The term consortia refer to an agreement or group formed to undertake an enterprise beyond the resources of any one member. Library Consortia means a group of libraries working together for a common cause. It means collaborative or coalition effort for meeting the varied needs of users. It may be defined as any kind of formal cooperative arrangement where people agree to exchange information or resources. The library Consortia mainly deal with resource sharing in digital or electronic format. There are several reasons, which necessitated the concept of library consortia. Important among them are:
1. Information explosion: There is a tremendous increase in the generation of information in all fields of knowledge due to intensive researches taking place in almost all fields of knowledge. Explosive growth of literature has made it impossible for libraries to attain self-sufficiency. Exponential growth of library materials in many form and format such as books, periodicals, non-book materials like e-books, e-journals, online databases etc. have made it beyond the control of a library to acquire all the materials that are being produced.
2. Shrinking budget: The cost of books and other information sources are escalating year by year. But the fund allocation to Libraries in our country is not increasing in proportion with this price hike. There has been a continuous devaluation of currency also. Hence no library is able to procure all the resources needed by its users. Limitations in fiscal conditions and other resources like manpower, space etc. have put tremendous pressure on libraries to join hands with other libraries for resource sharing.
3. Ever-growing user requirements: User requirements for information vary from user to user. They need a wide spectrum of information due to information explosion, presence of multi-discipline, specialization of subjects etc. No library can meet their demands with their own resources.
4. Technological advancements: Unprecedented pace of technological developments in information storage and retrieval poses great challenge on traditional libraries to find ways and means to provide better services to their patrons. Issues like shift of information medium from print to digital, shorter life span of electronic media, changing formats, developments in hardware and software, interoperability and standards have also put pressure on libraries to join together to overcome these barriers.
5. Professionalization of library services: Role of library professionals has been changed from mere conservator to facilitator of knowledge. Major functions of a librarian are to identify, select, procure, organize, preserve and disseminate information. Rapid changes have taken place in all the above areas. It has posed great challenge for librarians to remain at the front-line of the profession. This paradigm shift prompted the professionals to have collaboration and coordination with other libraries to provide quality library services.
According to Cholin and Karisiddappa, the major objectives of library consortia are:
- To enhance the resource base of the individual library.
- To increase the cost benefit per subscription.
- To promote the rational use of funds.
- To have greater buying power.
- To ensure continuous subscription to the journals subscribed.
- To guarantee local storage of the information acquired for continuous use.
- To reduce the strength of staff and storage space.
- To develop technical capabilities of the staff in using electronic databases.
- To share technical expertise of library professionals.
- To keep up-to-date with new technology.
- To have strategic alliance among institutions with common interest
The concept of library consortia is not new and it refers to cooperation, coordination and collaboration between and amongst libraries for the purpose of sharing information resources. Major advantages of library consortia include enhanced cooperation, i.e., alliance with institutions that have common interest, augmentation of resource base with less money, adoption of new technology for providing better services and rational use of library budget. Today, many journals and publications have started getting published only in the electronic form, especially in the field of science and technology. It is therefore becoming necessary that the libraries get automated and networked, for it is the networking alone which makes resource sharing and dissemination of information possible at all levels, irrespective of the form and format of information. The library consortia provide an effective information infrastructure to the member libraries of the consortia. Other significant advantages are:
- Enhanced cooperation, i.e., alliance with institutions that have common interest.
- Augmentation of resource base with less money.
- Adoption of new technology for providing better services.
- Rational use of library budget.
- Sharing of professional expertise among the member libraries.
- Provides a platform for discussing and sharing professional issues.
- Unit cost of information can be reduced drastically.
- As resource base increases user satisfaction becomes much more.
- Small libraries can derive more benefits out of their small budgets.
- Various problems faced by the libraries in providing different services to the users can be eliminated.
- The thirst for information by the vast community of users can be met.
- The newly generated information appeared in different forms such as printed and non-printed documents, digital media on various disciplines etc can be procured.
The consortia initiatives in India are not much popular. However, the trend is slowly catching up among the library professional community. There are a number of factors, which prevent the successful operations of library consortia in the country. The following are important among them:
- Lack of bibliographical tools.
- Unreliable telecommunication services.
- Insufficient funds.
- Insufficient and improper trained manpower.
- Negative attitude to resource sharing.
- Lack of awareness among library professionals.
- Lack of support from higher authorities.
- Lack of coordination among library professionals.
- Absence of strong library associations.
- Lack of a national body to build up and coordinate library consortia.
- Lack of interest on the part of users in using digital resources.
- Lack of indigenous databases.
- Lack of sufficient IT infrastructure in libraries.
- Difficulties in arriving at mutually agreeable collection responsibilities.
- Ever changing user expectations.
- Legal, political, organizational and administrative barriers.
- Issues relating to archival of digital resources.
- Copyright issues and Pricing strategy.
- Lack of fair use of information available through consortia.
With the result of information explosion and limited financial resources, consortia have emerged as an inevitable necessity for libraries. However, the successful operation of library consortia clearly depends upon a number of things, such as good working relationship among members and between members and consortia headquarters, clear policies and priorities, attempts to address the issues and concerns etc. Now, libraries have recognized that they can accomplish more by working together than they can individually. Hence the library consortia will definitely exist for years to come.
- Reference Article: A, A. A. T. (2007). Development of a library consortium for engineering colleges in Kerala.