Washington and Oregon’s Academic Libraries Are Defining the Future of American Libraries

37 academic libraries in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are embarking on an ambitious project to share technical services resources, collection development efforts, and staffing. This is the Orbis Cascade Alliance, one of the leading library consortia in the United States. More than 250,000 full-time students in the region are experiencing the benefits of the cooperative purchasing of electronic resources and the delivery of materials to and from almost 300 libraries in the Pacific Northwest. These institutions – almost all the major colleges in the area – use cooperative collection development and daily delivery of physical materials (to 80+ drop sites). Effectively, there is now one huge collection, instead of many smaller collections. The libraries have joined forces for cataloging, e-resource management, collaborative collection development, and digital preservation.

All of the 37 libraries will be using the same staff- and public-facing software by 2015, making it very possible to streamline workflows for technical services. All libraries are migrating to new software, which is an enormous undertaking. People accessing the library inventory will have the same user experience at a major research university as those at a community college. Among others, the academic libraries include:

  • University of Washington
  • University of Oregon
  • Oregon State University
  • University of Idaho
  • Portland State University
  • Portland Community College
  • Western Washington University

Going forward, the alliance of these academic libraries will make the Pacific Northwest even more of a major hub for national library conferences. In the coming years, consortia around the country will look to what the Orbis Cascade Alliance did, and how they managed to do it. The benefits of the collaboration will include:

  • Ability to invest in emerging technologies
  • Ability to invest in under-supported services and initiatives
  • Cost-saving through shared services
  • Elimination of redundant, inefficient processes
  • Increased access to important library collections
  • Laying a permanent alliance for an expansive geographical area

For students at these institutions, more resources will be available than ever before, and in greater variety. For libraries outside the Pacific Northwest, it will be worth following the process, since libraries across the United States will be tempted to emulate the collaboration with neighboring institutions. Will this consortium lay the groundwork for all large consortial arrangements going forward?

2 Responses to Washington and Oregon’s Academic Libraries Are Defining the Future of American Libraries

  1. I would love to re post this entry on my own website will that be okay

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