rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 3: p. 257
Sources: Joint Libraries: Models That Work
Ann Agee

Reference Librarian, San Jose State University, San Jose, California

Public and university libraries, school and public libraries, university and community college libraries—joint libraries of all combinations have been appearing nationwide since the 1970s. The motivation for creating joint libraries is familiar: cutting costs by sharing resources. The elements that make these partnerships work, however, are complex.

The analogy of a marriage is used frequently by the participants creating joint libraries. Anticipating problems, communicating, and compromising are important at every step of a library merger. The authors devote an entire chapter to the culture clash between academic and public library employees and the different approaches joint libraries have taken toward meeting this challenge. Differences in collection management, reference, and computer use must be reconciled; conflicting vacation schedules need to be accommodated. Sometimes the solution is to merge services; other times it is to keep services separate but equal.

The authors also pay special attention to the differing management structures of these hybrid libraries and the staffing challenges they face. Some successful joint libraries function under a single library director, and some decide to share a facility but keep separate administrators and staff. Both models create issues in human resources, and the authors do a good job of examining how some libraries have successfully handled them. These practical examples are a real strength of the book.

The chapter on legal considerations spells out the components that should be considered in a merger, while other chapters focus on the challenges to be faced in designing the physical layout, meshing collection development policies, and sharing technical services. But the heart of the book is the set of case studies the authors have collected. All three authors have worked in joint libraries, and they provide some fascinating on-the-ground reporting of how the libraries came to be and how they work now. One of the most interesting case studies is the “glorious failure” (104) that was the North Lake Community Library in Texas. The authors break down the elements of what caused this city/college hybrid to fail, and the story highlights how important even the smallest details are when creating a joint library.

The emphasis of the book is on models that work, however, and the final chapters include a set of criteria that should be met if a joint library is to succeed. The book’s appendixes also include examples of the detailed legal agreements that were used in the creation of two different joint libraries.

Like a good marriage manual, Joint Libraries has something for everyone. Whether readers are currently working in a joint library or considering taking the plunge, they will find solid insights and advice here that will help them in their jobs.



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    • Sources

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