Consortia Beginnings

  • 1876 - The American Library Association established
  • 1960s - Library automation gives rise to sharing of expertise
  • 1970s - Shared catalogue is born
  • 1980s - Resource sharing (Interlibrary Loans) follows
  • 1990s - Shared purchasing of electronic resources
  • 1997 - Coalition of Consortia¬†ICOLC formed

1994: HKN Begins

Until the early nineties, health practitioners from Alberta's two medical schools did not have access to health information resources after graduation. The cost of licensing and locally loading health information resources also impeded access for Alberta's remaining post-secondary institutions.

To bridge the digital divide across Alberta, the University of Alberta and University of Calgary collaborated to extend their licenses to Alberta's hospitals, research, government, and post-secondary institutions.

With start-up funding from AHFMR (Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research), the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the faculties of medicine of both universities, the Health Knowledge Network (HKN) was established.

The partner universities, with HKN as their representative, signed a single license with Ovid Technologies that allowed the universities to extend their existing license to external subscribers. Institutions (external subscribers) were then able to subscribe to a core package of bibliographic resources and had the option to add additional resources on an opt in/out basis. No membership fees were required.

Enormous effort and cooperation was put into setting up the technical and administrative infrastructure at each university. To provide consistent service to external subscribers both servers needed to have the same resources loaded (mirrored servers). External subscribers were directed, according to their location, to one of the two servers. Consistent document delivery and training services also needed to be in place at each university to ensure equitable service across the province.

1995 - 2001: Establishing HKN

Initially, HKN extended a core package of five bibliographic resources to individual hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary, a small number of colleges throughout Alberta, and libraries within the Alberta Government.

In early 2001, one time funding was secured from Alberta Learning to extend HKN resources to all academic institutions across Alberta. When funding ended, schools that had previously never purchased these resources now became regular subscribers.

Due to the limited subscriber base and resources, HKN had minimal cash flow. Administrative costs for running HKN were therefore covered by the two partner universities.

2002 - 2003: Technology Changes

In 2002, Ovid Technologies offered HKN the opportunity to migrate to Ovid's remote server. In addition, technological advances now allowed vendors to offer full text databases on their remote servers.

Remote access made the two universities' supporting internal network and server infrastructure unnecessary. Without the requirement for mirrored servers, the universities no longer needed to license the same resources in order to extend them to external subscribers.

The additional content offerings also allowed HKN to grow from six bibliographic databases offered in 2001 to nineteen full text journals, books and bibliographic databases the following year.

The growth in HKN's budget made it possible for HKN to now become a cost recovery operation.

2004 - 2012: Growth and Stability

In 2004, HKN continued its growth by negotiating licenses with two additional vendors and further expanding its full text offerings. While HKN was already licensing resources to a few health regions and to universities in Saskatchewan, coverage became province-wide when HKN became the licensing body for the Saskatchewan Health Information Resources Program (SHIRP) in 2004. By 2007, HKN began licensing for the University of Manitoba.

With the merger of Alberta Health Services (AHS) health regions into a single entity in 2012, HKN, as the licensing body for AHS, was able to extend the existing license agreements for the three largest health regions to every hospital in the province. HKN's goal to bridge the digital divide across Alberta was one step closer to becoming a reality.

2013: The Present

Today HKN licenses over 40 bibliographic databases, full text journal and e-book collections, and evidence-based clinical tools from ten different publishers and vendors. While the digital divide has grown significantly smaller with the merger of Alberta's health regions, inconsistent and at times, non-existent access remains an issue for many researchers, students and health practitioners.

Despite HKN's success in bringing health information to the majority of its constituents, Alberta has not achieved consistent, equitable access across the province. To address this issue, HKN continues to work with government and research agencies as well as other interested groups to find solutions that will eventually close this gap.