CIC fosters university collaboration

CIC libraries have been working with Google to digitize 10 million books.

Danielle Nordine

Recently, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation has been gaining recognition as a partner in GoogleâÄôs attempt to digitize books, but the organization has actually been operating for more than 50 years. The CIC, created in 1958 as an academic counterpart to the Big Ten Athletic Conference, includes all current Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago, a former member of the conference. The overall mission of the CIC is to foster collaboration between like-minded universities on topics ranging from research to ordering paper in bulk, said CIC Director Barbara McFadden Allen. âÄú[The CIC] is a distinctive advantage to being a member of the Big Ten Athletic Conference,âÄù she said. âÄúWe have as rich and deep a collaboration on the academic side as we do the athletic side.âÄù As a consortium of universities, the CIC is able to negotiate, purchase and take stances on behalf of all its members. The collective purchasing power allows all member universities to save money on materials like paper and lab supplies, as well as subscriptions to journals and periodicals and technology, Allen said. The fact that members are, for the most part, large, research-oriented, Midwestern schools has proven to be a benefit because members are facing similar issues and opportunities and can offer solutions to each other, said Tom Sullivan, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. One of the benefits of membership with the CIC is the connection between the libraries, Allen said. âÄúBy being part of the CIC, your library immediately can connect with and share a library collection with all the other CIC universities,âÄù she said. âÄúYou suddenly have access to the 82 million book volumes in the libraries.âÄù CIC libraries have been working together with Google to digitize about 10 million books, on top of additional books from the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin. CIC libraries also work on behalf of the universities to fight publishers on excessive costs for materials such as books and journals, University of Minnesota librarian Wendy Lougee said. CIC libraries share materials with each other without a charge, she said. The CIC has been working with its members to create a technological infrastructure between the universities. A discussion among Big Ten presidents in 1958 during a visit to Ohio State University about collaboration and academics led to the creation of the CIC, Allen said. âÄúThey said, âÄòWouldnâÄôt it be great if we could pay as much attention to the academic side as we do to the athletic side?âÄô âÄù she said. âÄúThere and then they committed to forming an academic alliance, and the first thing they did together was buy a big telescope all the universities could use.âÄù The CIC leadership board is made up of provosts from member universities. Sullivan is the University of Minnesota representative. âÄúItâÄôs a terrific opportunity for discussion and collaboration among colleagues âÄî and in some cases, competitors âÄî to share a common understanding and to make everyone more efficient and effective,âÄù Sullivan said. The group will occasionally provide funding for research or other collaborative projects, Sullivan said, and the funds come from membership dues and fees assessed to each university for the special projects. âÄúThe CIC is probably the most prestigious academic grouping of universities in the country,âÄù Sullivan said. âÄúMany other universities have attempted to create their own version of the CIC, and I donâÄôt know that any have been as successful as ours.âÄù