the library and to manage the discovery and acquisition of material.

Our experience in joint procurement

We have had positive experiences of joint procurement actions for the purchase of digital content databases. To do that, we exploited the support of a public body whose role is to support education and research, by providing leadership in the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in learning, teaching, research and administration. Their help was fundamental to help understand the significance of new technological developments.