In the spring of 2000, Gail Bailey, Chief of the School Library Services Branch at the Maryland State Department of Education, recommended that a group of school library media administrators study the feasibility of forming a statewide consortium to take advantage of cost-effective licensing of fee-based online services for K-12 schools in Maryland. A survey was prepared by Della Curtis, Coordinator of Library Information Services, Baltimore County Public Schools. The survey of local education agencies in Maryland showed that many are licensing online services, the costs are not consistent throughout Maryland, and the costs are too high for some counties to afford.
Licensing or access fees for electronic resources may constitute a major portion of a district-level or local school budget. However, through a consortium buying arrangement, the discounts for these services are quite significant. For example, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction estimated that the cost of providing Wisconsin's BadgerLink, a virtual library providing access to a collection of fee-based databases, on an individual rather than on a group basis would be $50 million. Through their consortium arrangement, they are paying $2.1 million... a 95-percent savings. According to Jane Pearlmutters, president of the Wisconsin Library Association, there are 17 states that have formed a statewide consortium in order to provide cost-effective services (SLJ, June 1, 1999).
In February 2000, Della Curtis contacted Gail Bailey and Maurice Travillian to inquire about any similar arrangements in Maryland. It was learned that there is the Maryland Digital Library Program (MDL), authorized by the Secretary of Higher Education, whose membership includes the Maryland Higher Education Commission and the Congress of Academic Library Directors. In the MDL prospectus a commitment to all of Maryland's citizens is stated as follows:
...to work together to develop digital library capabilities that complements both the Maryland statewide communications planning and the notable Sailor project that supports Maryland prospective and existing businesses, Maryland's overall economic development, and Maryland citizen's needs for lifelong learning. The MDL offers an extraordinary opportunity for Maryland's colleges and universities to develop partnerships with the K-12 education segment in gaining access to digital content.
At the October 2000 meeting of the MSDE School Library Administrators, Della Curtis, who is serving as chair for the K-12 Maryland Digital Library Study Committee, gave a brief overview and asked for participation on the study committee. Committee members include administrators of both public and private schools, university, and MSDE representatives. The committee will be meeting throughout the year to plan and research other state model virtual libraries with the goal to ensure that the partnership between Maryland's colleges and universities and K-12 schools becomes a reality in Maryland.