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64th IFLA General Conference
August 16 - August 21, 1998
Code Number: 165-83-E
Division Number: V.
Professional Group: Section on Acquisition and Collection Development
Joint Meeting with: Serial Publications and Publishers Liaison Committee: Workshop
Meeting Number: 83.
Simultaneous Interpretation: No
VIVA: The Virtual Library of Virginia
A Relay Race or a Journey Up the Spiraling Staircase?
VIVA Project Director
George Mason University;
voice: (703) 993-4652
VIVA is the consortium of the libraries of the 39 state-assisted colleges and universities (at 52 campuses) within the Commonwealth of Virginia. This includes 6 doctoral universities, 9 comprehensive institutions, and 24 community and two-year branch colleges. In addition, 28 private institutions participate where possible. VIVA's mission is to provide, in an equitable, cooperative and cost-effective manner, enhanced access to library and information resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia's academic libraries serving the higher education community.
PRODUCTS AND FINANCIAL BENEFITS
VIVA's current resources include: Books in Print (IAC); Britannica Online; Cambridge Scientific Abstracts; 4 Chadwyck-Healey Full-Text Databases (African-American Poetry, American Poetry, English Poetry, English Verse Drama); Congressional Universe (CIS); Dow Jones Academic Edition; FirstSearch; GaleNet; IDEAL (Academic Press); MathSciNet; Oxford English Dictionary; Periodicals Contents Index; Project Muse; Searchbank (IAC); and STAT-USA.
Cooperative purchasing and effective negotiations have brought significant financial benefit to the Commonwealth. We have kept a 'running tally' of financial benefits realized through consortial purchases since July 1, 1994. In these past four years, with only $6 million in state funding for all VIVA purchases, we have acquired approximately $31 million in resources for the students and faculty at the public institutions. We have documented our financial benefit to date to be $25 million over what would have been spent had all public institutions purchased the VIVA materials independently. In addition, we survey our member institutions to quantify Cost Savings (both direct and indirect) and the Value Added Benefits of our VIVA resources.
VIVA is a very democratic organization. A great deal of work is accomplished through our committee structure and there are approximately 75 librarians serving on our main committees: Steering, Collections, InterLibrary Loan, Special Collections, Technical Issues, and User Services (including both the Publicity and the Cataloging and Intellectual Access Subcommittees). Representation on each of these committees is carefully balanced to ensure representation of schools of all sizes, geographic regions of the state, and both public and private schools. Because the Commonwealth of Virginia did not want to see a large bureaucracy develop, we have kept the central staff to just one full-time staff person (the Project Director) and a part-time assistant. Although we plan to increase the central staff, it is likely to be significantly smaller than other similar consortia.
VIVA's organization reflects the history and culture of higher education in Virginia, specifically:
- Little central control of higher education institutions,
- Inconsistent infrastructures in the schools,
- Predominance of strong publicly-assisted schools in the Commonwealth,
- Consistent and equal support of VIVA by all Virginia public institutions, and also
- General trend toward downsizing central government.
UP THE SPRIALING STAIRCASE
During our first Biennium, the majority of our efforts went into 'simply' purchasing the resources. Overall, all of us (committee members and project manager) saw our efforts to be in a straight-line: purchase the resources, train the librarians, and move on. But the image of handing the baton to the next runner in an Olympic relay race doesn't work well for contract management with annual renewals. We now see ourselves in a matrix management environment with continuous links. Not exactly a circle dance, but a spiraling activity: purchase the resources, train the librarians, evaluate the product and statistics, address technical issues, communicate with the vendor and the librarians, and renegotiate with the vendor to improve the product. 'And repeat', we hope with an ever-improving service. To do this we must have data and we must have key players involved throughout. We have come to see our work less as a short relay race, and more as life on a continuous, upwardly spiraling staircase.
There are two new key components to help us up this spiraling staircase: Statistics and Resource Management Teams.
In marked contrast to our print materials, electronic resources offer the ideal of detailed use statistics. Over the past several months, we have worked to gather VIVA's use statistics in a password-protected area of our web site. Our goal is to encourage our members to promote these resources at their institutions. As many of you know, however, it is not a simple task. First, you have to get them. We have supported the work of the International Consortium of Library Consortia to develop a consistent list of statistical requirements we can present to all of our vendors. But we are a long way from getting those statistics automatically. We are still not receiving statistics from all of our vendors, they do not all arrive in an acceptable timeframe, and in some cases they still do not include all of our member institutions. Second, not only is it often unclear What they count, the statistics we receive can be very misleading. Quite simply, in the stateless web environment in which we find ourselves, the numbers can simultaneously both over count and under count the use. For example, they may be including meaningless images (gifs for buttons) which will inflate the count. At the same time, web statistics will under-represent the number of times an individual returns to a site that is captured in his or her browser's cache. Despite their many limitations, the statistics are valuable in revealing the use trend and identifying particular implementation problems.
Resource Management Teams
For each of our VIVA products, we have developed a Resource Management Team. Each team consists of the Collections Committee contact, a Technical Issues Committee contact, and a User Services contact. These representatives are 'volunteers' from throughout the state, from large and small schools, public and private. Some of these teams have been very active Ð monitoring vendor server problems, communicating with the VIVA listserv, working with the vendor to develop improved systems for passwords for training, monitoring use, developing training and re-training sessions offered throughout the state, etc. Fortunately, not all teams have to be as active. Some simply review the statistics as they become available and are 'on call' if they are needed.
VIVA is in a 'continuous process improvement' environment. We have found that gathering the statistical use data and employing Resource Management Teams has assisted us in our management of VIVA's resources.