The WSL Library Development staff coordinates several cooperative statewide projects which leverage the combined purchasing power of libraries throughout the state to save significant amounts of money for Washington libraries. In addition, LSTA (Library Services & Technology Act) funds provided through IMLS (The Institute for Museum & Library Services) are used to subsidize or kick start cooperative purchasing arrangements, helping libraries break into new areas such as virtual reference, eBooks, or downloadable audiobooks.
The oldest example of these kinds of projects is Statewide Database Licensing (SDL), which since 1997 has been providing a suite of research databases to public, academic, K-12, medical, and research libraries statewide. Library Development staff also coordinate library funded group purchases for other products; past examples include the online version of Consumer Reports, and an automotive repair database; a current example is Zinio, a very popular new platform for reading magazines online. It has been conservatively estimated that SDL saves Washington libraries over $20 million annually.
A more recent example is Off the Page: Downloadable Audiobooks and eBooks for Washington, which has helped libraries provide these new formats to their patrons. 31 public library systems in Washington are now able to offer both e-books and audiobooks via the Washington Anytime Library, and several more libraries are in process to join this consortium. More than 40 public and academic libraries, as well as over 300 K-12 school libraries are offering downloadable audiobooks via a statewide contract with another vendor.
Another area in which Washington libraries are successfully working together is in providing access to 24×7 virtual reference services to their patrons. Via Ask-WA, more than 60 Washington libraries, both public and academic, are providing online reference services through chat, e-mail, and instant messaging (IM) technologies.
Just being rolled out as we write, is a brand new project, Connect with Your Library: A Mobile App for Washington, which in partnership with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, is providing the opportunity for public and academic libraries to offer their services via a user-friendly mobile application (app). The app will let users locate libraries, place holds, renew materials, download eBooks, or check to see if the library has an item, and more, all from the mobile device they carry in their hand.
These programs and others like them are great examples of how under the leadership provided by the WSL Library Development Program, LSTA funds are used to assist in providing a level playing field, such that smaller libraries can provide their patrons with the same kinds of services and resources that otherwise might be restricted to the larger library systems, while simultaneously providing assistance to all Washington libraries, both large and small.