A Bigger World Thanks to Our Library Consortium
Did you know that the SU Libraries are part of a library consortium that brings us huge benefits? We are one of the 17 members of the University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions Library Consortium, known as USMAI for short. That is pronounced U-S-M-A-I, which rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?
The 17 members include all the University System of Maryland Libraries, Morgan State University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland and the Loyola-Notre Dame Library. It is supported entirely by the members, with the presidents of the institutions agreeing to a five-year budget. With limited staff, primarily supporting shared IT systems, plus three non-IT staff, USMAI also relies on volunteers from the member institutions to serve on committees and task groups.
Probably the biggest benefit USMAI provides is that we share our collections. We have a shared online catalog that allows any student, faculty, or staff member to request to borrow items from any of our libraries. The items, if available, will be shipped to the requester’s home library at no cost to the requester and can also be returned in the same way. Alternatively, people can go to these other libraries and borrow the items in person. As a result, while the SU Libraries only have roughly 250,000 print books, our users have access to nearly 8 million items through USMAI.
In addition to books, of course, people frequently need journal articles. USMAI subscribes to quite a few key databases, such as Academic Search Ultimate, Business Source Complete, CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Dissertations and Theses Global, Proquest Historical Newspapers, the New York Times, SocINDEX with Full Text, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. In addition, USMAI schools are quick to provide other articles to each other (when licensing allows), either directly or through USMAI’s participation in InterLibrary Loan programs.
Finally, one of the other benefits USMAI provides is professional development and shared expertise. USMAI sponsors many professional development opportunities that are free for our staff. Additionally, while libraries at big research universities may have several hundred staff members, schools such as ours typically have a much smaller number. In our case, we usually have between 25 and 28 full-time staff. In many areas of our work, we only have one staff person who primarily focuses on that area; if they leave and we hire someone new, it can be helpful to be able to reach out to people in similar positions across our consortium for training (we provide this help to others, too, of course).
We benefit in other ways from our participation in USMAI, and we eagerly anticipate seeing how USMAI evolves. USMAI will be getting a new integrated library system – the software that runs almost everything we do – in summer 2024, our first new system in two decades. You’ll certainly hear more about that in future issues of Library Matters. And USMAI is beginning to get involved in issues related to Open Scholarship, so we look forward to that.