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Orbis Cascade Alliance
Council Member Handbook
  1. Introduction
  2. History of the Alliance
Introduction to the Alliance
  5. Alliance Structure -- Staff, Board/Council, Teams/Groups
    • Alliance Staff
    • Board

    • Teams / Groups
  6. General communication methods
  7. Alliance Programs
  8. Serving on Council
Council Member Position Description
  10. Council Meetings
  11. What to do first


The Orbis Cascade Alliance is a member-driven consortium. The leaders of all member libraries take an active role in the governance of the organization by serving on the Alliance Council, which is the decision-making body for the consortium and determines its strategic priorities.

This handbook provides an overview of the structure and functions of the Alliance; of the responsibilities of member institutions and their Council representatives; and of the operational culture of the consortium. In addition to this handbook, core documents that each Council member should review include:

  1. Bylaws of Orbis Cascade Alliance (governance)
  2. Orbis Cascade Alliance Memorandum of Understanding (member responsibilities)
  3. Orbis Cascade Alliance Financial Framework (fee and financial assumptions)

History of the Alliance


Introduction to the Alliance


The Orbis Cascade Alliance enables member libraries to advance institutional missions through collaboration and innovation.


The Orbis Cascade Alliance is an exemplar of the 21st century library consortium. We join together in the spirit of innovation and combined expertise, seeking efficiency and productivity to strongly promote the success of students, faculty, staff, and researchers. We bring multiple perspectives together to challenge traditional thinking and elevate our ability to deliver outstanding services, programs, and collections.

As a membership organization we value open communication, innovation, agility, discussion and collaborative decision making that elicits and includes the perspectives of each member. We value and nurture strong and lasting personal and institutional commitments to our work together. Where differences occur we value open debate, exploration, willingness to change, and the creation of solutions that serve the collective good of our member colleges and universities as a whole.

Strategic Plan

Alliance is guided by a regularly-updated strategic plan and set of strategic priorities. The current strategic planning cycle will support consortium activities beginning in January 2019 through fiscal year 2024.

The Alliance’s current Strategic Agenda is:

Work Smart

Work and partner at the appropriate scale: local, regional, national, international

Maximize impact

  • Do things once
  • Do things the same
  • Do things together
Invest in staff training, development, and expertise
Leverage financial resources

Design for Engagement
Collect wisely, share freely, and enhance the teaching, learning, and research environment
Investigate, create, and implement discovery and resource sharing tools Expose and preserve unique collections Improve usability and reduce barriers to access Collaborate for shared access and shared collections Create and promote new models of publication and data curation Explore new models of pedagogy to advance learning and scholarship.

Innovate to Transform
Push boundaries, change the landscape, and inspire the profession
Demonstrate the broader contributions of libraries in higher education
Pursue research
Develop groundbreaking services
Reimagine shared systems
Advocate for change


Membership criteria and non-member participation
Member institutions must be NWCCU accredited, non-profit organizations of higher learning in Washington, Oregon, or Idaho. Members must agree to use the consortium”s shared integrated library system, agree to the terms of the member Memorandum of Understanding, and participate in all core Alliance Programs (as opposed to opt-in programs). Evidence of institutional financial support for library services, and ability to contribute to the shared collections and services of the Alliance are factors in considering new members. New members may be admitted by two-thirds vote of members present at a Council meeting at which a quorum is present.

Non-member institutions may use some Alliance services on a fee basis. Non-member participation in Alliance services is only offered if participation does not detract from the benefit members achieve and if either (a) additional participants improves service for all participants, (b) members determine it is financially advantageous to serve non-members, or (c) members determine that the benefits outweigh the cost of expanded service to non-members.

Membership fee structure
Annual membership dues are set by the Council and are billed to each member at the beginning of each fiscal year. Other fees (e.g. for specific programs) are determined by Council and are billed on a schedule also determined by Council. In addition to annual membership dues, all members are required to pay fees for core Alliance programs and services.

Core programs and services are those which all members use and/or benefit from and are included in the membership criteria. In addition, all members are expected to support core programs and services through commitment of staff time (see description of Teams / Groups in this handbook).

Fees for required financial obligations (membership dues and core programs/services) are currently calculated based on a combination of these factors, depending on the program/service: a flat fee; student FTE; and usage of service. For example, the current formula for both annual member dues and the shared integrated library system is: 40% of the fee is an equal distribution + 60% of the fee is based on student FTE (a 3 year rolling average for each member is used to determine the % of total Alliance member FTE). Annual increases in required financial obligations should be anticipated; increases are normally based on the rate of inflation and the cost of new core programs and services. This membership fee formula is regularly reviewed by the Alliance Board and Council.

Optional programs and services are funded by opt-in fee structures, which are set at a level intended to fund the full cost of participation in the program or service, including administration, equipment, space, etc.

Memorandum of Understanding: Member responsibilities
The Orbis Cascade Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlines the terms of membership and the responsibilities of each member institution. In brief, members are expected to:

  • Pay all entry fees and annual membership/core service fees
  • Contribute a representative to serve on the Council; this should be the library director or equivalent (who has fiduciary responsibility for their library), who should actively participate in all Council meetings and activities
  • Provide, at its expense, all costs to link and ensure reliable network access from the institution to Alliance administered systems
  • Contribute data and participate in collection sharing according to policies approved by the Council
  • Participate in physical document delivery services that support interlibrary circulation
  • Maintain active participation in core operational groups as defined by Council
  • Maintain active participation in groups pursuing Alliance strategic initiatives
The MOU also outlines the circumstances under which membership may be terminated either by the Alliance or by the member.

In addition to these responsibilities described in the MOU, member institutions are expected to participate in all other core (all-in) programs and services of the Alliance (see Alliance Programs ). Programs and services are designated as core (all-in) by the Alliance Council.

Alliance Structure -- Staff, Board/Council, Teams/Groups
The Orbis Cascade Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. The Alliance is governed by the Council of member library leaders, from which a Board of Directors is elected to provide overall guidance to Council, Alliance operations and paid staff, and the organization as a whole. Activities of the Alliance are organized into five program areas, each served by a program manager and team composed of member library staff: Discovery & User Experience, Resource Sharing & Fulfillment, Shared Content & Technical Services, Systems, and Unique & Local Content. In addition to these program areas, there are teams dedicated to Finance and Policy & Coordination. Each team designates standing and ad hoc work groups drawn from member library staff as needed for ongoing and project work.

Alliance operations and paid staff (program managers and other functional specialists; currently 11.0 FTE) are led and supervised by an Executive Director. The Executive Director collaborates closely with the Board and Council to guide the development of current and long-range goals and strategies and their implementation. The Executive Director is an ex officio non-voting member of the Board and Council and an officer of the corporation. The position reports to the Chair of the Alliance Board.

Alliance Staff
For up-to-date staff information, refer to the Alliance Staff webpage
The Board of Directors is elected by Council from within the Council membership. Board members serve 2 or 3 year terms, depending on the position. The Board meets regularly in person and virtually to provide overall guidance to Council, Alliance staff, and the organization.

Election process
The election process for Board position begins in January or February. Every year, a Chair-Elect and Members-At-Large are elected. Other officers (Treasurer, Secretary) are elected every other year. Interim members of Council (those holding interim status at their institutions) are not eligible to serve on the Board.
See the Alliance Board Elections webpage for the complete election process.

Board/Council governance relationship
The Council governs the Alliance, and holds the responsibility for adopting an annual budget and determining the strategic direction of the Alliance. As part of its strategic authority, Council reserves the ability to approve: the terms of membership, the creation or revision of all major policies, new initiatives and programs, significant financial commitments (as part of the annual budget or during the fiscal year), and any formal partnerships between the Alliance and other entities. Council meets formally three times a year to consider new and ongoing business, and to adopt the Alliance budget.

The Board holds fiduciary responsibility for the Alliance, meets more frequently than Council and previews and shapes recommendations and agenda items for consideration and action at Council meetings, including proposing an annual budget. The Board also provides oversight for, and evaluates, the Executive Director of the Alliance.

Teams / Groups

Teams are appointed each year to fulfill the mission of the organization. Teams are led by and made up of staff from member libraries, and staffed by Alliance paid employees. It is unusual, but not unprecedented, for Council members to serve on Teams. However, each Team is assigned a Council liaison , whose primary responsibility is to enhance communication between the Team and Council and the Board.
Current Teams are:

Each team creates both Standing Groups (to perform ongoing tasks) and Project Groups (to complete time-limited projects) to provide functional support for its program area.
See the Alliance”s Team and Group Structure for up-to-date information.

Team roles/expectations of member participation
Team members are appointed by the Board, following either nomination or self-nomination. The
Board makes every effort to appoint teams that reflect the diversity of the Alliance member
institutions in order to ensure that all perspectives are considered. However, Team members do
not represent their institutions, but are expected to use their experience to inform the teams”
efforts for the good of the entire membership.

Council members should encourage their staff to participate in Teams (as appropriate criteria for Team members should be consulted prior to nominations) to the extent possible. Council members are expected to manage Team members” workloads at their institutions so that the work of Team members--especially Team and Group chairs--is not seen as ‘extra’ or ‘as time allows,’ but rather an important formal assignment. Thus local member work should be adjusted as possible so that consortial work is not an infringement on personal time.

Council members may nominate their staff members for Team positions. If a staff member is
nominated by someone else (or via self nomination), the Council member will receive an
automated email with the nomination information so that they are aware of potential participation
within their organization.

In addition to Team members, each member institution is expected to appoint a representative
to every Team. Representatives do not participate in the work of Teams, but are institutional
liaisons who receive communication from Teams and are often responsible for gathering
institutional feedback on Team projects. Representatives are considered as speaking for their
institution and are consulted by the Team and assigned program manager as needed.

Group types/roles/expectations of member participation
Teams form and create charges for Groups to achieve Alliance goals. Teams issue calls one or
more times a year to staff Groups. Criteria for choosing members are similar to those for Teams,
plus specific skills and expertise identified by the Team.

Similar to Team members, it is expected that Council members will encourage their staff to
participate in Groups, and should manage Group members” workloads to recognize the needs
and impact of Alliance work for Group members. Group participation may be more time-limited
than Team participation, but is usually more work-intensive.

There are two types of Groups:

  • Standing Groups: These Groups serve a similar function each year and members are appointed each year. (e.g. E-Book Working Group; Norm Rules).
  • Project Groups: These Groups serve for fewer than 6 months, and conduct specific, limited tasks. (e.g. NZ Manager Support Group).
The chart below should help identify the differences between Teams, Standing Groups, and Project Groups.