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Smarter Libraries through Technology: Overlapping Models of Resource Sharing

Smart Libraries Newsletter [March 2017]

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No library, even one that is most generously funded, is able to acquire all the resources of potential interest to its community of patrons. Yet, libraries respond in any way possible to obtain information requested by their patrons, whether the libraries already own the resources or not. Libraries therefore engage in a variety of different forms of resource sharing to fulfill the needs of their own patrons, relying on materials available in the collections of partner institutions. The ecosystem of resource sharing embraces reciprocity where libraries likewise make items from their collections available to external borrowers.

Several different models have emerged to enable libraries to share their resources. The scope of these approaches ranges from exchanging materials among a few close partner institutions to global services. Each model relies on a specific type of technical infrastructure. Resource sharing technology has proven to be complex and not necessarily inexpensive, but enables libraries to share materials at reasonably affordable costs.

In this issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter, we take a look at two models of resource sharing. OCLC WorldShare Interlibrary Loan is an example of a global centralized interlibrary loan service. Based on a central database of bibliographic information and the libraries that own each item, the service is able to receive a request from a library for an item needed by one of its patrons, identify libraries which own the material, and track its fulfilment and return. This centralized brokering service for interlibrary loans provides access to almost any possible resource, but given that the supplying library may be distant geographically, there may be significant delivery times and processing costs.

Another model of resource sharing aims to fulfill as many requests as possible within an established group of libraries organized into a consortium. Such a partnership among libraries within a geographic region or other type of association can greatly expand the materials available collectively. A large portion of items requested, but not owned by the patron's local library, can be satisfied within the consortium. Only those not available within the consortia need then to be requested through OCLC or another global interlibrary loan service. The technology to support resource sharing within a consortium can be complex, especially when each library operates its own integrated library system (ILS). Direct consortial borrowing systems work in conjunction with these ILS implementations to provide a combined catalog, so that patrons know whether the items they need are available within the consortium. These systems also have components for receiving and routing the request through the ILSs of the borrowing and lending institutions.

Resource sharing within a consortium can be accomplished much more simply when all the members share a common implementation of an ILS. This configuration comes with built-in capabilities for discovery across the collections of the participating institutions and can rely on standard circulation functionality for placing requests and routing materials to the requestor. While a simpler model, libraries may not be able to change from a locally implemented ILS to a consortial system just to be able to share materials more efficiently. This model of shared technical infrastructure to support resource sharing among members of a consortia has been a growing trend in recent years, but most libraries will likely operate independent systems for the foreseeable future.

The niche of the library technology industry related to library resource sharing has seen many challenges over the years. It is characterized by software that is complex and expensive to create with a limited number of sales opportunities. In that context, it is not surprising to see only a handful of offerings for consortial borrowing support.

In this issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter, we cover the most recent round of changes within the library resource sharing arena. OCLC's acquisition of Relais International represents a major step towards consolidation within the arena of resource sharing technologies. The leading provider of consortial borrowing technology is now part of OCLC, which offers the dominant global interlibrary loan service. This move gives OCLC more options to offer libraries to facilitate resource sharing, but it also means fewer choices of providers. Such consolidation is consistent with the trends that have prevailed in the last decade or two in the broader library technology industry.

We also note OCLC's launch of the new Tipasa interlibrary loan management system. This product will ultimately replace ILLiad, a Windows-based utility for managing the interlibrary loan workflow that was developed by Atlas Systems. Bringing this functionality into the WorldShare Platform makes sense from a technology perspective, but it also represents a shift away from an independent company to OCLC's internal development team. This move can also be seen as a small step toward the concentration of library software development into an ever-smaller group of providers. Both moves represent a deeper commitment by OCLC to provide solutions that will facilitate resource sharing in libraries. This area seems well aligned with the OCLC's core mission and strengthens its ability to advance the technologies in this sector in ways that might not be possible by companies operating at a smaller scale.

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Publication Year:2017
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 37 Number 03
Issue:March 2017
Page(s):1-2
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Series: Smarter Libraries through Technology
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
ISSN:1541-8820
Record Number:22328
Last Update:2022-11-29 00:28:36
Date Created:2017-03-13 10:52:08
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