Since 1988, Vermont libraries have been cooperating in VALS, the Vermont Automated Library System. A simple governance agreement commits network sites to cooperative development and some cost sharing, but there is no separate network administrative structure, staff, or operating budget. Rather, a common vision of providing information access at minimal cost to state residents and students guides the cooperative efforts of its participants.
Data Research Associates (DRA) systems at the state Department of Libraries, State Colleges, Middlebury College and Norwich University are linked via Decnet running over leased phone lines. DRA software permits remote DRA catalogs to be searched from the local site's catalog via a simple menu choice, using commands as if the user were searching the local system. The University of Vermont (UVM) Notis system is available via menu selection from any of the DRA sites; at UVM, users can access the other VALS sites from a dedicated terminal in the library or from the campus data switch. In addition, 115 public, school, special, and small college libraries have dial-in access to the network; 80 percent of these are toll-free calls to nearby VALS nodes or to an 800 number.
The network is principally used to support online catalog searching in anticipation of interlibrary loan (ILL). However, analysis of network usage based on accounting logs reveals that each site's use of the network is unique. There is minimal use of the network from the University; rather, the UVM catalog is a major resource for users at Middlebury, Norwich and the State Coleges. Users at Norwich and the State Colleges also turn to a surprising extent to the Department of Libraries catalog--sometimes with the expectaion of finding materials specific to Vermont history or education/children's literature, but perhaps more often simply because this catalog appears first on the list of networked databases. …