Library Consortium: TexShare

TexShare is a library consortium administered by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Member libraries share print and online resources, the purchasing of print and online resources, and staff expertise. TexShare and member libraries can provide services to any member library’s patrons. Their goal is to provide to the “intellectual productivity of Texans . . . emphasizing access to rather than ownership of documents and other information sources” (Mission Statement, para 3).

Originally, TexShare was made up of a core group of public university libraries. They now have 694 public and academic libraries that come from public and private sectors. Membership is open to any public library that is a member of the state library system. In addition most college libraries can become a member. College libraries consist of technical institutes, junior colleges, senior colleges or universities as well as medical and dental units.

Affiliate membership is also possible. A group of libraries not covered in the membership guidelines, such as law, hospital or museum libraries, may form a collective and petition for affiliate status. The libraries must belong to institutions that have accreditation and the collective must state not only how they will pay their share of the fee, but how their participation will enhance TexShare. Individual libraries in a collective may apply for individual affiliate membership if the collective is granted affiliate membership. After two years, the affiliate members may apply for full membership.

Participating libraries pay fees to access the 50 databases containing over 40,000 journals and ebooks. Seventy-five percent of the fees come from college libraries and 25 percent come from public libraries. This division of fees was first determined based on usage of the databases. Subsequent distribution of fees is based on the usage (or size) of participating institutions. If a library exhausts all means of funding and cannot pay their portion of the database fee, an appeals process has been established so that the library may not loose database access. TexShare estimates that if individual libraries paid for their own databases, the total charges would be $101,262,524, but the collective total paid by TexShare is $7,159,907. That is a savings of approximate $94,000,000.

K-12 institutions are not eligible for membership in TexShare, however, Texas passed legislation allowing K-12 units to ask TexShare to negotiate or renegotiate purchases. As part of this law, TexShare and the Texas Education Agency worked together to get better pricing on databases to offer to K-12 schools. To be eligible to access the approximately 40 databases in this package, a school must be accredited by the state, have a library and have a certified librarian.

Since TexShare is such a large organization with many attributes, they offer educational services. These are offered as face-to-face workshops, webinars and online courses for continuing education credit. The same face-to-face courses are offered around the state. A wide variety of professional development is offered through all the methods.  Podcasts are available to anyone in any state as are the webinars. Online guides and tutorials are provided on an ongoing basis for using the databases.

TexShare has its own borrowing card. Any patron of any of the member libraries can get a TexShare card from his home library, but they must be members in good standing or their TexShare cards will not be honored. In addition, each individual library can set specific regulations to get the card. These regulations might include a waiting period between getting a regular library card and the TexShare card or denial of the TexShare card due to unpaid fines. The home library is also the entity that takes actions in the event that a patron abuses their status at another library.

An interlibrary loan (ILL) program is available and protocols have been established. They have sought to make the process as equitable as possible so that certain libraries do not bear the brunt of loaning. Monthly reports are sent to member librarians so that it is clear which libraries are the biggest lenders. Some of the protocol suggestions are that big libraries should not be approached first as they are frequently the big lenders, that the same library is not approached for back-to-back books and that multiple books, if possible, be included in a single request for shipping savings. Libraries also have the choice of using a contracted courier service for reduced rates.

In the area of shared staff expertise, TexShare set up several Working Groups that help make TexShare an efficient and effective organization. These groups include the TexShare Card Program, Education Services, ILL/Courier, Communication, Databases and more. These working groups take surveys, make recommendations and write policy.

TexShare seems to be a remarkable opportunity for Texas libraries. They share in the cost of print and online resources. They share the print resources on their shelves. The experience of the librarians is shared to better the entire system. They seem to have thought of every conceivable sharing opportunity from databases to ILL to program cards. The Working Groups provide opportunities to examine what works, what does not work and to make changes. The greater beneficiaries are the smaller libraries with fewer resources. The larger libraries pay more in time and resources. The entire system is made stronger by utilizing the resources and expertise available throughout its entirety.  

References:

TexShare. (2010) Austin, TX: Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved on June 11, 2010 from http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/texshare/index.html

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