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New Tools Explain What Library Consortia Do

One page explainer called "The Library Consortium"
January 7, 2022

Tell people you work for a library consortium and you often get a polite nod and after a couple beats - “what… is that exactly?”

Admittedly, the word “consortium” doesn’t necessarily conjure up a clear image. It has a dusty, academic sound to it, as most Latin words do...

But dig in to the meaning of consortium (“fellowship, partnership, society”), the history of many library consortia (grassroots movements to get more done with less, fueled by cooperative principles), and the deep and wide impact library consortia have (millions of dollars saved, vast infrastructures that underpin information delivery), and things get a lot more interesting.

In an effort to build awareness of these fascinating, yet sometimes hidden-in-the-background organizations, the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) formed a Consortial Awareness Group in the summer of 2021, of which BC ELN is a participating member. The group has multiple goals:

  • Build awareness of library consortia and the value we deliver;
  • Educate students in information studies programs on what library consortia are, and the potential for employment in these organizations; and
  • Prepare library professionals to be engaged in library consortia (e.g. to serve on consortial committees).

As a first step to communicating in clear, simple terms the myriad structures of library consortia and the important work they do, the committee created new communications tools, including a slide deck for presentations about library consortia, a one-page explainer, and a refreshed wikipedia page.

With acknowledgement that these are written from a North American perspective, the materials are open and adaptable. The committee welcomes additions to the wikipedia page, and the slides and one-pager are available under a Creative Commons license so anyone can transform and build on them (ICOLC members can log into the ICOLC website to download design files).

The Consortial Awareness Group has plans to develop further communications tools and to discuss ways library consortia can educate and engage students through co-ops and/or internship programs. Stay tuned for more to come in the next year!