The Downside of Collaboration

Sometimes I hate being part of a consortia.  Nearly all the public libraries (and a few of the academic ones) in central and western mass are part of one organization.  Overall this is a great arrangement, allowing for some great deals from vendors that come out of our collective bargaining tactics and a truly phenomenal interlibrary loan system.

However, there are some huge downsides to membership in such an organization that are not often discussed.  Our autonomy is lost for the greater good, and usually I don’t have a problem with that.  But things become very difficult when you take into account the scope of the consortia.  Members include academic, school, special, and public libraries of all sizes and resource levels.  Policies that work for everyone usually hinder the outlying libraries (including mine as it’s one of the larger ones in the network).

The other huge critical issue is the responsiveness of the organization to the needs of its members.  Let me be clear on this, I am not blaming anyone for this problem, we are fortunate to have some of the hardest working people I know employed by the consortia, there simply aren’t enough people there to meet with the demands of the hundreds of member libraries.  The budget could probably be trippled and it still wouldn’t be enough for our needs.  Which, leaves the members in the often awkward position of wanting to move forward on various projects but not being able to because of the queue.

Sometimes these problems just drive me up a wall, and this is definitely shaping up to be one of those weeks.

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