Working Together, Learning Together: The Consortium of Academic Libraries of Catalonia

Article excerpt

Cooperation between libraries is a universal language spoken in different dialects. In 1996 the libraries of the state-funded universities and the State Library of Catalonia (Spain) formed a consortium to act as a channel for cooperation. The organization, operation, and funding of the Consortium of Academic Libraries of Catalonia (CBUC) are an example of how this universal language has been adapted to the specific characteristics of the library and university system in Catalonia. The CBUC has a union catalogue, an interlibrary lending program, and other cooperation programs. In 1999 it set up the Digital Library of Catalonia, a series of electronic resources shared by all the libraries of the consortium. From their experience in the CBUC, the member libraries have found cooperation to be hard work but also a means of introducing changes and grasping the future.

* Introduction

The Registrum Librorum Angliae, a collective catalogue of the books of 186 monasteries in England, was drawn up in the late fourteenth century. This was a cooperative effort aimed at facilitating the location of documents and shows us that cooperation between libraries is a universal language spoken in different dialects.

Spanish universities were organized centrally until the early 1980s. In 1984 the University Reform Law gave universities an autonomy that allowed them to renew their system of organization and to start a process of renewal of their libraries that has shown significant results in the last fifteen years.(1) This renewal involved an increase in the budgets devoted to purchasing collections, building new buildings, and automating the libraries, which marked the beginning of association and cooperation between libraries.

Coinciding with the process or reorganization of the state, the Spanish administration became decentralized, and the powers delegated to the regions include responsibility for certain aspects of higher education. Catalonia is an autonomous region of Spain with 6 million inhabitants and a university system of eight public universities and three private ones, forming a university community of 189,118 students, 13,358 lecturers, and 6,240 administrative staff. Catalonia has its own language--Catalan--and a national library, the Library of Catalonia, which pays special attention to regional culture.

In the 1980s the Catalan libraries began to cooperate through associations of specialized libraries and the first union list of journals of university libraries, which was, however, discontinued. The decentralization of the administration and of university funding played an important role in finally converting these early attempts at cooperation into the Consortium of Academic Libraries of Catalonia in the '90s.

* What is the CBUC?

Background

The Consortium of Academic Libraries of Catalonia (CBUC) is formed by eight public universities of Catalonia and the Library of Catalonia (figure 1), whose mission is to improve library services through cooperation.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The origin of this consortium is found in the changes that took place in the university world and in their libraries in the early '90s. In 1990 there were three universities in Catalonia that were automated with in-house systems. In the following five years the number of universities increased considerably, and it became clear that the development of automated systems by the individual universities was not a feasible option for the future. Although each university completed an independent assessment of automated systems, the process was informally conditioned by the idea that it would be better to choose the same vendor in order to facilitate support and installation.(2)

This informal collaboration strengthened relationships between the libraries and made their directors and the university managers see that working together could give results that the libraries alone could not achieve. …