consortium building for effective electronic resource provision

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Libraries are resource centres that contain diverse forms of information materials that
are used in satisfying the various information needs of its users. With the practice of
consortium, libraries can provide access to information resources that are not owned by
the library and in the long run fulfilling the primary objective. University libraries today
are faced with the challenge of low funding especially federal universities as a result,
there is little or nothing they can do in terms of providing quality library services to their
clientele. It is therefore imperative that these libraries practice consortium in order to
provide a suitable platform for the satisfaction of the information needs of their
clienteles. The study examined the role of Consortium in Electronic Resource Provision,
challenges impeding the formation of consortium in Nigerian university libraries and
suggested solutions to the challenges.
Keywords: Library, Consortium, Library Consortia Electronic Resources
The fundamental aim of libraries is to
provide timely, accurate, pertinent, and reliable
information for their users especially in this 21st
century (Adebayo and Isiakpona, 2011); they are
simply resource centres that contain diverse
forms of information materials that are used in
satisfying the various information needs of its
users. This information is usually contained in
print and electronic (non-print) formats. Given
the present economic recession evidently faced
in various sectors of the country, acquiring
electronic resources could be quite expensive
especially putting into consideration the limited
allocations made to university libraries. It is in
this light that university libraries are encouraged
to practice consortium building as this will help
to save and minimize cost.
With the practice of consortium (which is
made possible through the practice of virtual
libraries) among university libraries in Nigeria,
there is less emphasis on ownership and more
emphasis is placed on access. Libraries can
provide access to collections not held by the host
library (Ojha, 2005), thereby giving their variety
of library users wider opportunities to have
access to information resources that are not
owned by the library and in the long run
fulfilling the primary objective of the librarysatisfying users information needs.
Aina (2008) citing Dai (2002) describes a
library consortium as an alliance formed by
member libraries on a voluntary basis to
facilitate resource sharing in pursuit of common
interest. This practice of cooperation between or
among libraries is usually practiced on a
voluntary basis after necessary conditions have
been noted. Some of these important aspects
infrastructure, training, human resources,
usability issues, etc. (Rahman, Nahar and
Akhter, 2006).
This study is therefore aimed at
investigating the present state of consortium in
university libraries in Nigeria in the bid to
effectively provide electronic information
resources to its users.
1. The value or importance of consortium
building in university libraries in Nigeria;
2. The present state of consortium building
in university libraries;
3. The place of consortium building in
effective electronic resource provision in
University libraries;
4. Challenges involved in consortium
building in university libraries;
5. Solutions
Islam and Mezbah-ul-Islam (2008)
opined that library consortium is a term that
refers to “co-operation, co-ordination and
collaboration between and amongst libraries for
the purpose of sharing information resources.” It
is usually not with the sole intention of profit
making as a library is a nonprofit making
organization. They also noted that the
phenomenon of consortium derived much
necessity from the fact that in this 21st century
there is a vast explosion of knowledge and it’s
impossible for a library to single handedly
monitor explosion of knowledge and accumulate
for its various users. Chauchan, Chand and Kaur
(2011) also defined library consortium as “a
formal association or a joint venture of
homogeneous libraries that operates on mutual
approved terms to share the resources among
Folorunsho and Folorunsho (2010)
defined a library consortium as a group of two or
more libraries that have agreed to cooperate with
each other to fulfill certain similar needs, usually
information sharing. They also reiterated that
Consortium is “an association of independent
libraries and/or library systems established by
formal agreement usually for the purpose of
resource sharing. Membership may be restricted
to a specific geographical region, type of library
(academic, public,
school) or subject
Therefore the practice of consortium
among libraries, especially university libraries in
Nigeria should be given priority.
University libraries constitute important
components in the infrastructure of knowledge
in the University research and teaching (Ojo
and Akande, 2004) hence it is usually referred
to as the life-blood and heart of the institution,
meant to serve both its users and users from the
external context. It is in this light that
Mabawonku (2004) maintained that “academic
libraries exist for the benefit of students and
teachers. In order to function and serve the
information needs of users, the library needs to
have both print and electronic materials.”
Wikipedia (2012) defines a University library
as “an academic library generally located on the
campuses of colleges and universities and serve
primarily the students and faculty of that and
other academic institutions.” Freeman (2005)
reiterated that:
the library plays a vital role
in the renewal and advancement of
an institution’s intellectual life
because it is the only centralized
location where new and emerging
information technologies can be
knowledge resources in a userfocused, service-rich environment
that supports today’s social and
educational patterns of learning,
teaching and research.
University libraries in Nigeria today
have for the utilization of their clientele,
resources in both print and non-print
(electronic) format; examples of some of the
electronic resources available include e-books,
e-journals, databases, CD-ROM, etc. Despite
the level of importance of these electronic
resources as information resources, it is obvious
that some libraries may not be able to afford
them as it is usually quite expensive. It is no
news that university libraries today are faced
with the challenge of low funding especially
federal universities as a result there little or
nothing they can do in terms of providing
quality library services to their clientele. Ifijeh
(2012) quoting Punch (2008) reported that out
of the N738 billion the federal government
allocated to the sector between 1999 and 2007,
the federal ministry of education spent about
N473 billion on salaries and wages, leaving a
meager N265 billion for the development of
infrastructure in these universities over a period
of eight years. From this data is evident that as
a result of slim budgetary allocation, the library
cannot single handedly cater for the information
needs of its users, users see the library as a
mere reading room or study room (Ifijeh, 2012).
It is therefore imperative that these libraries
practice consortium in order to provide a
suitable platform for the satisfaction of the
information needs of their clienteles.
Similarly, Kumbar (2008) reiterated that
libraries in developing countries (which
includes Nigeria) are faced with the challenges
of inadequate funds and stringent budget which
in the longrun affects the quality of services
offered and the quality of collections available
for the library clientele. This is because even
though some of the University libraries in
Nigeriaare very much aware of the information
needs of their users and the necessary resources
that can be made available to satisfy these
needs, they still can do little or nothing about
the needs because of lack of available funds
disbursed to them. It therefore becomes a
herculean task for them to satisfy the user’s
needs. It is as a result of this that Rahman,
Nahar and Akhter (2006) asserts that it is
impossible for one library to procure all
information on demand by its clientele; hence
the much accepted system of resource sharing is
put in place to ensure that the information needs
of the clientele are met. They also opined that
consortia approach is one of the many ways of
maintaining cooperation and coordination
among the libraries and in fact it has emerged
as the ‘state of the art’ in library cooperation in
recent times.
Some justifications for the practice of
library consortium as outlined by Chauchan,
Chand and Kaur (2011) include information
explosion, increase in the cost and availability
of scholarly information in electronic mode, etc.
Kumbar (2008) opined that Indian Universities
are facing the challenge of maintaining the
subscription of core journals due to increasing
cost of these journals subscription and shrinking
budget. He also noted that in order to bring the
standard of research in Indian University to a
level of global recognition the inculcation of
consortium is highly essential.
Consortium building, also known as
alliance, association, cooperation, collaboration,
resource sharing, confederation and networking
refers to a formal arrangement by a group of
organizations (in this instance, libraries) with
common interests in order to pool their material
and human resources together to meet the needs
of their users much more than they could have
done were they to depend on individual efforts
(Nwalo, 2008 in Ifijeh, 2012).
Aina (2008) defined consortia as “a
cooperative arrangement of purchasing
electronic resources among a group of
institutions, which will provide collective
purchasing power and enable them to avail best
possible facility to ensure highest discount
price”. It is usually formed with the intent of
enhancing resource sharing among libraries.
Moghaddam (2009) quoting the United States
Federal Communications Commission (FCC
Form 470) opined that:
“library consortium is any
local, statewide, regional or
national cooperative association
of libraries that provides the
coordination of the resources of
schools, public, academic and
special libraries and information
centers, for improving services to
the clientele of such libraries”.
In the view of Rahman, Nahar and
Akhter (2006), a library consortium is an
association of a group of libraries that agree to
share their resources to satisfy the needs of
users. With the rising rate of information
explosion in various knowledge fields, it has
become impossible for a single library to cater
for all the information needs of its clientele,
hence the phenomenon of library consortia has
become very necessary (Islam and Mezbah-ulIslam, 2008). Ifijeh (2012) noted some
important considerations that should be noted in
order to ensure smooth consortium building
among university libraries. Some of these
considerations are explained thus:
Firstly, the goals and objectives of the
consortium must be properly understood by
members of the consortium. It is expedient that
all the participating members in the consortium
have a clear and vivid grasp of the objective of
forming the consortium. They should be aware
that it is not necessarily for profit making as the
library is not a profit making organization; but
it is to foster and promote information sharing
in order to satisfy the varying information needs
of their clientele; having it clearly at the back of
their minds that it is much easier the
participating libraries to satisfy the information
needs of their clientele when involved in a
consortium with similar libraries in this era of
economic recession.
Ifijeh (2012) also noted that it is of great
essence that there should be clearly outlined
decision making processes for the members
involved in the consortium. This will help serve
as a guide when important decisions are to be
taken on various issues among the participating
libraries. It should also reflect the proper
allocation of duties and responsibilities assigned
to the various libraries involved.
Planning and formalized agreements on
consortium arrangements are also important
considerations that must be noted. Before the
formal take-off of consortium among
participating university libraries, it is mandatory
that there should clearly laid down agreement
and terms of operations.
These terms of
operations or formal agreements must be duly
signed and adhered to by the members involved
in the consortium to avoid friction or
misunderstanding during the process. The
proprietor/parent institution of their intention to
be involved in resource sharing, as such vital
agreements cannot be made solely by the library
management team; the parent institution must be
fully aware and in support of the consortium. It
is also necessary that the libraries involved have
similar goals and clientele as this will help in the
process of consortium.
The place of communication in
consortium cannot be overemphasized. It is
therefore important that there should be a well
defines process of communication among
members in the consortium. These means of
communication could be through regularly
scheduled meeting where vital issues can be
discussed, likely challenges could also be
outlined and the means of salvaging these
challenges noted. The capabilities of the
participating libraries should also be put into
consideration; this will help to ensure that no
library involved is stretched beyond his ability.
Some other important considerations to
look into for consortium building include the
technology infrastructure needed to run a smooth
consortium, manpower capacity of participating
libraries, training of professionals, subscription
payment issues, copyright issues and fair use,
identification of resource, coordination among
consortium partners, usages and usability issues
and sustainability issues. (Rahman, Nahar and
Akhter, 2006)
Consortium among libraries helps to
enhance mostly the process of sharing
electronic resources. Library consortium also
helps to minimize or reduce the cost acquired
by libraries during acquisition and through
resource sharing.
There are quite a number of benefits that
are achieved as a result of library consortium,
someof the benefits as noted byRahman, Nahar
and Akhter (2006) include:
 Building
 Easy access to resource sharing on
Internet by developing common resources
 Reduce cost of information
 Time saving
 Improve resource sharing
 More professional services to users
 Help
Information science professionals.
Adediji (2009) also noted that some
advantages of consortium include negotiating
power, networking relative lower price per
institution (compared to purchasing as standalone), technical support, and large user group
base. Kumbar (2008) noted that consortiums are
commonly formed to increase and heighten the
purchasing power of the collaborating
institutions to expand the resource availability
and to offer automated services.
Zorzi (2004) citing Sanville (1999)
noted that “the role of consortia is to increase
and expand information use and creating and
making available systems of information access
and retrieval friendly.
It is important to note that library
consortia is at the infant stage in a lot of
countries of the world today, though in some
other countries of the world like India and
Bangladesh, it has taken root. (Rahman, Nahar
and Akter, 2006; Bajpai, Bidyut, & Bajpai,
2009; Pal and Das).It is imperative that
university libraries in Nigeria begin to look
towards the inculcation of consortia into their
Ifijeh (2012) noted that in 1980, the
Committee of University Librarians of Nigerian
Universities (CULNU) initiated a cooperative
scheme on inter-library lending and cooperative
acquisition. He also noted that six Nigerian
University, Zaria, Bayero University, Kano,
University of Ibadan, University of Jos,
ObafemiAwolowo University, Ile-ife and
University of Port-Harcourt are in the process
of forming a consortium. The six universities
are supported by the MacArthur Foundation and
have adopted a common library software
product called Virtua.
According to Folorunso and Folorunso
(2010), the challenges hindering consortium
practice in university libraries in Nigeria include
lack of awareness and understanding on the part
of most heads of libraries and policy makers,
slim budget and poor funding of libraries,
technical compatibility and security, egos and
inadequate resources, unavailability of web
environment and lack of the required drive and
The following are other challenges
militating against consortium formation in
addition to those identified by Asamoah-Hassan
(2008), Asamoah-Hassan and Frempong (2008).
1. Lack of software uniformity: Libraries
make use of different types of software. For
effective consortium formation, it is
important for the partnering libraries to be
on the same software platform.
2. Membership Subscription and
commitment: Commitment of the members
to the consortium has always been a
challenge, coupled with the slow rate at
which some members pay their membership
fees and share of subscription cost to eresources.
3. Institutional Sponsorship: Getting the
management of institutions to agree to
commit huge amount of funds for the
subscription of e-resources could be an
odious task.
4. Membership: The slow pace of uptake
of membership is affecting the rapid growth
of the consortium.
5. Funding: Lack of enough funds to allow
for the subscription of several databases.
Since there is a library consortium in place,
this meant that some databases very specific
to an institution could not be subscribed and
the institution that wished to subscribe to
that, had to go it alone, which was often very
expensive. Academic libraries should
explore more alternative sources of funding
as over reliance on the government on
monies that are not forthcoming may not
provide the desired solutions.
6. Poor electricity supply: The electronic
platform is a critical requirement for the
building of consortium. The university
libraries should provide backup power
solutions such as inverters and generators in
the eventuality of power surge.
7. Slow bandwidths and network
security: The Internet is a vital necessity for
consortium formation. Resources would be
shared virtually therefore the required
bandwidths and network security should be
put in place in order to ensure the smooth
running of the consortium.
8. Archival copies: The problem of
keeping archival copies of e-journals and
adding them to the catalogues and holdings
of the libraries is of great concern. For
example, as the situation is now, if a user
were to request a copy of an earlier published
article at a later date it may not be possible
for the library to get it.
9. Technical Support: Consortium
formation requires experts for the
maintenance of the hardware and software
such as professional librarians and ICT
engineers. The technical support team would
have to skilled in the use of computer,
Internet, electronic transaction processing
systems, database management, to mention a
10. Indigenous collection: Coverage of
indigenous collections in the databases could
be a challenge. There is no single database
that collates these collections. Some
university libraries are archiving their
publications in their Institutional Repository.
11. The inability to subscribe to a good
number of databases hampers the ability of
the consortium to offer a wide array of
available sources. This is because
compromises had to be reached on the types
of databases to subscribe to as a group.
12. User Training and Re-Training: there
must be training and re-training of library
patrons in order for them to fully maximize
the e-resources. Without adequate training
the resources that could have cost the
institution huge amount of funds would not
be maximized.
For any library or group of libraries to
successfully practice consortium or effective
satisfaction of the information needs of its
clientele there should be necessary facilities and
infrastructure put in place to ensure that these
resources are put to maximum use. When these
infrastructure or facilities are not made readily
available, the whole essence of providing
electronic resources may be made futile.
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