One of the most prevalent trends in the current phase of the library technology industry has been increased movement toward shared technology platforms to help libraries increase the impact of their collections through cooperation. Budget constraints prevent libraries from acquiring all the print and digital electronic resources to fulfill the interests and research needs of their communities. Libraries therefore seek out technologies that enable them to expand their offerings, often through partnerships and cooperative services with peer institutions. Many different models of resource sharing support this need for libraries to offer materials beyond their immediate collections. Interlibrary loan, union catalogs, consortial borrowing, and expedited document delivery services are some examples. Each of these models helps libraries using different automation systems exchange materials.
Another model of resource sharing involves groups of libraries implementing a shared resource management and discovery system. Integrated library system (ILS) implementations serving multiple libraries in a consortium have been part of the library automation industry from the beginning. Large multibranch ILS implementations are likewise commonplace.
This trend for libraries to cooperate through shared technology infrastructure has risen to new levels in recent years, fueled by the ability of distributed cloud infrastructure to support ever larger numbers of institutions with massive aggregate collections and high volumes of transaction activity. The new genre of library services platforms designed for large-scale implementations has also eroded some of the limits seen in the previous generation of ILSs.
The number of libraries participating in shared systems has risen considerably in the last decade. There has been a steady movement of libraries previously automated independently to some type of shared system. In addition to new implementations of systems to be shared by a consortium, many libraries are also moving from their longstanding standalone systems to join an existing consortium. While standalone implementations of ILSs will likely persist indefinitely, their numbers will decline as libraries increasingly favor shared systems.
Sharing technical infrastructure removes many barriers that inhibit cooperation. Shared systems expand the universe of materials available to users and reduce the complexity of fulfilling requests across the participating institutions. Cooperative collection development can be more easily realized through a unified bibliographic database compared to multiple independent ILS implements. Shared systems can also enable new options for processing materials, such as centralizing all or parts of technical services.
This issue features the Joint Library System in Denmark, which ranks as the largest implementation of shared technical infrastructure for a library consortium globally. I have not been able to identify any other system larger than the 2,428 public and school libraries participating in the Danish Joint Library System. This impressive initiative includes the development of Cicero, a new library management system, and the migration of all the public and school libraries from their incumbent systems to a new shared bibliographic and technical infrastructure. With this move, Denmark has realized a major milestone in its national infrastructure for its libraries, providing library management, bibliographic services, and resource sharing for all of its public and school libraries.