OCUL Collaborative Futures

OCUL has undertaken the development of a shared vision of the future of library management systems in Ontario’s academic libraries - a vision that articulates new possibilities and builds on a decade-long history of collaboration and cooperation.

This vision involves radical collaboration to help OCUL libraries face the challenges of today - the transformation of scholarly communication and higher education, rapid developments in information technology, and declining or limited resources.

Achieving the vision

The vision is defined by the existence of a distributed and shared collaborative approach to print and electronic/digital resource management. This approach builds upon existing OCUL-wide collaborative initiatives such as Scholars Portal technology and collaborative licensing, as well as smaller-scale initiatives such as shared ILS systems and print storage facilities. The keys to achieving the vision include:

  1. Implement shared next generation library services platforms.

  2. Collaborate to manage and preserve print resources in a sustainable system.

  3. Collaborate to effectively use shared systems to manage electronic & print resources.

Participating Institutions

Libraries at 18 of OCUL’s 21 member institutions are currently participating in Collaborative Futures:

  • Algoma University
  • Brock University
  • Carleton University
  • University of Guelph
  • Lakehead University
  • Laurentian University
  • McMaster University
  • Nipissing University
  • OCAD University
  • Ontario Tech University
  • University of Ottawa
  • Queen’s University
  • Trent University
  • University of Waterloo
  • Western University
  • Wilfrid Laurier University
  • University of Windsor
  • York University

Project Scope

To accomplish the vision, a multi-phase project has been planned.

Phase 3: Procurement and Implementation at Libraries

In March 2017, 13 libraries agreed to move forward with Phase 3, procurement and implementation of the shared system.

Since then, the Directors of the libraries participating in Collaborative Futures have--

  • Established a governance structure and populated the steering committee, 6 subcommittees, and a number of working groups;
  • Collaborated with the University of Ottawa to conduct procurement on OCUL's behalf (Download RFP as PDF PDF Icon);
  • Finalized requirements for the shared system;
  • Further developed and finalized a memorandum of understanding among the participating libraries;
  • Begun creation of a framework to help determine shared policy among participating libraries;
  • Established an expert advisory network of OCUL members to provide information and guidance during the procurement and implementation phase;
  • Selected and procured a shared library services platform through the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), OCUL's parent organization.

In November 2017, the University of Ottawa issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the shared library services platform on behalf of OCUL members. In early 2018, OCUL selected the Ex Libris Alma® library services platform and Ex Libris Primo® discovery and delivery solution as the core platforms for its Collaborative Futures initiative. COU and OCUL finalized a software as a service (SaaS) contract with Ex Libris in June 2018 and the resulting Omni academic search tool was launched in December 2019 at the 14 participating OCUL member institutions.

    In early 2019, University of Windsor, already an Alma/Primo customer, decided to join Collaborative Futures and participate in the shared platform's Network Zone.

    In December 2020, Algoma University and Laurentian University launched Omni bringing the total participating OCUL member institions to 16.


    Phase 2: Developing System Requirements and Preparing for Procurement - Completed
    (August 2015 – Fall 2016)

    Phase 2 focused on further investigation and planning for the possible implementation of a shared next-generation library services platform to provide grounding for deeper collaboration. The 18 institutions that opted to participate in Phase 2 contributed expertise, staff time on working groups or teams and support to the project.
    To complete this Phase, activities focused on extending our plans, identifying project funding, preparing requirements for technology acquisition, further market exploration and building our agreements for collaboration.

    At the end of Phase 2, member libraries had the option to decide whether to move toward procurement and implementation of a shared system. Thirteen libraries decided to move forward to Phase 3 with another 3 libraries indicating ongoing interest with their decision forthcoming.

    Phase 1: Feasibility Study - Completed
    (November 2014 - July 2015)

    In this first phase, the project focused on developing a business case to demonstrate the benefits and costs for collaboration in the three key areas.  At the end of this phase, OCUL presented information to member libraries to determine if they would like to proceed to the next Phase.

    In April 2015, as part of this first phase OCUL requested information from software vendors and other organizations interested in and able to provide creative, innovative, and future-driven solutions to help us achieve our Collaborative Futures vision. A copy of this Request for Information (RFI) is available as a PDF. 
    Download RFI as PDF PDF Icon

    At the end of this phase there was strong support from Directors for OCUL to move forward to Phase 2 of the Collaborative Futures project.


    Collaborative Futures Steering Committee Chair: Catherine Davidson, OntarioTech University (ocul-cf [at] ocul.on.ca)

    OCUL Interim Executive Director: Anika Ervin-Ward (anika.ervin.ward [at] ocul.on.ca)

    Omni Technology Manager: Alex Fletcher (alex.fletcher [at] utoronto.ca)

    More Information

    https://spotdocs.scholarsportal.info/display/OCF/OCUL+Collaborative+Futures (login required)