This article describes and discusses consortia models in Europe. Emphasis is given to those consortia that support content provision and access to electronic information resources in society. Four country cases are introduced as examples of the heterogeneous solutions chosen by the consortia. The main results and impact of the consortia are discussed. International cooperation has played an important role in the development of consortia in Europe. Regional and global collaboration initiatives are also discussed.
Consortia in Europe: Describing the Various Solutions Through Four Country Examples
INTRODUCTIONThe number of library consortia existing worldwide is significant. More than 180 organizations are listed on the International Coalition of Library Consortia's Web site, and almost 40 of these are European organizations. Europe is a mix of different cultures, languages, and nationalities, with varying historical and cultural backgrounds; there are more than forty countries and around forty languages spoken in Europe. In many countries more than one language is spoken as a native language. In many parts of Europe, especially in the south and east, electronic resources in languages other than English are required. Very often, providing these alternate resources has proved difficult. The economic situation in European countries differs very much as well. In most parts of Europe, the national information technology (IT) infrastructure is of very high quality and forms the basis of the development of digital services. However, this is not yet the case in all European countries.The models chosen for consortium cooperation in Europe range from centralized to decentralized solutions and from well-organized to poorly organized consortia; funding and staffing solutions vary as well. Giordano (2002) has analyzed library consortium models in Europe. He has found three basic models: national centralized models, national decentralized models, and regional models. National centralized models are typical for the Nordic consortia. France is an example of a national decentralized model. In Belgium the French and Flemish speaking universities have each formed their own consortium. These might be called regional consortia. In many countries, more than one model is in use. For example, in the UK there are discipline-based, regional, and national consortia.Today there is a strong emphasis on national and international cooperation in libraries. In Europe, cooperation within the European Union is highlighted, and there are also some signs that cooperation with Asian countries is becoming more active. The changes in the working environment of libraries most likely have increased the need for and the benefits of cooperation. In the digital environment, services can be centralized, resulting in significant savings, and the division of labor between various stakeholders can be redistributed.FINLANDFinELib: The National Electronic Library ProgramThe National Electronic Library program of Finland-FinELib-was launched by the Ministry of Education in 1997. The aim of its activities during the first years of its operation was to support higher education, research, and learning in Finland. The program was started in accordance with the government's Infor...