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June/ July 2014, Volume 6, Issue 5

Continuing Education Alert

Check Your Calendars!!

One Book SD

Audiobook Month
June 2014

ALA Annual Conference
June 26-July 1, 2014

ALCTS Annual Conference
June 26–July 1, 2014

Immersion Program – Teacher and Program Tracks
July 20–25, 2014

Teen Blogging Contest
Deadline: August 1, 2014

Library Card Sign-up Month
September 2014

Featured e-Resources of the Month
New e-resources' features made available

Board Talk


The life cycle of a consortium

By Daria Bossman, State Librarian

You may have heard of the South Dakota Library Network or otherwise known as SDLN. In the past it was often easily confused with the South Dakota State Library or SDSL, the former located in Spearfish on the Black Hills State University campus. The State Library, like all other state library agencies is a governmental unit located in the state's capitol. In South Dakota the State Library is part of the Department of Education. SDLN was a creation of an MOU (memorandum of understanding) among the SD Board of Regents, the Department of Education and the State Library first written in the 1980's. SDLN served member libraries and ran a shared ILS (Integrated Library System) called Aleph. In recent years only 16% of our state's public libraries and 3% of our schools were SDLN members. Nevertheless, it was a long-running and successful collaboration within the state mainly among the academic libraries and several of the larger public libraries.

As a statewide collaborative, South Dakota Library Network (SDLN) served member libraries very well for nearly three decades. When SDLN was first conceived and launched in 1986 it was in the forefront of technology and innovation. It was structured in the pre-Internet era when shared resources and linked connectivity were in their infancy. Over the years SDLN expanded its services to assist its member libraries. Among these extra services were email and web development, shared databases, and facilitating member libraries' interlibrary loan services.

In today's world having one ILS (integrated library system) is no longer necessary or even desirable to meet the increasing demands of various clientele---academic, public, school and special libraries. One size does not fit all. In other words, libraries can make independent decisions about their automation system and via the Internet and current technology link to other systems. In the 21st century there is a wide variety of options and pricing structures from which libraries can choose. Smaller consortia can exist or libraries can link their catalogs through the Internet on their own.

So what is a consortium? What are their benefits? What are the liabilities or downside? It is important to understand that a consortium has a life-cycle. They are a type of formalized collaboration. They are birthed, develop and mature and then often they come to an end. The winding down of a consortium does not signal failure. It just means the needs of the partners have changed or shifted over time. Consortia should be encouraged when coming together can benefit everyone involved. Cost savings, more technical functionality, shared or expanded training opportunities and a sense of shared community are all common reasons for forming a consortium. Consortia can be relatively small or regional or huge national or international endeavors.

Kare Anderson in her recent Forbes magazine article entitled, "How Exactly, Can We Accomplish Greater Things Together?" states that in any collaboration there is a focus on "us" and not simply on "giving or asking for help but working with partners on strong sweet spots of shared interest." She goes on, "in practice that means they choose to collectively, iteratively hone methods and systems for leveraging their capacity to serve better together." That says it all! They choose to leverage their joint capacity to serve better together. In this day and age, all libraries should be doing that!

You may not be considering joining or staying with a formal consortium. However, all libraries can collaborate informally with local businesses, local clubs and organizations, as well as the school districts or service agencies in your area. Most libraries are non-profits. Kare Anderson in her article quotes the founder of Indian Impact, R. Parvathaneni. He said, "Non-profits can be more successful than their profitable counterparts if they incubate a noble cause with dexterity and efficiency. A non-profit that's got hustle is the new normal."

Here in South Dakota we need to celebrate our collaborations and our consortia, both past, present and future. Likewise, we need to keep our eye on any and all collaborative opportunities which will strengthen all its partners. Libraries need to be community leaders in identifying and launching those collaborative endeavors. We are natural networkers and local leaders will come to value the local library's contribution in bringing groups together within the community. In short, we need to hustle!

The State Library's mission is Leadership, Innovation, and Excellence which includes providing technical and professional expertise to all libraries within the state. Our focus is to champion the local libraries across the state while providing as many resources and as much support to all libraries as possible. We desire to assist the Board of Regents in this two-year transition process. We hope to assist current SDLN library members as they make local decisions to migrate to other vendor systems or join new consortia. In short, we are here to help in the transition and to remind all the state's libraries that we offer services and expertise to assist the local library. Just remember the most important goal whether large or small is to choose wherever possible to leverage your joint capacity to serve better together.

Regards, Daria Bossman, State Librarian
May 29, 2014


21st century, automation, community, interlibrary loan, public libraries, SDLN, Spearfish, technology




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