Bibliotecas Universitarias Consorcio

Agnès Guyon reports on a seminar in Aveiro, Portugal, 26th and 27th April 1999.

EEVL was invited to present a paper at the Bibliotecas Universitárias em Consórcio (University Libraries in Consortium) seminar, held 26 - 27 April 1999 at the University of Aveiro [01]. The seminar was organised by RUBi - Rede Universitária de Bibliotecas e Informação (Universities' Libraries and Information Network) [02]. RUBi is intended to be "a logical structure that provides an Integrated Information Management, in a progressive manner, through new ways of co-operative work and resources sharing". Its aims are to "Ease the access to information and tracking of existent documents in the Portuguese Libraries; Promote the means of dissemination of the Portuguese scientific and technological production; Promote the support mechanisms to the acquisition of services or resources; Take full advantage of the Universities' already made or the undergoing investments, both on documental and informatics resources; Support the Portuguese participation in research projects and electronic information services development; Bolster the usage of technological advanced methods in bibliographical research; Develop specific studies on the application of informatic tools in well-defined situations within the areas of Information and Documentation". With speakers from Spain, the UK, and Portugal, the aim of the seminar, which was attended by around 70 people, was the dissemination of experiences at the international level.

The first talk, Co-operation and the Virtual Library, was given by John Blagden, former University Librarian at Cranfield University. He introduced the UK scene, and most effectively demonstrated the importance of co-operation. Taking the Anderson report as his starting point, John Blagden highlighted the debate over whether all libraries, being funded by the public purse, should be available to all, or, on the contrary, ensure that money is spent to meet the need of their particular institution. He then proceeded to demonstrate, using the experience at Cranfield University, that it is possible to do both, and that the way forward is through co-operation.

Ian Pettman, of the Freshwater Biological Association, then introduced the EC UNIverse Project, a large scale open distributed libraries demonstration project, funded under the European Commission's Telematics for Libraries Programme. The project is based on the concept of a "virtual Union Catalogue". This is the bringing together of physically distributed catalogues and databases so that they look like one union catalogue whilst remaining physically distributed. The technical background, problems encountered, development of the Special Interest Groups and the plans for the final stage were also described. The scope of the project, involving several countries with different languages, and, one of the partners being in Greece, even different alphabets, is considerable.

A talk in Portuguese was followed by an open debate. The role of the British Library Document Supply Centre, and the need for a national policy proved to be amongst the more prominent of the points discussed.

Despite a late start following a sumptuous meal, the presentation by Michael Hannon, University Librarian of Sheffield University, about the Consortium of University Research Libraries CURL [03] - or the Consortium of Unusually Rich Lunches as he referred to it - provided food for thought. This was followed by my talk [04], which introduced and demonstrated EEVL [05], providing a context to the gateway. Using EEVL as a vehicle, I also attempted to provide hindsight into the UK experience in subject-based gateways, and the emerging Resource Discovering Network (RDN). The day ended with a presentation of CHEST [06], by its director Nigel Lodge.

On the second day, two Spanish university consortia presented their work. Miguel Jiménez of the Autonomous University of Madrid, described the Madrid University Libraries Consortium. Madrid has 7 publicly funded universities and one private university. The public universities function as a consortium, in the first instance, on the administrative, organisational and, to a lesser extent, technical level. The decision to create a single system for these libraries dates from May 1998. At that time one of the libraries was not yet automated and the remaining six all had different systems. The first task was to evaluate different library software and decide upon a common one. This lengthy process resulted in the decision to use Unicorn of the Sirsi company. The resulting negotiations together with the management of Inter-Library loans, administrative, organisational and legal issues were also considered. The project is still at its early stages, but the presentation served to illustrate the birth of a consortium, and the kind of difficulties that might arise in the early stages of such a venture.

Luis Anglade, the director of the Consorci de Biblioteques Universitàries de Catalunya (CBUC) (University Libraries Consortium of Catalonia) [07], presented a paper entitled Trabajar juntos, aprender juntos, (working together, learning together). The University Library Consortium of Catalonia is a non-profit organisation whose main aim is to improve the quality of the library services through library co-operation. It includes eight University libraries and the National Library of Catalonia. The consortium has a union catalogue, an inter library lending system and other forms of co-operation. The Digital Library of Catalonia, a series of electronic resources shared by all the libraries of the Consortium, was set up in 1999. The presentation emphasised that a lot of hard work was necessary for any co-operative venture to be successful but at the same time co-operation was necessary to cope with changes and grasp the future.

There was not much time left for the concluding panel which also included short presentations from the commercial delegates, EBSCO, SilverPlatter Information, Kluwer Academic Publisher, UMI and ISI, but at the end of the two days, there was much to reflect upon. It was interesting to note that the need for co-operation is felt as strongly in countries with differing priorities, systems, and background, and in different sectors. This need to operate at a wider level results in projects and services as varied as the UNIverse projects, library consortia, and the RDN. On a more personal note it was also gratifying to see that EEVL was known and used abroad.


  1. RUBI - Seminario "Bibliotecas Universitárias em Consórcio"
  2. RUBI
  3. The Consortium of University Research Libraries
  4. Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library (EEVL) and the UK experience in Subject-Based Gateways
  5. Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library (EEVL)
  6. CHEST
  7. Consorci de Biblioteques Universitàries de Catalunya

Author Details

Agnès Guyon, EEVL Database Officer
Heriot-Watt University Library
Edinburgh EH14 4AS

Agnès Guyon is database officer for EEVL.

Date published: 
Tuesday, 22 June 1999
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