In 1984, the Alabama legislature funded the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries (NAAL) to correct deficiencies in graduate-level library resources identified by an assessment of Alabama’s academic libraries. NAAL was charged with coordinating a statewide program to strengthen and share library resources supporting graduate education and research. Since then, the program has eliminated the requirement that member institutions have graduate programs and expanded its services to greatly improve library resources for all Alabamians. NAAL’s ongoing support for the Alabama Virtual Library and AlabamaMosaic digital collections provides leadership for all types of cultural heritage repositories including public, school, and community college libraries, as well as museums and archives. As a result of NAAL’s vision, all Alabamians have access to high quality information resources at a level unimaginable in 1984.
NAAL seeks to eliminate financial, physical, political, and technological barriers that prevent students and other users from obtaining needed information. NAAL programs and initiatives that significantly improve both the quality and quantity of information resources supporting higher education include:
- Contributing holdings information to an online catalog, searchable via FirstSearch WorldCat at the Alabama Virtual Library
- Sharing library materials among all academic libraries and lending without charge to affiliated users in NAAL institutions. Requested items are delivered quickly: electronic transfers arrive within 24 hours while physical items such as books are delivered overnight using a commercial package delivery service.
- Supporting statewide information needs by lending academic library materials to Alabama public libraries without charge.
- Assessment of academic library collections to eliminate gaps in acquisitions and achieve a collaborative research-level collection accessible to any Alabama student or researcher.
- Shared licensing of electronic databases resulting in significant savings for NAAL members.
- Developing the concept of a statewide virtual library, a set of core information resources supporting educational and lifelong learning needs for all Alabamians, and fostering the coalition that successfully obtained state funding to create the Alabama Virtual Library (AVL). The AVL gained national recognition as a model for other states to emulate.
- AlabamaMosaic, a digital collection of original and unique treasures documenting Alabama history freely accessible online.
- The Alabama Digital Preservation Network (ADPNet), a distributed digital preservation network for locally created digital content. ADPNet represents a low-cost digital preservation solution for academic institutions, state agencies, and cultural heritage organizations in Alabama.
- Sponsorship of in-person and online continuing education activities to enhance the skills of information professionals.