About

CW MARS is a diverse multi-type library consortium made up of over 100 member libraries primarily located in Central and Western Massachusetts. CW MARS is an acronym that stands for Central and Western MAssachusetts Resource Sharing.

We are the largest of nine library consortia in Massachusetts. Our membership is made up of academic, public, and special libraries of all sizes, from tiny towns with populations under 500 to large urban libraries with many branches. CW MARS hosts and supports the hardware and software needed to power our shared online library catalog and library staff software. We provide technical support to member libraries.

Mission

  • provide an economical and competitive Integrated Library System (ILS)
  • promote resource sharing
  • facilitate collaborations through emerging technologies
  • provide leadership and advocacy
  • be a trusted steward of the collective resources

Vision

Provide affordable opportunities for libraries to serve their communities.

Core Values

  • mutual trust, cooperation and respect among member libraries
  • recognize the importance of equity of service to all members
  • value and empower innovation
  • adhere to the basic principles of open access to information, patron privacy, and intellectual freedom in the delivery and management of all its systems and services

Funding

CW MARS is funded through annual membership fees and through Massachusetts state budget lines to support resource sharing and telecommunications administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC).

Additional funding for telecommunications comes from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) E-rate program and federal grant programs offered by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) that is administered through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and distributed by the MBLC.

Governance

The governing body of CW MARS is Users Council, which is made up of all member libraries. The Users Council meets at least four times a year, and each member library has one vote.

The CW MARS Executive Board is made up of 12 voting members of the Users Council. The Executive Board meets monthly. Directors are elected annually and serve for two year terms.

History

C/W MARS was formed to administer and utilize technology to promote sharing between libraries.

The idea for C/W MARS began in 1978, when 28 librarians in central and western Massachusetts joined together to investigate the possibility of cooperative automation for purposes of resource sharing, circulation control, and improved public access to resources in general. With the support of their Regional Library Systems, they applied for and won an LSTA grant and hired a consultant to do a feasibility study. The final report, issued in 1981, recommended an integrated, shared online system as both achievable and desirable in terms of cost, benefits, and services. A subsequent LSTA grant was awarded to fund central site hardware and software. An RFP was issued in September of 1981 and C/W MARS was established.

Representatives of the 28 member libraries painstakingly evaluated vendor capabilities and performance for circulation, interlibrary loan, acquisitions, cataloging, bibliographic record management, hardware and software. DataPhase Systems was chosen because it most closely met the requirements of C/W MARS members, and a contract was signed in September of 1982. The first remote bibliographic conversion sites were operational in October of 1983.

On July 27, 1984, C/W MARS became an independent non-profit organization incorporated under the Internal Revenue Code 501(c) and Chapter 180 of Massachusetts State Law.

In December of 1985, Utlas International purchased the local system software from DataPhase. Six year later, with the demise of Utlas International, C/W MARS signed a contract with CARL Systems on May 1, 1991, to provide new software on the existing hardware. The transition to the new CARL system took place over Columbus Day weekend in 1992.

In December of 1998 C/W MARS signed a contract with Innovative Interfaces, Inc to migrate from CARL to Millennium ILS.

Concerned about rising costs and wanting more control over software improvements, in the fall of 2010 C/W MARS began the process to migrate to an open source integrated library system, Evergreen. In May of 2012, C/W MARS went live on Evergreen.

In FY2020 CW MARS has grown to 147 member libraries and 175 outlets (branch locations).