Cooperation and sharing of resources have always had an important role in libraries, particularly since the development of modern systematized libraries. Many of our basic practices, cataloging, and classification methods were developed to bring a uniform and common order to our collections of information. Cooperation is deeply ingrained in library culture. Libraries and librarians participate in an astonishing array of organizations at all levels of practice. We share resources of many kinds—library materials but also metadata, computer resources, best practices, and expertise—in a rapidly growing variety of alliances and groupings. Our cooperative networks are both formal and informal; local, state, and regional; and increasingly national and international.
Library Trends last considered issues of library cooperation and resource sharing in volume 45, number 3, in the winter of 1997. There have been many important developments related to this far-reaching topic since then. This issue explores the theme that through cooperation, aided by technology, libraries are being bound ever more closely together. They are increasingly becoming nodes in a common information network. The issue takes a broad approach in order to explore many diverse aspects of library sharing and cooperation and the many ways in which libraries are working more closely together.
I have provided a summary of some of the factors drawing libraries together. These include the benefits of sharing new technology, new and increasingly detailed information interchange standards, and informal software and programming standards. New Web-based centralized resources for sharing library holdings and indexing information are rapidly developing. New widely shared services like virtual reference are also emerging. New partnerships—between libraries, between information companies, and [End Page 343] between vendors and libraries and other organizations—are also bringing information services together in a variety of new ways.
David Kohl and Tom Sanville provide a look at the impact of shared e-content licensing and high-speed document delivery in academic libraries. Based on experience in the OhioLINK libraries, they provide an assessment of the major service benefits as well as cost benefits of materials sharing. David Kohl is building on the article that he contributed to the last issue of Library Trends to consider this topic.
Dian Borek, Brian Bell, Gail Richardson, and Walter Lewis discuss the cooperative online service called the Ontario School Curriculum Resource(OSCR). They apply their substantial experience to issues surrounding cooperative efforts between different types of libraries and with other organizations. They use developments in Ontario and Canadian libraries to look at what is possible for digital information partnerships if the organizational, funding, and other challenges can be overcome. John Durno focuses on the EDEN project to develop a new electronic document exchange (EDE) standard. He discusses issues surrounding the standards libraries use for online document sharing, and he describes the need for new and more advanced standards. Mary Anne Epp explores cooperative library efforts in one important specialized area: the provision of services and materials for people with print disabilities. She looks at the existing library networks and services for blind and print disabled users in Canada, the UK, and the United States. But she also looks at the issues that still need to be addressed by libraries working collectively in their own countries and internationally.
Library resource sharing is international and truly global. Our literature often does not provide enough information about the development of library services outside of North America. Therefore, contributions covering library cooperative efforts in Europe and Asia are included. Kristiina Hormia-Poutanen and co-authors Claudine Xenidou-Dervou, Rima Kupryte, Kari Stange, Alexander Kuznetsov, and Hazel Woodward have provided an insightful look at the development of library consortium services at both the national and international levels in Finland, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Greece. The discussion of these four countries provides a valuable look at some of the advances being made and issues being encountered in library collaboration and networking in Europe. N. Laxman Rao provides a similarly far-reaching discussion of the development of cooperative and consortium services for libraries in India. He offers an account of the special problems faced by library services in a developing country and looks at how those problems are being addressed.