A library consortium is a group of libraries who partner to coordinate activities, share resources, and combine expertise. The International Coalition of Library Consortia is an informal discussion group of such consortia. Library consortia offer significant advantages to increasingly strapped libraries. The sharing of resources, and collaboration on shared goals often enable libraries to deliver higher quality services than they would be able to deliver on their own.
Inter-library loan is a system that allows for libraries to borrow and share materials across a wide variety of topics as well as vast geographic locations. It is the most common use of cooperation between libraries as well as within specific consortia. Consortia can grow into something that covers much larger ground than a simple inter-library loan agreement. Many consortia within the United States have ventured further and developed integrated library systems, or ILS. Examples of these integrated systems include OhioLINK, comprising 88 academic libraries in Ohio; TexShare; Northern Lights Library Network of Minnesota, which incorporates over 300 libraries within the state; Orbis Cascade Alliance in the Northwestern United States; The Alberta Library in Alberta, the MCIT Library Consortium in India; LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network, comprising 49 academic and special libraries in Louisiana; the Abilene Library Consortium in West Texas; PASCAL in South Carolina; and Central/Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing, Inc. (C/W MARS).
There are many benefits for libraries that wish to create or join consortia. Though many have fees for entry, in the end the library finds itself saving a great deal on funding by sharing resources with other members of the consortia. Also, a single libraries collection will greatly increase much faster than staying solitary. Additionally, the creation and utilization of inter-library cooperation has the ability to greatly improve communication and relationships across vast fields and can encourage cross-discipline cooperation as well as collaborations.
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- Thompson, T. L. (2004). "Library consortia in the 21st Century: Beyond the Buying Club". Trends in Law Library Management and Technology. 15 (2): 1–4.
- Evans, G. E.; Saponaro, Margaret Zarnosky (2012). Collection Management Basics. Library and Information Science Text Series (sixth ed.). Santa Barbara, Cal.: Libraries Unlimited. pp. 161–177. ISBN 9781598848649. OCLC 759915961.