SHARES vision statement — 2005

The SHARES Executive Group created this Vision Statement in 2005 to guide and give direction to the partnership. SHARES partners were asked for comments via the rlg-shares discussion list and the draft was also discussed at the June 2005 SHARES Round Table in Chicago (in conjunction with the American Library Association annual conference).


The success of SHARES is rooted in collaboration among its participants and in the richness of their shared collections. For over two decades SHARES has provided participants access as a complement to ownership, building programs and partnerships that have supported scholarly inquiry in many forms. It is time once again to redefine and refocus our efforts on behalf of the many constituencies that benefit from SHARES protocols.

Our fundamental assumption remains constant: that SHARES's goal is to facilitate seamless end-user access both to SHARES institutions' collections and to other resources in an increasingly digital environment. The two major facets of SHARES—on-site access and interlibrary loan/document delivery—will continue as important elements in the plan to achieve more comprehensive and integrated access for users.

The ways in which scholars seek, discover, and acquire information have changed radically since 1996, when the previous SHARES vision statement was created. Likewise, the resource-sharing landscape has been transformed by technology, economics, and the revolutionary change in our learning culture brought on by the Internet. SHARES exists now as one in a vast array of resource-sharing opportunities available to its participants, though still a notably effective and reliable one.

The ongoing success of SHARES will depend on our ability to evolve and innovate in step with the new information environment, and to maximize the special and often unique benefits delivered by the partnership to end users and staff at its participating institutions.

Essentially, what the research community is seeking is information itself. It should not matter to the researcher where the information is located—in cyberspace, in the user's home library, in a storage facility, or at another institution. Users should be able to rely on their libraries to integrate research and discovery tools with the delivery of information in ways that meet users' changing needs and expectations. Librarians need to see themselves as managers of complex systems that include (1) seamless user interfaces, (2) management of both physical and electronic resources, and (3) the capability to rapidly locate and deliver these resources to users with a minimum of human mediation. The evolving learning, teaching, and research climate demands this type of response.

I. Leveraging technology

To keep pace with our users' expectations about information delivery, the SHARES Executive Group urges OCLC Research leadership and the RLG Partnership to move beyond the current definition of system interoperability—"the ability to exchange information across multiple systems"—to embrace the creation of a truly seamless information delivery process as our goal.

We must recognize that current standards and protocols are tools that provide value only in the current technological context. These standards will not continue to meet research needs without ongoing cooperative development. We have the opportunity to provide leadership in promoting systems standardization as well as integrating the researcher's discovery process and the resource-sharing delivery process into what appears to the user to be a seamless whole.

Action items

SHARES participants engage with OCLC Research and the RLG Partnership and developers of other databases, integrated library systems, and/or ILL systems to:

  1. Maximize the user's ability to seamlessly initiate information delivery requests via OpenURL during the research and discovery process.
  2. Further develop systems that will allow requests to be directed without staff mediation to service providers, and that support delivery directly to the user without staff-mediated processing at the receiving end.
  3. Fully implement NCIP (NISO Circulation Interchange Protocol) into products so that many of today's ILL requests can be handled more efficiently as remote circulation transactions and so that circulation and ILL systems can effectively exchange information about requests that remain in the ILL pipeline.
  4. Ensure full implementation of the ISO ILL Protocol and IPIG (ILL Protocol Implementers Group) Profile in systems, and full interoperability among these systems, so that system choice is truly irrelevant to SHARES participation.
  5. Improve the ability of systems to recognize library circulation status as well as holdings data to a finer level of detail.

II. Strengthening the SHARES commitment and recognizing excellence

The SHARES partnership is committed to providing superior interlibrary loan service and cooperation to the standards outlined in the RLG Partnership annual commitment agreement. The partnership recognizes participant institutions who meet the highest levels of measurable service standards (e.g., turnaround time, fill rate, use of Ariel, sound shipping practices). Strong administrative support of each ILL operation benefits all SHARES partners. To further this commitment, we endeavor to identify and implement new ways to support the efforts of the SHARES Practitioners Council in monitoring performance.

Action items

1. Create a task force on performance standards of individuals from SHARES institutions who represent a broad range of partner sizes, scopes, and participation levels. The task force's work includes but is not limited to:

  • Reviewing the performance standards currently documented by SHARES.
  • Writing a set of standards, to be ratified by the SHARES partnership, against which to measure performance.

2. SHARES will publicly recognize those institutions who meet or exceed performance standards. This will be achieved by:

  • Refreshing and regularly publishing the "Eye on ILL" RLG Web page.
  • Creating a pilot program for publicly recognizing stellar participation, to run for a short duration and be formally evaluated for feasibility and sustainability.
  • Recognizing and celebrating one superior ILL unit annually at an RLG SHARES meeting.

3. SHARES working groups, in partnership with OCLC Research and the RLG Partnership, will foster the cooperative spirit among SHARES participants by:

  • Educating library directors on the value of stellar lending among the SHARES community.
  • Encouraging special services for SHARES partners (e.g., greater access to rare materials, loan of audio-visual materials, etc.).
  • Facilitating cooperation on projects and problem solving among SHARES partners.

III. Developing new services and partners

SHARES will continually refine and sometimes reinvent itself to remain useful. Built on a corps of committed participants, SHARES will enhance and strengthen participation by attracting new partners and developing new services.

Action items

1. Recruit new SHARES partners. The SHARES Executive Group should:

  • Target RLG Partnership institutions that are not in SHARES:
    —Identify nonparticipating RLG Partners that are already committed to resource sharing and reach out to their ILL staffs and administrators.
    —Make potential new RLG Partners aware of the benefits of SHARES partnership and how joining SHARES improves ILL operations.
  • Emphasize expedited delivery, access to members' collections, access to special and noncirculating materials, net-lending policy, and on-site access, as well as the many opportunities for professional development and networking with peers that SHARES participation provides.
  • Promote the economies of the net-lending reimbursement policy and how it has kept pace with costs.
  • Emphasize the unique and special nature of partner collections and access to international members' collections.
  • Concentrate on how SHARES works to serve its participants and ensure they are on the forefront of resource-sharing developments nationally and internationally.

2. Determine through sampling and surveys what kinds of requests are not being filled or loaned among SHARES partners and recommend new services that will increase the fill rate and decrease the turnaround time of items requested. For example:

  • Look specifically at special collections materials, videos, and other nonstandard formats, volumes not held, and items checked out.
  • Based on analysis of past activity, recommend new services such as:
    —digitization on demand,
    —automated access to holdings data and circulation status that will increase the success rate of SHARES ILL requests,
    —partnerships with non-SHARES document supplier consortia (e.g., RAPID 24-hour turnaround article delivery consortium, the Center for Research Libraries), and
    —partnerships with fee-based document suppliers for preferred-customer status.

3. Design new and enhanced end-user services that provide faster delivery to the desktop and new incentives for libraries to participate in SHARES. New SHARES services need to reflect the prevailing resource-sharing environment and emerging concepts of how best to address users' information and delivery needs. For example:

  • Unmediated requesting in Eureka® databases for items not owned or licensed by the user's home institution would add value and improve access to content.
  • Implementing the NCIP standard in ILL Manager and other SHARES ISO ILL systems would streamline end-user processes.
  • Delivering electronic documents directly to the borrowing library's user's desktop would speed receipt of materials.

IV. Sharing expertise

SHARES supports the sharing of experience and best practices among interlibrary loan staff at all participating institutions with respect to technologies, workflow efficiencies, and procedural expertise. SHARES encourages the development of new competencies that enable ILL staff to provide the highest quality service possible; the program aims to facilitate identifying experts in various aspects of resource sharing within the remarkable talent pool at SHARES libraries.

Action items

1. Establish a presence on the RLG SHARES Web site where expertise can be shared. A "Sharing Expertise" index page would carry links to guidelines and best practices on topics such as:

  • Implementing new technology.
  • Digitizing on demand.
  • Handling library renovations, with dislocation of ILL staff and research materials.
  • Supporting distance learning.
  • Managing licensed resources.
  • Delivering materials from off-site storage.

2. The SHARES Executive Group, SHARES Practitioners Council, or a new group would be responsible for:

  • Accumulating material for the site.
  • Identifying SHARES experts in various areas of endeavor.
  • Checking the Web links on the page periodically for currency.
  • Organizing programs around high-interest topics.

V. Monitoring cost issues

For SHARES to meet equitably the needs of both net lenders and net borrowers and to remain an attractive option for new and existing participants, net-lending fees and cost-related aspects of the SHARES guidelines should be consistent with a resource-sharing model, as opposed to a model of full cost recovery. This model better serves the central purpose of SHARES—to provide participant access to the world's major academic and art library collections—than the business model, aimed at profitability, or the cost recovery model, which may vary significantly depending on institutional structure.

Further, in support of a resource-sharing model, net-lending fees must be established that will allow net borrowers to maximize the value of their SHARES partnership while still not imposing an unreasonable burden on large net lenders. The cost impact of ILL software and SHARES guidelines compliance will also need to be considered, as well as the "soft" costs of resolving issues of interoperability between ILL Manager and other ISO-compliant systems.

Action items

1. By means of direct communications with SHARES participants, monitor the impact of new net-lending fees on:

  • New borrowers' choice of SHARES over other ILL alternatives, if any.
  • Net lenders' SHARES activity levels and cost concerns.
  • Overall SHARES ILL activity.

2. To help monitor the new SHARES international lending fee for intercontinental loans of returnables, create a list by country, maintained on the RLG Web site, that includes:

  • International courier companies or sources.
  • Rates and contact information.
  • Participant comments regarding dependability, ease of use, and othe evaluative information.

3. Monitor the impact, if any, of the new net-lending fees on new participant recruitment efforts.

4. The SHARES Executive Group will review the pricing structure every three years.

We are a worldwide library cooperative, owned, governed and sustained by members since 1967. Our public purpose is a statement of commitment to each other—that we will work together to improve access to the information held in libraries around the globe, and find ways to reduce costs for libraries through collaboration.