In a time when library budgets are shrinking and demand for services is on the rise, academic libraries, in particular, have found that resource sharing is vital. Theoretically, at least, by sharing, libraries can concentrate acquisitions in areas important to their institutions and forego purchasing items with stronger appeal to another institution and, by setting up reciprocal access agreements it is assured that library users can ascertain who has what quickly and easily.
In an age of technology, resource sharing can be through a "virtual electronic library," a program in which any member institution has electronic access to holdings and availability information of all participants-even access to information in electronic form.
One of the best examples of a virtual electronic library to date is being developed by the member libraries of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC). The CIC is the academic consortium of the Big Ten universities and the University of Chicago. The CIC was founded in 1958; in 1994 the CIC established the Center for Library Initiatives (CLI) to provide coordination of and leadership for the growing number of collaborative efforts among the CIC libraries.
The CIC libraries together hold more than 58 million volumes and maintain more than 550,000 serial subscriptions. Eventually, every member of the faculty, staff, or student population of the CIC universities will have seamless access to all resources of the participating libraries. Users will be able to request a book, download a graphic, or print a full-text file without leaving their office or dorm.
The cornerstone of the project is the implementation of linked-system technologies connecting the 13 online catalogs of the institutions. The objectives are to implement Z39.50 to provide seamless connections; develop and implement Z39.63 to provide automation of interlibrary loan functions and institute patron-initiated interlibrary loan; and, explore and implement the central mounting of indexes and full-text databases that can be integrated into the process of direct delivery of information to the end-users.
Z39.50 linkages among the eight CIC institutions which have Ameritech NOTIS systems has been achieved. In February, 1995, over 14,000 intersystem searches were undertaken. The Z39.50 links to the three non-NOTIS systems are in testing; two institutions that are replacing their systems plan to require Z39.50 conformity.
Three institutions are testing the use of PACLoan, the Ameritech NOTIS Z39.63-compliant, unmediated interlibrary loan module. A working group is developing a Z39.63-compliant interlibrary loan system which can bridge the NOTIS and non-NOTIS systems.
A fully-managed electronic journal collection has been established and is accessible via the Internet. Already, there are over 30,000 accesses a day. In addition, CIC has purchased access to the Bellstein CrossFire database of some six million chemical compounds and their associated properties.
[Contact: Barbara McFadden Allen, Director, CIC Center for Library Initiatives, 320 B. John Street, Suite 1705, Champaign, IL 61820; (217) 333-8475; FAX (217) 244-9051; e-mail: email@example.com.]