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Library-Extension Collaboration Initiative



Concept Paper for Library Community and
E-Extension Collaborative Pilot Studies

The Opportunity

Given recent widespread budget constraints coupled with dramatic advances in information technology, we now have a unique environment to build on the mutual strengths of Extension and Libraries to provide better service for a shared customer base.

E-Extension is a national initiative proposed by the Cooperative Extension System "to implement a national Internet-based information and education network that provides public access to land-grant university (LGU) expertise." Similarly, the nine-year old AgNIC initiative was established to bring to the public high-quality agricultural information through a single Web interface by leveraging the historic commitment and resources of land-grant universities, the National Agricultural Library, Cooperative Extension, and others. In recent discussions, Carla Stoffle, Dean of Libraries at the University of Arizona noted: “AgNIC and e-Extension have common customers, goals, opportunities, and challenges. We should be working together.”


The Western Rangelands Partnership is a model for successful cooperation between the Library and Extension communities. This partnership, which grew out of the AgNIC initiative, has significantly reduced duplication of effort among 18 land-grant universities by integrating tools and resources to meet user needs through a common gateway []. This model should be expanded to fully meet the potential of e-Extension and AgNIC.



The Proposal


We propose initiating four content development team pilot studies for each Extension region involving both the Library community and e-Extension to assess the potential for leveraging resources to create a more cost effective business model. Drawing on the 2003 “e-Extension Pre-Select Business Case,” the following library strengths and resources have been identified as areas for collaboration and resource sharing:


Libraries have the experience and technical leadership in:

  1. Providing distributed reference services
  2. Organizing specialized Web-based content
  3. Creating electronic agricultural thesauri and metadata standards
  4. Training in search strategies and information literacy
  5. Preserving the core literature of agriculture

Libraries bring to the table established resources and collaborations, such as:

  1. AGRICOLA database to increase access for e-Extension products
  2. AgNIC Portal and web services applications for testbed
  3. AgNIC Alliance including NAL, land-grant libraries and extension units, agencies, non-profits, and others
  4. Western Rangelands Partnership model

Extension brings one hundred years of experience in:

  1. Creating unbiased science-based resources for local communities
  2. Establishing strong linkages among the land-grant research enterprise
  3. Developing educational programs with broad public interest

Extension brings to the table established resources and collaborations, such as:

  1. Network of more than 3,100 local Extension offices
  2. Expertise to develop user-focused content
  3. “e-Extension Pre-Select Business Case” vetted through a series of stakeholder workshops
  4. A developing plan for peer review

Next Steps for Pilot Projects

  1. Establish agreement to cooperate between E-COP, ARL library directors, and other LGU library directors (1st month)
  2. Set up management team (1st month)
  3. Select topics for content development for each pilot project (2nd month)
  4. Establish partnering groups of Extension and Library professionals (2nd month)
  5. Develop an iterative product development protocol (by 3rd month)
  6. Identify benchmarks for cost benefits and decision-making (1st-2nd months)
  7. Modify AgNIC technical architecture and user interface to incorporate the e-Extension brand (1st through 6th months for prototype)
  8. Initial product release for review (9th month)
  9. Seek customer and stakeholder input through usability testing (9th through 12th months)
  10. Market the product (9th month to end of pilot projects)
  11. Evaluate cost-benefit measurements (12th month)
  12. Refine e-Extension business model
  13. Develop and extend successes


Funding Needed to Implement Pilot Projects

  1. Programmers to adapt the AgNIC Portal for e-Extension pilot projects ($100,000)
  2. Technical support for thesaurus ($25,000)
  3. Content Development Teams (one for each extension region) ($30,000 each = $120,000)
  4. Business Analyst Position ($50,000)
  5. Product testing, focus groups, usability studies ($25,000)


Mutual Benefits for Partnering

  1. Improved and expanded information and educational products
  2. Increased user access to and awareness of products
  3. Elimination of duplication of effort
  4. Integration of services to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness


Susan McCarthy, NAL and Barbara Hutchinson, University of Arizona

May 2004