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About the BISC Biosciences Information Sources Consortium

In 2002, a consortium of biological and biomedical sciences libraries in the New York/Boston corridor was formed named the BioSciences Information Synthesis Collaborative (“BISC”).   These libraries have highly focused collections aligned with the areas of expertise unique to each institution.  They also all have research user communities whose information needs regularly extended into the literature of other areas of life science.  By entering into the BISC consortium the libraries were all effectively extending the breadth of their collections, and consequently their abilities to respond to information demands not met by a researcher’s home library.  The first focus of the collaboration was to improve the speed and quality of science information support to all of the user communities through access to one another’s resources.   The founding library members were from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, The New York Botanical Gardens, the American Museum of Natural History, and The Rockefeller University.  Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center joined in 2005.  The Science, Industry and Business branch of New York Public Library joined in 2008.   The Wildlife Conservation Society is joining in 2009.
It was soon obvious that this collaboration had the potential to do much more than share collections.   Meetings were held twice each year hosted at the various member institutions. Discussion centered on the effectiveness of sharing, and on possibilities for new cooperative effort. A small grant from the Jewett Foundation enabled the first analysis of the literature output by all the scientists in the various institutions looking for collaborative and opportunistic areas of research.   Members were interested in building upon the traditional ILL style sharing of resources.   New technology enabled the consideration of shared purchases, improved speed and delivery of sharing, and even innovative projects to produce entirely new capabilities.  The first shared purchase was a consortium license to access selected Knovel data files in 2007.
With the economic downturn of 2008-9, the BISC libraries are now interested in more closely managing their collections jointly to reduce operating costs for each library while continuing to maintain the strength and diversity of our joint collections. One of the first innovative joint projects proposed was to develop a well-organized digital reference library for the members.  The joint pressures of strained budgets and ubiquitous availability and use of internet resources changed the traditional concept of “reference” services and collections. Print reference collections were dwindling, but high quality reference websites were unorganized and relatively unknown.  The project goal was to create a jointly maintained website that contained extensive high quality reference sites based on the expertise of the consortium’s members. This resource would be a more diverse product than could be provided by any one institution.  In 2009, this project came to fruition with the creation of the BISC Ereference website (, now called the Biosciences Information Sources Consortium.