A History of Collaboration

Established in 1967, OCUL has a long history of collaboration and cooperation among its member institutions and a reputation for creating services focused on direct benefits to students, faculty and research.


Inter-University Transit System (IUTS) 1967: initiated by OCUL to support interlibrary loans; now operated by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) for a broad range of inter-institutional shipments.


Inter-Library Loan (ILL) 1970: an agreement among OCUL libraries to provide the inter-library loan of books at no charge to the requesting institution. Photocopies of articles are provided at a nominal fee.

Training 1970s: OCUL workshops for professional development of librarians and management staff. Shared approach has expanded access to upgrading and professional growth.

Directory and Statistics 1970: directory of libraries, contact information, service information and collections. Annual statistics are now prepared by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), which provides management data and benchmarking information.

Serials in Ontario University Libraries (SOUL formerly CUSS) 1972: a shared catalogue of all journals (serials) held in OCUL libraries. A resource to support province-wide access to academic resources in Ontario.

UNICAT/TELECAT 1974-1980: a cooperative cataloguing service that enabled shared access to catalogue records across all OCUL members, reducing costs in cataloguing new acquisitions.

Inter-University Borrowing Project (IUBP) 1974: an agreement, unprecedented in Canada or the United States, allowing Ontario students and faculty members to borrow directly from any OCUL library.

CODOC 1974: a cataloguing system for government documents developed by the University of Guelph and adopted by many OCUL libraries that reduced processing costs in cataloguing documents and facilitated user access to a vast array of government publications.

OCUL Map Group 1975: map librarians who operate programs to share duplicate maps and negotiate consortium purchases of maps and geospatial data. The group maintains lists of topographical map series and atlases held in OCUL libraries to ensure access to unique materials throughout the province.

Tattletape 1975: annual group purchase of book security strips (now includes libraries in Quebec and Western Canada). Reduced purchasing costs and streamlined procurement process.


Preservation and Restoration 1980: McMaster University provides preservation and restoration services for all OCUL libraries on a shared basis eliminating the need for local preservation units and the substantial costs of specialized expertise and facilities (e.g. preservation laboratories).

Interfilm 1985: a shared catalogue of the films and videotapes held by OCUL libraries. Supports access to materials and enables the interlibrary loan of resources. Staff members responsible for film and video meet twice a year to exchange information and share expertise.


Consortium of Ontario Academic Health Libraries (COAHL) 1990: shared network access to health-related databases among the OCUL institutions with medical programs. Reduced costs and expanded access to key learning and research resources.

Academic Journal Access Project 1992: a program to enhance the infrastructure for inter-institutional cooperation and sharing of resources at a time of severe funding constraints. The three-part program was implemented at each of the OCUL libraries:
1. Ariel: a system for the digital transmission of documents over the Internet to speed interlibrary deliveries;
2. Aviso: an ILL package to manage increased transactions and facilitate rapid sharing of resources; and
3. Core Journals Program: a collections development program to ensure continuing access to specialized journals in Ontario during a period when serials cancellations were widespread.

Consortia Purchases of e-Resources 1990s: extensive program of consortium purchase and licensing of electronic resources to support teaching, learning and research. Savings can be measured in two ways:
1. actual discounts
2. wider access to electronic resources

OCUL Information Resources Group 1999: a group representing all OCUL members created to investigate equitable cost-sharing opportunities in the collaborative purchasing of materials.


Canadian National Site Licensing Project (CNSLP) 2000: all OCUL libraries are participants in this Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funded initiative ($20M from CFI and $30M in matching funds from 64 academic institutions) to enable national licensing of electronic resources to increase access and reduce costs. Ontario Innovative Trust funding ($7.6M) will enable Ontario to initiate the Ontario Information Infrastructure (OII) to ensure rapid and ongoing access to these new resources for OCUL libraries. CNSLP was succeeded by the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN), "a partnership of Canadian universities, dedicated to expanding digital content for the academic research enterprise in Canada."

Canadian University Reciprocal Borrowing Agreement 2002: OCUL members join with Canadian university libraries in regional consortia (COPPUL, CREPUQ and CAUL/CBUA) in agreeing to extend in-person borrowing privileges to students, faculty and staff from across the country.

Scholars Portal 2002: Scholars Portal (created with OII funding) is a shared technology infrastructure and shared collections for all 21 universities in Ontario. Scholars Portal Journals and Racer (Rapid Access to Collections by Electronic Requesting), an online interlibrary loan request system, are the first modules to go live.

Ozone 2004: OCUL partners with the Ontario Legislative Library to provide access to born-digital Ontario government documents in an OCUL D-Space installation called Ozone.

OCUL Data in Ontario (DINO) 2004: group established that will promote and encourage the advancement of access to electronic data resources, such as, but not restricted to, those provided under the Data Liberation Initiative (DLI); facilitate the exchange of ideas, and discussion amongst data professionals, encourage collaborative initiatives and the development of new ideas that increase access and allow for more efficient use of resources; and collectively lobby government and commercial institutions and liaise with professional data organization across Canada and around the world.

Scholars Portal RefWorks 2004: service provision and support for this software begin, allowing users to automatically transfer bibliographic information from searched texts into a variety of citation formats.

Scholars Portal SFX 2004: this link-resolving software provides navigable linking in scholarly literature.

Scholars Portal Search 2005: Illumina (CSA) provides federated searching of Scholars Portal e-resources.

CACUL Innovation Achievement Award 2005: awarded to OCUL for the Scholars Portal project. The award "recognizes academic libraries which, through innovation in ongoing programs/services or in a special event/project, have contributed to the advancement of academic librarianship and library development."

Scholars Portal MINES 2005: MINES for Libraries™, a transaction-based research methodology consisting of a web-based survey form and a random moments sampling plan, shows that Scholars Portal resources are heavily used by faculty and students in all OCUL institutions collecting data from more than 20,000 uses over the course of a year.

Scholars Portal 2006: Scholars Portal becomes an OCUL service funded by its members when the Oll-funded project ends.

Ontario Library Association President’s Award for Exceptional Achievement 2006: award to OCUL by the OLA in recognition of vision and collaboration in creating Scholars Portal.

OCUL Strategic Plan 2006: OCUL adopts a plan for 2006-2008. Steering Committees to support OCUL goals are created.

Knowledge Ontario 2006: first-ever collaboration of the province’s 6,500 university, community college, school, public and government libraries established.

OCUL Scholars Portal Operations and Development Committee 2007: established to oversee the operations and development of Scholars Portal, working in collaboration with the University of Toronto, as Service Provider, and Scholars Portal Operation Team.

Scholars Portal Verde 2007: an electronic resource management software system allowing universities to easily access subscriptions to academic text. OCUL was an early adopter of this (non-core) project supported by the Scholars Portal Operations Team.

Ontario Data Documentation, Extraction Service and Infrastructure 2007: a web-based data exploration, extraction and analysis tool OCUL funded through the BPS Supply Chain Secretariat, Ontario Ministry of Finance. The service runs on Nesstar and MarkLogic technology.

OCUL E-Book Platform project 2007: a shared e-book platform to host e-books (both licensed materials and digitized public domain materials) on Scholars Portal, funded by the BPS Supply Chain Secretariat, Ontario Ministry of Finance. The service runs on the ebrary Isis platform and MarkLogic technology.

OCUL Executive Director 2007: OCUL appoints first Executive Director. The ED reports to the Chair, serves as the chief administrative officer of OCUL and is a member of the OCUL Executive committee.

Resource Sharing Agreement 2007: OCUL agrees with Canadian regional consortia (COPPUL, CREPUQ, and CAUL/CBUA) to formalize a resource-sharing agreement that incorporates all four groups and will extend reciprocal interlibrary loan / document delivery privileges in Canadian universities.

OCUL Outstanding Contribution Award 2008: an award established to recognize the outstanding contribution of an individual or team of individuals within the OCUL consortium. Recipients of the award, which may be given annually, will be exemplary contributors to the OCUL vision.

OCUL Thunder Bay Agreement 2008: a strategy to address the challenges of maintaining low-use and last-copy print materials agreed upon at the fall 2008 OCUL meeting at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay (adopted April 2009).

Ontario Digitization Initiative 2009: a partnership with various organizations in Ontario to digitize Ontario government documents and make them available on the Internet Archive site and on Scholars Portal. More than 900,000 pages are digitized in the first pilot project in spring 2009. OCUL receives funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario to digitize Ontario Royal Commissions and Commissions of Inquiry. This project will continue as funding resources and new partnerships are identified.

Scholars Portal Journals 2009: a second generation of the service, developed by the Scholars Portal Operations Team using Mark Logic technology is launched.

OCUL Geospatial and Health Informatics Cyberinfrastructure Project 2009: a new storage and data discovery tool that, along with the social science data delivery system, will provide a portal to Ontario researchers to access numeric and spatial datasets. Funded by the BPS Supply Chain Secretariat, Ontario Ministry of Finance.


Scholars Portal Books 2010: a shared platform providing access to a collection of more than 235,000 texts from both commercial publishers and digitized public domain materials is launched.

Scholars Portal MINES 2010: second MINES survey began in Ontario universities.

Scholars Portal Journals 2010: 20 million articles milestone reached.

Scholars Portal IPY 2010: Scholars Portal becomes a member of the International Polar Year Data Assembly Centre Network (IPY-DACN).

Scholars GeoPortal 2011: a hardware and software infrastructure that provides access to large-scale geospatial data sets, as well as sophisticated search, discovery and analysis tools to make the data readily available to Ontario researchers.

Ask a Librarian 2011: a chat reference service allowing university students to connect via chat with academic librarians, library staff and trained interns.

OCUL Usage Rights (OUR) Database 2011: provides OCUL schools with detailed information on their usage rights for OCUL collections.

Scholars Portal Usage Data 2011: successfully completed the final stage of an external audit for COUNTER compliance.

Dataverse 2012: Scholars Portal begins hosting a repository for research data collected by individuals and organizations affiliated with Ontario universities. 

Scholars Portal Books 2012: 500,000 ebooks milestone reached.

Scholars Portal 2013: Scholars Portal certified by Center for Research Libraries (CRL) as a Trustworthy Digital Repository for e-journal content.

Accessible Content EPortal (ACE) 2013: ACE is a repository of accessible format texts available to users with print disabilities at OCUL institutions. 

Collaborative Futures Project 2014: launch of a multi-phase project to implement a distributed and shared collaborative approach to print and electronic/digital resource management.  

Clavardez avec nos bibliothécaires 2014: Clavardez avec nos bibliothécaires is a pilot virtual reference service in French launched in collaboration with the libraries of the University of Ottawa, Laurentian University and Glendon campus of York University.

OCUL Communities 2014: launch of OCUL Communities of Interest.

Open Journal System (OJS) hosting 2014: Scholars Portal provides hosting service for member institutions.

Ontario Library Research Cloud (OLRC) 2015: preservation storage for Ontario’s scholarly material. 350 TB of data storing 3 copies across 5 nodes across Ontario. 

OCUL's 50th Anniversary 2017: OCUL celebrates 50 years of collaboration. 

OCUL’s Historical Topographic Map Digitization Project 2017: over 1,000 historical topographic maps of Ontario digitized through a province-wide collaboration, led by the OCUL Geo Community, and made publicly available through the Scholars GeoPortal and a dedicated project website.

Permafrost 2018: hosted digital preservations services by Scholars Portal that provisions a suite of tools, training and resources to enable members of the Ontario Council of University Libraries to begin actively processing digital objects for long-term preservation and access. 

Scholars Portal Books Redesign 2018: a complete overhaul of the Books platform improves searching and browsing for end users and the development of an administrative tool for OCUL members to view up-to-date title lists, entitlements, and usage statistics.

Omni 2019: Omni academic search tool launched in December 2019 at 14 OCUL member institutions as an outcome of the OCUL Collaborative Futures initiative.