BLC Network Zone FAQs

Have questions about BLC's Network Zone? Check out our frequently asked questions, below.

Shared Library System Overview

What library system is being used by BLC Shared Systems & Services?
The BLC’s Shared Library System initiative is implementing an Alma/Primo Network Zone, a product of the vendor Ex Libris.
What is an Ex Libris Network Zone?
A Network Zone, a proprietary product of the vendor Ex Libris, is a collaborative platform for shared services available to libraries using that company’s Alma/Primo VE system. With a Network Zone, libraries can create a shared catalog and then utilize these centralized holdings as the basis for numerous collaborative activities, including shared discovery, shared licensing, consortial purchasing, resource sharing, systems administration, and analytics.
How does a Network Zone operate, and who will operate it?
During the implementation process, libraries will work together to create rules and policies about the management of shared holdings information, and about specific collaborative functions. Following implementation, a shared systems manager will coordinate and administer these shared functions, and work with functional teams to optimize and improve collaborative activities.
What back-end library operations can be shared using the BLC Shared Library System?
Most system-related back-end library operations can be centralized using the BLC Shared Library System. Libraries can set up collective acquisitions purchases, collaboratively acquire and activate e-resources packages, and share vendor and license information. Libraries can also share systems operations, such as configuration tables, form letters, and administrative updates.
When will the BLC Shared Library System be implemented?
The initial cohort of BLC institutions will plan the Shared Library System through the fall and winter of 2023-24, and work on the implementation during spring 2024. The cutover to the shared system will occur in summer 2024.

Advantages and Considerations

What are the advantages of joining the BLC Shared Library System?
The BLC Shared Library System saves significant time for individual libraries because it reduces duplication of effort. Many back-end functions that had been done by each library can now be performed once, centrally. This enables libraries to be more flexible in deploying their staff, and for library staff to engage in other activities that benefit their institution. Libraries can also engage in true collaborative collection development, because records, vendor information and license information can all be shared. Further, users at each library can discover more resources, because records are shared and can be displayed centrally for patrons.
Does a library need to give up its autonomy in order to join the BLC Shared Library System?
Because holdings information and back-end functions are shared, libraries give up some autonomy in their resource management workflows in order to join and participate in the Shared Library System. The same is true for other back-end operations that are part of this system, such such as acquisitions, e-resources and administrative systems.
If I already have a systems librarian, could the BLC Shared Library System benefit my library?
Yes. The BLC Shared Library System benefits libraries’ back-end work holistically, reducing duplication and saving time across numerous functions, including acquisitions, e-resources administration and administrative updates. There are also benefits on the front end, including the potential to display records from any institution within the shared system.

Requirements and Steps

Does a library need to be on Alma/Primo VE to be part of the BLC Shared Library System?
Yes. BLC Shared Library System participation is only available to libraries using Alma/Primo VE. If a library is not using these systems, the library may elect to join BLC's consortial agreement and implement Alma/Primo VE.
Does a library need to be a Boston Library Consortium member to be part of the Shared Library System?
Yes. The Boston Library Consortium’s Shared Library System is part of the consortium’s overall suite of Shared Systems & Services. As such, libraries must be members of the Boston Library Consortium in order to join. More information about BLC membership can be found here.
What’s involved in migrating to the BLC Shared Library System?
The number of steps depends on whether the library is a) a member of the BLC, and b) using Alma/Primo VE. If the library is not a BLC member, it would need to pursue membership; information about that process can be found here. If the library is not currently using Alma/Primo VE, that library would need to migrate to Alma/Primo as part of its Shared Library System implementation. If libraries are BLC members using Alma/Primo VE, they would work with Ex Libris and member libraries on an implementation schedule to migrate to the Shared Library System (specifically, the Alma/Primo Network Zone). A key part of the Shared Library System–specific migration process is aligning bibliographic holdings data with the standards set by the group. Libraries would also need to work with existing teams to take part in other collaborative activities, such as acquisitions, e-resources, discovery, e-resources and fulfillment, along with considerations for unique materials.
What costs are associated with BLC Shared Library System membership?
Because all libraries that are part of the Boston Library Consortium’s Shared Library System must be BLC members, they are responsible for any BLC membership assessments, including an annual assessment and a one-time BLC Reserve Fund contribution. Specific assessments are FTE-dependent, and more information about them can be found here. In addition, because libraries using the Shared Library System must be Alma/Primo VE subscribers, they are responsible for subscription costs, which are set by Ex Libris and may include implementation fees. Finally, libraries using the Shared Library System are subject to an annual supplementary assessment set by the BLC, which covers the cost of the shared staff member and a portion of the time of other BLC staff members.

Operational Questions

How will the BLC Shared Library System affect resource sharing?
The Shared Library System will use the same Rapid ILL network as the rest of the BLC. While it’s true that users within the shared system are able to discover resources from those institutions more easily, requests will be routed through the BLC’s Rapid ILL network, and so may or may not be fulfilled from within the shared system. You can find more information on the BLC’s resource sharing services here.
How will the BLC Shared Library System affect our users’ ability to discover resources?
The Shared Library System’s catalog can publish records from all of its member institutions to users. Therefore, the shared system makes a much wider range of discovery possible through Primo VE.
Do all libraries in the BLC Shared Library System have to buy and/or subscribe to the same things?
No. The BLC Shared Library System does enable collaborative acquisitions, but does not require all purchases to be made in concert. Institutions have autonomy regarding their own acquisition decisions.
How will the BLC Shared Library System be governed once it is implemented?
Following implementation, the Shared Library System will be governed by teams of staff from member libraries. A group of leads, generally heads of collection development/resource management, will guide the operations of the shared system in coordination with the BLC’s shared systems and services manager. Teams representing functional areas will also guide ongoing decisions and developments. Also, a group of library directors will provide strategic and budgetary oversight.

Getting More Information

If my library is interested in participating in the BLC Shared Library System, what should I do?
Reach out to the BLC team at The team can provide more information and connect you to the group of directors and/or campus leads.
Where do I find more information from Ex Libris about its Network Zone product?
For introductory information about Alma and Primo VE, visit and choose either “Alma” or “Primo” under the “Products” menu. These pages also provide links to get in touch with the company. More detailed and technical documentation about various Ex Libris products can be found here. You can find specific information about Network Zones here.
Which other consortia use an Ex LibrisNetwork Zone as their shared system?
Many other library consortia are using an Ex Libris Network Zone, including: