Local library co-operation in the service of higher education
T. D. Wilson
Lecturer in Information Studies
|Institute of |
|City College |
|Totley College |
|* n = responses to total census; º n = responses to sample survey; § Institute of Education staff were included in the University figures.|
These differences in information need are reflected in the stocks of the libraries. For example, while the largest single category of material in the University and City libraries is in the humanities (39% and 33% respectively), in the Polytechnic there are three categories of approximately the same size: physical science (19%), social science (20%) and applied social science (21%). Generally, also, the libraries subscribe to different journals, although the University Library with 5176 titles in mid-1972 has a large proportion of the holdings of the other five libraries (average, 51%). However, only eleven titles were taken in common by all six libraries. Some idea of the differences in stock can also be gained from the study of catalogue overlap, the results of which are shown in Table 2.
|Proportion of titles|
|Institute of Education|
|City Libraries||47 ± 9||28 ± 5||31 ± 9||46 ± 7||43 ± 7|
|Polytechnic||10 ± 3||11 ± 4||8 ± 5||27 ± 6||21 ± 6|
|University||33 ± 5||52 ± 9||36 ± 9||47 ± 7||35 ± 7|
|Institute of Education||—||—||—||14 ± 5||15 ± 5|
|City College||—||—||—||19 ± 7||29 ± 7|
|Totley College||—||—||—||12 ± 6||23 ± 6|
The libraries have different service emphases. The academic libraries are principally lending libraries with relatively small reference and/or short loan collections; the public library has large reference collections, with some degree of specialization in, for example, the fields of local history and local industrial interests. These differences are reflected in the way in which staff are distributed over library functions as shown in Table 3.
|City Libraries||Polytechnic||University||City College|
|Reader services I:|
circulation, ILL, etc.
|Reader services II:|
reference and info. work
|Technical services I:|
acquisition, cat., class.
|Technical services II:|
binding, periodicals, etc.
These organizational differences result in particular characteristics of information-seeking behaviour on the part of users, a significant proportion of whom, in most institutions, seek out appropriate sources of information when their 'primary' library fails to satisfy their needs. For example, of 329 members of the Polytechnic staff responding to a mail questionnaire, 24.7% used the University Library, 59.0% the City Library, 1.2% the Institution of Education Library, and 34.4% libraries outside Sheffield. In the case of one of the Colleges of Education 53.1% used the City Library, 35.7% the University Library, 27.6% the Institute of Education Library, and 12.3 % libraries outside Sheffield.
This user behaviour is supported by informal co-operation between the libraries in the referral of users and in requests for assistance with information enquiries. The three libraries to which most referral and most requests for assistance are directed are the City Library, the University Library, and the Institute of Education library.
Formal co-operation consists almost entirely of participation in interlending (except for participation in some SINTO activities, such as the union list of periodicals) and the extent of local interlending is small, as shown in Table 4.
|Inst. Ed. |
|Inst. of Ed.||0.0||0.0||0.0||—||0.0|
|Other academic ex-Sheffield||1.0||0.5||4.0||44.8||5.3|
|* Central Lending Library and Commerce, Science & Technology Libraries combined.|
§ Main Library and Applied Science Library combined
The whole of this, then, constitutes a 'system' of unplanned (or 'ecological') co-ordination of library services and an emphasis on this may be a useful corrective to the idea, prevalent in some quarters, that there is wasteful duplication of resources in urban areas such as Sheffield, with three or more medium to large library systems.
The chief conclusion of the Project, then, is that, although there is some degree of duplication of resources, this duplication supports a system of unplanned co-ordination of library systems and should be regarded as an advantage, rather than as 'waste'. Indeed, in the present economic climate it is quite likely that many academic and public libraries may have to make decisions on the allocation of scarce resources which will weaken the possibilities for effective co-ordination and co-operation.
Following from this first conclusion, it is felt that any formal method of co-operation should build upon the unplanned, informal system and that, in this respect, particular attention should be given to improving communication between members of staff of the different libraries at all levels of the organization. Further, since libraries are not autonomous bodies, the parent institutions of the libraries should be brought into the picture, as in the case of co-operation in Newcastle upon Tyne (4). For those forms of co-operation which involve spending more money, it is almost inevitable that the parent institution must be involved, and it seems reasonable to involve this "institutional level" throughout the decision-making process rather than to have to begin to make a case from a 'cold' start. The particular organizational form suggested for improving co-operative relations is the "co-ordinating council", and it is recommended that such a council be established in Sheffield. In order to be fully effective such a council would need a permanent Secretariat and Research Office, particularly if the necessary work is to be undertaken to investigate the feasibility of certain forms of co-operation such as co-operative computerized cataloguing. The final report to the DBS recommended that funds should be made available to set up two or three co-ordinating councils as "demonstration projects", but it is recognized that funds are unlikely to be forthcoming for this purpose in the near future, and that it may be necessary to settle for some less formal organization. It is likely, however, that even informal organizations will tend to move in the direction of the co-ordinating council if they are to operate effectively.
Two further recommendations involving funding are made in the report: they are that the City Library should be supported in part by central government funds because of its valuable supportive role in relation to the academic libraries, and that the University Library should receive similar treatment because of its services to the research community at large. Given the current economic climate, it is unlikely that these recommendations will have much effect. Perhaps, however, they will not be forgotten when things improve and the full effect of the recession on libraries is seen.
The initial outcome of the Project in Sheffield has been the establishment of an informal committee of the chief librarians of the Project libraries under the chairmanship of the Vice-Chancellor of the University. This group, at its first meeting, asked Prof. Saunders and this writer to organize two seminar sessions for members of staff of the Project libraries to make the results of the research known to them and to stimulate discussion of the issues. The seminars were well attended and successful in both respects and at the second meeting of the chief librarians' committee it was decided to establish three working groups of members of staff to consider: (a) the creation of a complete union list of periodicals for the Sheffield area, possibly by expansion of the present SINTO list; (b) the production of a "user's guide to library resources in Sheffield"; and (c) improving communications among reference librarians and information officers. Other areas of activity may be considered at future meetings and one important area is clearly that of identifying areas of expertise in reference work and associated resources of materials. Throughout these discussions it is intended to co-operate fully with existing co-operative organizations such as SINTO and SHEMROC (Sheffield Media Resources Organizing Committee).
Although only one name appears at the head of this article, it will be clear that much is owed to the Project Director, Prof. W. L. Saunders; to my co-workers on the Project, William Marsterson, Cynthia Corkill, and Margaret Mann; to the chief librarians of the Project libraries and the many members of staff who co-operated; and finally, the Department of Education and Science and its Library Advisers who provided funds, information and encouragement.
Wilson, T.D. Local library co-operation in the service of higher education. Journal of Librarianship, 7(3), 1975. 143-152 [Available at http://informationr.net/tdw/publ/papers/1975Coop.html]