By Rebecca A. Doyle
Avoiding cost increases and improving the quality of service were the goals of the Michigan Research Libraries Triangle (MRLT) when it began a collaborative effort last year to share the journal resources of libraries at Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the U-M.
“No library can stand alone any more,” says Donald E. Riggs, dean of University Libraries. A communication addressed to academic libraries from a supplier of journals this fall projects overall price increases of 17 percent to 20 percent, he notes, assuming that a library spends one-half its appropriation on U.S.-published journals and one-half on non-U.S.-published journals.
“We have to manage libraries more efficiently and engage in more cooperation. We can’t buy everything. We just don’t have that choice any more, with the proliferation of information and the increase in journal costs,” Riggs says.
MRLT grew from that conviction, resulting in a joint effort to provide students, faculty and researchers more access to resources for their education and information needs. The three universities have begun to identify low-use journals that more than one member of the triangle receives. One of the universities will renew the subscription; the others will not.
“This year,” Riggs says, “we should be able to cancel $150,000 worth of journal subscriptions.” The allocation for journals (including the Taubman Medical Library but not law, business, Clements or Bentley libraries) is $4,273,103.
Riggs proposed the idea in May 1991, when it became obvious that journal rates were increasing faster than appropriations. Under the agreement, each school will give the other two priority status for requests for articles from the journals they have agreed to share. Interlibrary loans, which used to take two to three weeks, will soon be processed in two or three days, Riggs says. The libraries have agreed to send facsimile copies of the journal articles requested, and to ship books by United Parcel Service. Riggs says that there is significantly less cost involved in sending copies of the articles than in carrying all the journals.
The MRLT has targeted five areas for the pilot project—history, art and art history, French, agricultural economics and chemistry.
In addition to sharing the collections, each library has an on-line catalog based on the NOTIS system. Phase two of the sharing project will link all three systems so that a U-M researcher will see journals and books held by both Wayne State and Michigan State universities as well as those held by the U-M.
The proposed system may eventually allow individual on-line requests of journal articles by faculty, staff and students from the participating universities. Currently, all such requests are placed through the library.