This post is to bring you up to date on the work of the RAILS Consortia Committee
This committee is looking at ways that existing consortia in RAILS can work together more closely and share resources more effectively and more richly. The first project this group undertook was to look at the possibility of a discovery overlay that would create a “seamless” search and retrieval process for library users. We took the route of an overlay because the potential of existing Local Library System Automation Programs (LLSAPs) [4 in RAILS – Multitype Automation Group in Cooperation (MAGIC), PrairieCat, Resource Sharing Alliance (RSA) and System Wide Automation Network (SWAN)] and independent consortia [Cooperative Computer Services (CCS), Library Integrated Network Consortium (LINC), Northern Illinois Cooperative (NIC), Pinnacle Library Cooperative (PLC), RiverShare and Rock River Library Consortium (RRLC)] being willing and able to merge into one large consortium a la SHARE in Illinois Heartland Library System seems unlikely. Also, the number of large and small standalone libraries in RAILS adds even greater complexity to the creation of one LLSAP.
Nine standalone public libraries in RAILS already participate in LINKIn, which uses INN-Reach software to connect their separate Millennium systems. However, the complexity of such a project increases as the number of participants and platforms increase. We hired a consultant to do an environmental scan, looking for evidence of the successful implementation of a discovery overlay in a similarly complicated environment to Illinois. (The final report is available at https://www.railslibraries.info/catalogs/overlay.) We found two products, and maybe another will be available in the near future; not a great outcome to be sure. Why? Because vendors would rather libraries switch to their platform rather than collaborate with a competitor to make products work together.
The group has continued to discuss other ways of collaborating. Most recently they agreed to form a Consortia Futures Subcommittee to discuss possible strategic planning and goal setting for all consortia in RAILS. We have representatives of all consortia in RAILS for this committee, which will be chaired by Kate Hall, a RAILS board member and Director of the New Lenox Library.
Since the Consortia Committee started meeting, there have been significant changes in the ILS landscape. Innovative Interfaces, Inc. (III) purchased Polaris and VTLS. SWAN is migrating from Millennium to the SirsiDynix Symphony platform next year. These changes mean that 3 of our 4 LLSAPs will be on the Symphony platform, as are two independent consortia, CCS and LINC. Pinnacle and RiverShare use Polaris as does SHARE in IHLS, NIC is on Millennium, looking to migrate, and RRLC is on TLC. PrairieCat uses Sierra and CARLI members in I-Share use Voyage, but are beginning a search for their next platform.
The bottom line is that the differences among vendors and consortia are lessening. This is an opportunity for RAILS and the right time to look at the future in a collaborative, strategic way.
It is not unlikely that libraries will take advantage of this fluidity to change membership; we are already seeing this as Franklin Park plans to leave LINC to join SWAN in 2016 and Lansing, currently a standalone library, plans to join SWAN.
It is critical that we look at any changes to come through the prism of what is best for the end user. We cannot afford to be territorial or afraid of closer collaboration or even mergers if these decisions are better for the end users - library customers and taxpayers who bear the financial load and deserve to be the focus of our decisions at all times.