Guiding the course of change

Case study


Module 4: Developing Strategic Relationships: Partnerships and Fundraising


Topic 7: Planning and Evaluating Relationships


Academic and research libraries play an important role in managing and making accessible scholarly information.   However, they face many new challenges as the management of research data and scholarly publishing are transformed by information and communications technologies.  This case study explores how the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) entered into a strategic partnership with the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) in order to address the issues confronting the institutional members of CARL.

Key Ideas

As you read the case study, think about the following issues:

  1. The role of library association at national and international level
  2. The benefits of sharing expertise
  3. The benefits of building alliances
  4. How library associations can develop a platform for advocacy by uniting and promoting common causes


The Canadian Association of Research Libraries/Association des bibliothèques de recherche du Canada (CARL/ABRC) was formed in 1976. The association has an institutional focus, with the membership comprising the 28 academic research libraries in Canada, plus three additional major research institutions: Library and Archives Canada, the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) and the Library of the Parliament. The association’s business is carried out through an elected Board, with a committee structure which is supplemented by working groups and task forces set up to deal with specific issues within a given period of time.


As a result of digital communication in the 21st century, research is becoming increasingly collaborative, multi-disciplinary and global in nature. There is therefore a strong push for increased access to research. In 2007 CARL undertook a strategic planning exercise that determined that the association should “be recognised internationally as a leading research library association whose member libraries are assets and major contributors to the development of research in Canada” (CARL, 2007a).

This strategic direction is underpinned by three guiding principles:

  • Access to information: CARL supports and promotes the right of all individuals to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity
  • Research libraries – a strategic national resource: CARL promotes the development of the collective human resources, materials and services of its member libraries as a strategic national information resource
  • Scholarly communication: CARL has a fundamental role in facilitating and enhancing the process of scholarly communication

CARL acknowledges that both advocacy and partnerships, as ‘strategic enablers’, will be critical to the success of these strategic directions, and ultimately the success of the association itself, in terms of its effectiveness, visibility and impact. “Advocacy occurs through the development and execution of systematic programs that engage with the academic community, influence government and inform the public. Partnership is both a strategy and a capacity. CARL will expand its capacity to build partnerships, and seek out partnership opportunities” (Mark, 2007).

The three guiding principles of access to information, the strategic role of research libraries and scholarly communication require strong partnerships at national and international levels. The CARL Strategic Plan 2010-2012 (CARL, 2010) focuses on the need to transform scholarly communication through a number of projects, which represent the direct objectives of the strategic plan:

  • Data management
  • Open access publication
  • Digitisation
  • Preservation of research collections

For each of these objectives, CARL has developed alliances with other organisations in order to strengthen the position of CARL and its members.

Create Change Canada

Through the open access project, CARL is encouraging researchers to archive their publications in digital repositories, thereby promoting the adoption of open access strategies at a national level. CARL has a partnership with SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). SPARC is an international alliance of more than 800 academic and research libraries that are working to achieve a more open system of scholarly communication. In 2008, CARL and SPARC launched Create Change Canada as a Canadian version of the web resource Create Change which was developed jointly by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and SPARC, with support from the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).

The Create Change Canada website aims to keep academic authors informed about emerging international trends in scholarly publishing and helps them achieve high levels of visibility and impact for their publications (CARL, 2008). The initiative has supported the development of national policies about access to publicly funded research. The original website was adapted to meet the immediate needs of the Canadian research community, with information in both English and French. The website includes areas that discuss the issues associated with digital scholarship and new modes of communication, with guidance about how to stay informed of new developments. It acknowledges the varied roles played by researchers, for example as faculty member, teacher, author, reviewer, editor, editorial board member or professional society member. The site also acts as a portal to many other useful websites and online resources.

The two organisations also collaborated on the SPARC Canadian Author Addendum which moves away from traditional publishing agreements which require that authors grant exclusive rights to the commercial publisher. The Author Addendum “enables authors to secure a more balanced agreement by retaining select rights, such as the rights to reproduce, reuse and publicly present the articles they publish for non-commercial purposes” (CARL, 2007b). It reflects Canadian copyright law and goes a long way to help authors understand their publishing rights.


Members of CARL believed it was important to engage in advocacy as a strategic activity, specifically to respond to the emerging challenges of research and scholarly communication in the digital age. The facilitation of scholarly communication is critical to academic and research libraries, but individual libraries can achieve very little at the local, autonomous level. Cooperation and collaboration at the national and international level offers the potential to increase the relevancy and value of the work undertaken by research libraries, with the professional association providing the leadership to advance the advocacy agenda through open dialogue with the academic community, government and the public. The establishment of the Create Change Canada website is offered as an example of a strategic initiative on behalf of CARL.


  1. The alliance with SPARC was forged as a result of CARL’s strategic planning process. Who are the key stakeholders and how do they benefit from the alliance?
  2. Identify the major benefits of the Create Change Canada initiative to CARL and its members. Do you believe that individual libraries or institutions have achieved these benefits alone?
  3. The partnerships established by CARL are viewed as ‘strategic enablers’. Do you believe similar approaches could work for your library association? Can you identify some partnerships that could work as ‘strategic enablers’ to support your association’s plans? If yes, outline how this might be achieved and suggest some institutions that may be useful partners.
  4. Briefly outline how you would build an alliance. Can you identify the opportunities an alliance might offer, as well as some of the risks that may need to be considered.

Case Notes

Resource: Case study
Country: Canada
Region: North America
Agency: Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL)
Topic: Strategic partnerships
Keywords: research libraries, partnerships, advocacy, scholarly publishing, open access


Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL). (2007a). Strategic directions. Available online: Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL). (2007b). CARL and SPARC offer Canadian authors new tool to widen access to published articles. Available online: Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL). (2008). CARL and SPARC announce Create Change Canada. Available online: Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL). (2010). CARL strategic plan 2010-2012. Available online: Mark, T. (2007). National and international library collaboration: Necessity, advantages. Liber Quarterly, 17(3/4). Create Change Canada: Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC):

Associations, Canada, Building Strong Library Associations

Last update: 21 October 2012