The province of Andalusia, Spain, has 41 traditional hospital libraries each with their own separate library. Six years ago the Andalusian Public Health System Virtual Library was initiated; its aims were to improve information services to all health professionals and to help citizens find non-biased comprehensible information. Supported by the provincial government they consolidated library budgets to journal subscriptions and electronic resources into one Virtual Library, thereby eliminating much replication and improving the resources available to smaller libraries and to Primary Care Health Centres.
The cost effectiveness of the project is described by L. Munoz-Gonzalez and V.Juan-Quilis* (no electronic version). The savings made by elimination of duplicate subscriptions covered all the costs of running the Virtual Library (salaries, staff education, rent, external services, miscellaneous costs, hardware software etc.) and allowed new services to be generated e.g. remote access to library resources independent of the user’s location, a document supply service, an institutional repository.
Conclusion: their Virtual Library is: cost effective; its usage produces a hypothetical demonstrable profit; negotiating strength results in economies of scale; its efficiency is evident.
This may not be fully relevant to the African environment now since universal and effective connectivity remains a problem and most institutions are eligible to use HINARI. But already you have consortia working with INASP which has comparable aims. So it is maybe worth thinking about.
Journal of the European Association for Health Information and Libraries v.7, no.4, Dec. 2011 p.3-6.