Ask a Librarian: How do smaller libraries work together to get economies of scale?

GMLC logo with the group's name and an poen book

Someone I work with at Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab asked me for examples of smaller rural libraries working together to “combine forces” to get more done. I realized that for someone outside the library world, the breakdown of state libraries, state library associations and regional consortia may be really confusing since every state does it differently. In Vermont we have the State Library doing some consortia-like things, the Green Mountain Library Consortium doing some other things and the Vermont Library Association doing still other things.

I split out some examples.

Hey there — you asked about libraries that band together and provide programming. One of the things I do a lot of public speaking (talking to libraries about tech, the digital divide, what life is like in VT) and one of the people who hire me a lot are consortiums for staff development types of things. So I have a higher-than-usual level of interaction with a lot of different states’ consortia.

Here are some links to give you an idea of what some of them do. Smaller states like CT and MA have statewide consortiums. Bigger states like KS, NY and FL have many consortiums.

Massachusetts – I grew up in MA so am fairly familiar but things keep changing. MA has

Mass Library System – the consortium – http://www.masslibsystem.org/
Mass State Library – run by the state –
http://www.mass.gov/anf/research-and-tech/oversight-agencies/lib/
Mass State Library Association – a professional association for
individual librarians – http://www.masslib.org/

Connecticut has a lot more money and you can see it in some of their projects

Connecticut Library Consortium – http://www.ctlibrarians.org/
Connecticut – state library – https://ctstatelibrary.org/
Connecticut Library Association – http://www.ctlibraryassociation.org/

Some other example consortiums so you can see what other people are doing and what sophistication level they are at. These all encompass small/rural library systems. Often large city libraries are not part of consortiums because they’re so big they don’t need to be, if that makes sense.

NEKLS – Northeast Kansas Library System – http://nekls.org/
STLS – Southern Tier Library System – 48 small libraries in central NY – http://www.stls.org/
PLAN – Panhandle Library Access Network – tiny libraries in Florida’s panhandle – http://plan.lib.fl.us/

ARSL is also worth knowing about, they are the Association for Rural and Small Libraries – http://arsl.info/about/ and they do a conference every year (info online usually) and a lot of it has to do with the general question you have about smaller libraries combining resources etc.

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