My consulting practice seems to go in phases and lately I’ve been in the consortia phase. It’s a gratifying place to be. In each case, I see the power that comes from libraries coming together to do something better than any one library could do on its own. In some cases, it creates opportunities that would be completely beyond a library’s capability due to lack of resources (be they human or financial or both).
Initiatives that require costly technology or costly technology experts are particularly good projects to handle at the consortial level. The integrated library system (ILS) is one of those big, complicated, costly technologies that can be leveraged in many ways. There’s the underlying platform (server and operating system), the application (the ILS itself), and there are the people involved in managing the system (ILS Administrator) plus the staff using the system. Some, or all, of these components can be shared across libraries.
For example, a group of libraries can use the same server and application yet operate as independent libraries. That’s what a group of libraries in Northern California is doing. They are each part of a shared Koha system hosted by a service provider. Each library administers its own system and has its own patron records and collection. But they save a lot of money by sharing that platform and that vendor contract, and by not having to manage the operating system and deal with backups and software updates.