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January/February/March, 1997
Volume 43, Number 1

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VIVA: In the Vanguard for Cooperative Collection Development in Virginia

by Christopher Millson-Martula


VIVA is a consortium of libraries of all publicly-supported colleges and universities. This group includes 6 doctoral institutions, 9 comprehensive institutions, and 24 community and two-year branch colleges. Participating as partners are the libraries of the 28 independent institutions in the Commonwealth.

VIVA was initially developed by the Library Advisory Council of the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia. SCHEV mandated VIVA to:

  1. Work together
  2. Eliminate unnecessary duplication
  3. Avoid new central bureaucracy

The General Assembly subsequently adopted the proposal and appropriated approximately $5 million for the 1994-96 biennium, with a similar amount of continuing support for the 1996-98 biennium. The initial appropriation made possible a restructuring of library materials budgets, a central budget for VIVA, and $2 million to be used for group purchases. While the appropriation was available for the use of consortium members only, VIVA purchasing contracts typically allow the independent institutions to purchase resources at prices considerably lower than they would have paid on an individual basis.

For additional information about VIVA, point your WWW browser to: Kathy Perry, working out of George Mason University, is VIVA Project Director.

Mission and Vision

VIVA's mission is to provide, in an equitable, cooperative, and cost effective manner, enhanced access to library and information resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia's academic libraries serving the higher education community.

Related to this mission is a comprehensive vision consisting of the following key components:

  1. Provide students and faculty statewide with convenient access to those information resources needed to support institutional missions.
  2. Facilitate the cost-effective acquisition and distribution of information resources that are specialized or lend themselves to shared access.
  3. Transform and enhance teaching and learning through the provision of new information technologies and resources.
  4. Enhance interlibrary lending and resource sharing by funding and implementing new technologies.
  5. Initiate cooperative collection management projects.
  6. Reduce duplication of costly library materials.
  7. Use VIVA to leverage a long-term consortial agreement among Virginia's libraries.

The above represents but a partial description of VIVA's vision. The task is indeed an ambitious one. However, in just two years much has been accomplished, and the likelihood of continued success is great.

VIVA and Cooperative Collection Development to 1997

VIVA's work is carried out through a number of committees on which both consortium members and the independent institutions have representation. One of these committees is the Collections Committee, currently under the leadership of Carol Pfeiffer of the University of Virginia. The Collections Committee's work is facilitated by three discipline-specific coordinated collection management (CCM) committees with principal responsibility for the development of cooperative projects: allied health and nursing, business, and science and technology.

During the first two years of its existence, VIVA has focused on providing students and faculty with enhanced access to a core collection of networked electronic resources. In this process, the discipline-specific committees have served as a valuable resource by: 1. identifying resources likely to meet needs; 2. establishing vendor contacts and arranging for database trials; 3. evaluating the resources; and 4. recommending resources for purchase by VIVA. Following approval by the Steering Committee, VIVA then enters into a contract with the vendor. Up to the present time, all VIVA purchases have been made available to all consortium members. In addition, interested independent college libraries have taken advantage of the discounted prices by using their local institutional funds.

What has VIVA accomplished thus far? The list of VIVA resources currently available is an impressive one, and a partial list includes: full-text periodical databases provided by Information Access Company covering all academic disciplines in general as well as business, computer technology, and consumer health in particular; an online encyclopedia (Britannica) and an English-language dictionary (OED); online journals published by Academic Press and the Johns Hopkins University Press; Cambridge Scientific Abstracts; the American Mathematical Society's MathSciNet; Gale Publishing's Galenet; and Chadwyck-Healey's full-text resources for poetry and drama. VIVA is currently evaluating core resources needed in disciplines such as medicine, nursing, and psychology.

Results and Benefits Realized

While the range of VIVA resources is quite extensive and significant, the real benefits have accrued to students and faculty as well as the participating libraries.

On many campuses, students and faculty have received added value as a result of a resource becoming available on campus for the first time due to the VIVA group purchase. Networked access has made possible student and faculty access to these items from a variety of locations. For some products, licenses also allow off-campus access. Thus, students and faculty are now able to draw upon a much broader range of resources and to access them with greater ease and flexibility.

The consortium members themselves have also realized significant benefits. Group purchasing has lowered costs to such a degree that resources that only the largest libraries could once afford have now become a reality for the great majority of consortium members and independent institutions as well. Secondly, the availability of the full-text periodical databases has enabled libraries to review their current subscription lists and make judicious cancellation of non-core titles. The outcome has been not only real savings in an area prone to constant price increases, but also the enhancement of other components of a library's program of services. The actual cost savings can then be applied for other needs.

What Remains to be Done?

The list of VIVA collection-related accomplishments to date is a substantive one as VIVA developed, and continues to develop, its collection of electronic resources. However, the time is now for VIVA, through its coordinated collection management committees, to take a leadership role in helping consortium members to fine tune their individual collections while insuring the existence of a collection to meet statewide academic needs.

As indicated earlier, there are currently three coordinated collection management committees for VIVA: allied health and nursing; business; and science and technology. Each committee was charged with the following objectives and suggested strategies:

Objective 1: To save money by providing more cost-effective access to information resources.


Objective 2: To provide all VIVA institutions with improved access to information resources in the assigned subject areas.


Objective 3: To share information and develop staff expertise.


The Cooperative Collection Management committees have thus far focused on group subscriptions to electronic resources for all VIVA members. However, as a result of a coordinated collection management workshop held last November, the committees will explore strategies that may be closer to traditional cooperative activities. Group purchases will likely continue, but they may involve resources that only a limited number of members will purchase with their local institutional funds. Members may make commitments to provide access to specific resources, whether print or electronic, so that institutions for which they are not core resources can cancel subscriptions or remove from their collections.

Specific projects currently underway include the following:

There is much excitement associated with VIVA, and its future seems quite promising. When you use an electronic resource in an academic library in Virginia in the future, chances are good that you will be receiving the benefit of a VIVA activity.

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