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Geoffrey Morse's picture

Bibliography Entry

Atkinson, R. (2003). Uses and Abuses of Cooperation in a Digital Age. Collection Management, 28(1/2), 3-20.


This article discusses ways in which libraries can be effective in arranging cooperative purchases of electronic resources.   The author states that libraries must begin to look at themselves as knowledge providers rather than mere collection managers. To do this the library must view itself as a place of “production of information by local users”.   Libraries can achieve this goal in a cooperative manner in part by building databases and repositories of locally produced materials and sharing them with scholars at other institutions.  In addition to maintaining the core secondary resources libraries can work cooperatively to insure that the more valuable and less used primary source materials are also held by some institutions.

            This article discusses impediments that have traditionally hindered efforts at cooperative collection development and consortial purchasing among libraries, particularly in the area of electronic resources, and proposes some remedies to overcome these impediments.  By recognizing the competition that is inherent among similar libraries, that any cooperative effort will be evaluated on the basis of how well it helps the libraries local users, and that libraries will not enter into agreements that will weaken them in relation to other libraries, one can realistically propose a model for the collective purchase of electronic resources.  Even assuming that libraries will continue to sign restrictive licenses that prevent them from sharing content with other institutions, the author proposes that libraries can still collaborate on the purchase of other materials, thereby freeing up funds for the individual purchase of electronic products. 

            Finally, the author states that libraries have cooperated with publishers to get a better deal for themselves.  In the future, particularly in the case of electronic resources, libraries should look at cooperating amongst themselves and yielding more influence on the same plane as publishers and other information providers.  Libraries need to put aside past competitiveness and excuses if they want to become knowledge managers and not become secondary to other information providers.