Libraries – The Original Shared Service

Libraries – The Original Shared Service

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Libraries – The Original Shared Service

By and large, libraries everywhere have a very similar mission:  to support access to information.  To that end, libraries are often willing to share resources in order to help meet community needs.  One way libraries can maximize access and leverage costs is to participate in a consortium like BCCLS. 

Consortium Libraries share many services and have a single, integrated library system for cataloging and circulation.  A consortium is about as close as you can get to a multi-branch library system, but with each library maintaining local control over its day-to-day affairs, such as personnel, budget management, acquisitions and programs. 

But what about the wider library landscape across the state of New Jersey?  Participating in a consortium is only one way libraries share.  Here is a quick guide to some of the ways libraries might share resources with each other: 

  • Private agreement between individual libraries.  For instance, one community might arrange for privileges with a neighboring community for mutual benefit, or a private library within a community might enter an agreement with its host community for shared local access. 
  • Reciprocal Borrowing Groups.  Reciprocal borrowing groups are made up of independent libraries that do not share a catalog or checkout system, but voluntarily agree to provide privileges to each other’s patrons under agreed-upon terms.  Examples are the Hudson County Reciprocal Borrowing Agreement; ReBL in Essex County; LUCC in Union County; and MURAL, which covers a large territory in central NJ.
  • Consortia.  As stated above, member libraries share services and have a single, integrated library system for cataloging and circulation which allow cardholders and materials to move seamlessly from library to library.  Consortia have membership fees associated with them to cover their operating costs.  Examples in New Jersey are BCCLS, LMxAC, MAIN and PALS Plus. 
  • Open Borrowing.  This is a program that allows participating consortia to share with each other.  The key features of Open Borrowing are that it is consortium-to-consortium and participation is voluntary.  Note that effective 1/1/2015, BCCLS has withdrawn from Open Borrowing. 
  • Inter-Library Loan.  A statewide system (commonly called JerseyCat) that allows users to place requests through their home library for an item owned by another library.  The item is sent from the owning library to the patron’s home library for pickup.  This is a useful service for libraries that are not in a reciprocal group or consortium, or for borrowing specialized materials that might not be widely held, such as an advanced research guide or a specific edition of a book. 

What sets BCCLS apart?

Membership in BCCLS provides libraries with access to an incredible network of products and services, including a wide array of electronic resources (e-books, e-magazines, music and video), a number of research databases, and a supportive central office staff.  With a single catalog, shared resources and the flexibility of multiple service sites, the BCCLS consortium provides patrons with an easy library experience.  At this time, there are 77 member libraries, 600,000 registered cardholders and over 5.8 million catalogued volumes in BCCLS.  In 2015, 54,000 new titles were catalogued and almost 11 million items were circulated.

A word about BCCLS governance.

BCCLS is structured in a way that provides input opportunities to as many stakeholders as possible.  This includes member libraries, the Bergen County Freeholders and library trustees.   Within BCCLS there are more than a dozen committees and task forces, which are divided around specialized tasks.  These range from patron policies to by-laws to library technology.  Committees and task forces meet to review matters germane to their charges and make recommendations to the Executive Board.

The BCCLS Executive Board meets monthly to review recommendations and set the agenda for quarterly System Council meetings, where all member libraries have a vote.  The composition of the Executive Board is one of the areas that distinguishes BCCLS from its peers in that two seats on the EB are reserved for trustees from two member libraries.  The trustee seats are for a one-year term and rotate according to a predetermined chart.* Nine EB members are library directors (which are filled by election), and one seat is for a member of the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders.  There are a total of 12 Executive Board seats. 

* The chart for years 2017 and beyond will be approved at an upcoming EB meeting.