Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

New Strategies in Library Services Organization: Consortia University Libraries in Spain

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

New Strategies in Library Services Organization: Consortia University Libraries in Spain

Article excerpt

New political, economic, and technological developments, as well as the growth of information markets, in Spain have created a foundation for the creation of library consortia. The author describes the process by which different regions in Spain have organized university library consortia.

Spanish libraries are public entities that depend either on central or local governments and are funded through either the national general budget or the regional government (Comunidades Autonomas) budget. On one hand, the player at the national level is the Education and Culture Ministry, which contributes to the fifty-two state public libraries and shares jurisdiction with the regional government. On the other hand, universities are self-governed institutions of a public nature regulated by the Ley de Reforma Universitaria, or University Reform Law, which was approved by the Spanish parliament in 1983 to promote scientific study and greater self-government of Spanish universities. Universities have their own budget, and they are mainly funded by the regional government. The university library system is currently made of about fifty public libraries and twelve private libraries.

Since the second half of the 1980s, a new philosophy concerning public services has spread in Spain, as in other European countries: a philosophy calling for higher quality and more efficiency in the management and administration of the public capital. There has also arisen a claim to the government's satisfactory use of public funds as a social right, as well as a claim to a return on that capital in social terms. This is where libraries' public services come into play.

There is a clear interest in all the aspects related to the introduction of new techniques in management. Quality management, effectiveness and efficiency measuring, costs control, services assessment, and users content or analysis from the stakeholders' point of view are concepts that emerge in university libraries. In order to adjust to the circumstances, universities are changing their management procedures, and university libraries have been forced into managing their "business" according to managerial criteria.

The commonality of their activities, and the relaxation of geographical boundaries fostered by information technologies, have encouraged libraries to join consortia in order to remain relevant in the current library services context. Such concepts as the "electronic," "digital," and "virtual" libraries lead, from my point of view, to a different configuration in the library services context; they have pushed the library managers to consider strategically where they are and what is their most adequate position within this new configuration. Departments dealing with information are to be wider, more heterogeneous, and multidisciplinary. New organization strategies need to be defined in order to offer services in a different way

When library managers are forced to obtain the best results out of their limited resources, the organization of consortia represents a qualitative leap forward in cooperation, efficiency, and cost-savings. Library consortia aim to share resources and to promote participation on the basis of the mutual benefit of the libraries involved and, although the concepts of cooperation, coordination, and sharing resources are not new in the library world, the organization of library consortia introduces a major level of commitment and involvement among the participants.

New Settings, New Facts

Libraries are going through a crisis. A library is still an institution with a strong traditional character, but its traditional duties as depository of knowledge no longer justify its costs, and the crisis is exacerbated by an accelerated technological and informative revolution.[1]

Within the changing atmosphere of the Spanish university in the last few years, goals and objectives are affected by a number of socioeconomic, institutional, and technological factors, as well as others with an internal character that push these institutions to move toward change as an opportunity to maintain continuous improvement. …

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