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Inspiring library partnerships: Evaluation of a unique reciprocal borrowing scheme between Higher Education and local authorities in the West of England

Robertson, Frances; Burton, Martin; Cole, Geoff; Chelin, Jacqueline; Clark-Webster, Eleanor; Collins, Ian; Fisher, Emma; Hallett, Jon; Townsend, Paul; Wyatt, Graham


Frances Robertson

Martin Burton

Geoff Cole

Eleanor Clark-Webster

Emma Fisher

Jon Hallett

Paul Townsend

Graham Wyatt


The SWRLS Open Doors project was a partnership between LibrariesWest (led by South Gloucestershire Library Service) and UWE Bristol Library Services and funded by SWRLS (South Western Regional Library Service). The aim was to pilot a reciprocal borrowing scheme between public and academic libraries using existing cards, i.e. public library cards in the academic library and university ID cards in the public libraries. The pilot looked at the scheme in terms of the following:
the ease with which it was to set up,
its limitations,
barriers or obstacles and how these could be overcome,
how popular it was both with staff and customers (i.e. members of the public or UWE staff and students).
The report details the way in which the pilot was run, considers information from other higher and further education institutions and relevant literature, looks at other schemes in the UK and outlines the issues that were identified. The users of the scheme were surveyed – staff and customers – and their responses analysed.
The report concludes that the reciprocal use of existing library cards between institutions and public libraries in a geographical area:
was relatively simple once set up,
was appreciated by all those who participated,
had few teething problems,
has had no appreciable impact on the availability of academic stock to UWE students,
increased public library as well as academic library usage by target groups, e.g. school students 16 years and over,
enabled the public library service to provide a significantly better offer of resources to its community,
especially those who needed access to specialised stock not normally available in a general public library service.
The Project Board recommends that this reciprocal borrowing arrangement continues between UWE and LibrariesWest and that other similar partnerships would benefit where they are geographically linked.
The partners in this project plan to continue the project and to monitor it using the statistics and data monitoring used to assess its success and to give it prominence in University and public library / schools promotional material at the start of each academic year.
Further information concerning this SWRLS Open Doors reciprocal borrowing project can be obtained by looking at the project website or by emailing


Robertson, F., Burton, M., Cole, G., Chelin, J., Clark-Webster, E., Collins, I., …Wyatt, G. (2014). Inspiring library partnerships: Evaluation of a unique reciprocal borrowing scheme between Higher Education and local authorities in the West of England

Report Type Project Report
Publication Date Jul 1, 2014
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
ISBN 9781860435201
Keywords library partnerships, reciprocal borrowing scheme, Higher Education, local authorities, West of England
Related Public URLs


SWRLS Open Doors Project - Final Evaluation report complete.pdf (6.9 Mb)

SWRLS Open Doors Project - Final Evaluation report complete.docx (8.5 Mb)

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