Library leaves CLIC, joins larger consortium

This past summer, Macalester’s DeWitt Wallace Library left Cooperating Libraries in Consortium (CLIC), an organization it had been a part of since CLIC’s forming in 1985. The consortium allowed students to directly access books from other nearby colleges, including the four other ACTC schools.

In 2011, the CLIC libraries began to look for a new management system to replace the one they had been operating with for the past fifteen years. It was during this time that Macalester staff members realized that the needs of the college did not align with the needs of the other libraries in the CLIC consortium.

“When CLIC first began 40 years ago, it was a different situation entirely. The colleges were more similar than they are now,” Library Director Terri Fishel said. “[In 2011, CLIC] started looking at new systems to replace the one that we had had for fifteen years. There had been a lot of system changes since the one we started with, [and] we felt that there was a particular system that met [Macalester’s] needs that other members were not in agreement on. We did not so much leave CLIC as [much as] CLIC members felt that we all needed to be on the same single system, and we did not want the same system that they were pursuing.”

When Macalester informed CLIC of their preference for a different system, other CLIC members decided to enforce consortium rules that mandate that all participating libraries use the same management system. After negotiations, it was decided that after December 31, 2014, Macalester would no longer be a part of CLIC.

Macalester chose to move to a system with over 200 participating libraries, OCLC, while the CLIC consortium chose to become the first customer of a new management system, Intota.

According to Fishel, the systems chosen by the libraries reflect a difference in philosophies.

“If you go to the websites for the other libraries, they’re primarily providing access to just the materials that are owned by those libraries,” said Fishel. “We provide access to a catalog that gives you a list of everything that’s found in the world. So it’s the difference between looking at a catalog that only has the holdings of seven libraries versus a catalog that has the holdings of 6,000 plus libraries.”

According to Fishel, it was this element that made OCLC a good choice for Macalester.

“[OCLC is] international,” he said. “We have an international community. For us, that was important. Other libraries wanted people to see just what they had. It’s a difference between local versus global. They want local; we want global.”

Fishel explained why a more local system might work better for a library other than Macalester. “Our needs are different than the needs of some of the other institutions. St. Thomas, for example, has got a much larger student population, and they want them focused on the resources they have.”
In addition to the larger variety of resources that OCLC provides Macalester with, choosing this system also saved Macalester a large amount of money.

“Our system does provide cost savings for Macalester,” Fishel said. “[That’s] not necessarily the same for the other institutions, but for Macalester, it was quite a bit.”

From a student’s perspective, the library operates fairly similar to how it did in the past.

“What you see in terms of looking for materials hasn’t changed,” Fishel said. “We kept the same discovery layer that we’ve always had.” The real difference with the new system has been behind the scenes.

“For staff, the real benefit is that we’re not cataloging for two systems anymore; we’re just cataloging for one,” Fishel said. “Staff workflow has been greatly improved. Staff also used to attend meetings regularly for processes that were managed by CLIC, and they don’t have to attend those meetings anymore, so that gives them time to explore working relationships with other peer liberal arts colleges.”

While library patrons are still able to access books from CLIC members, requests are now processed through the InterLibrary Loan (ILL) system. In the past, a shared circulation system allowed patrons to place holds directly at other libraries. This meant that a Macalester student, faculty, or staff member could go directly to a different school in order to pick up requested material. While that is no longer the case, materials requested from other nearby libraries are still expected to arrive within 24-48 hours of being requested. In order to fulfill ILL requests as quickly as possible for patrons, Macalester will still receive a courier service from the other CLIC libraries twice a day.

Students taking ACTC classes will still be able to check out books directly at the institutions where they are taking classes. In addition to this, St. Thomas and Macalester have a reciprocal agreement that allows patrons of either library to check out materials directly at the other institution.

Fishel said that the implementation of the new program has gone smoothly, although there will be a follow up evaluation this summer to more fully gauge student and staff reactions.

“I haven’t heard any complaints,” she said. “One of the telling comments for me was when the student workers started using the new system. They all commented on how great it was and how much they like it, and how it was an improvement. So I figured that if our student employees liked it, then that’s icing on the cake.”