The 'new' circulating library

The UK higher education sector continues to enjoy an international reputation.  The 2010 QS table of top universities, reported that Cambridge University had knocked Harvard of the top spot in the league table of the world’s top 100 universities.  (The Times Higher Education league table, published in September 2010 disagreed, placing Cambridge in sixth position behind five US institutions.)


Despite such disagreements over rankings, it is estimated by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants that the UK economy benefits from between £5.3bn and £8bn every year in international student fees. 


The HE sector has undergone profound change over the last ten years and academic libraries have transformed themselves accordingly.  Ongoing technological and social developments, allied with elevated user expectations, will only hasten this rate of change. 


Earlier this year, the Research Information Network published Challenges for academic libraries in difficult economic times outlining how academic librarians were responding to the straitened economic climate.  A key message is that cuts mean that libraries must rethink the kinds and levels of service they offer, particularly when taking into account the inevitable squeeze on book and journal budgets.  Dominic Broadhurst, Business Management Librarian at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester is responsible for the delivery of all library services to the Manchester Business School.  Writing in Business Information Review, says ‘even when we purchase 30-40 copies of a reading list item, students may consider that we do not hold sufficient copies of key texts’.  Meanwhile access to e-books is still not seamless or transparent and much work needs to be done to ensure easy and consistent access to e-texts.


The founders of seem to have identified a gap in the market by reinventing the ‘circulating library’ for the 21st century student.    They rent out books to students for as long as they need them – for up to an academic year.  The idea came about, the founders say, because books are ‘overpriced in the union bookshops, out of stock in the library’.  Their service provides an alternative to ownership of full priced new editions or second hand volumes that may be out of date and supplements academic library provision.