In the early 1980's, several members of the Fenway Library Consortium (FLC) investigated the feasibility of jointly operating an automated library system. During those years, the high costs of automation prohibited most small libraries from undertaking such a project independently. Having participated in resource sharing since the FLC's inception in 1975, the Fenway libraries believed that sharing online access to their collections would be a logical next step.
In January 1987, seven of the thirteen FLC libraries agreed to incorporate under the name of Fenway Libraries Online (FLO) for the purpose of developing and sharing an integrated library system. With the generous assistance of federal grants awarded by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the FLO libraries constructed and equipped a central computer facility at Wentworth Institute of Technology in the fall of 1988 and, in the winter of 1989, combined their OCLC and RLIN bibliographic records into a combined database representing approximately 500,000 volumes. By September of 1989, using software from Data Research Associates, the Fenway Libraries Online system was fully operational in all of the member libraries.
The creation of Fenway Libraries Online was made possible through the cooperation and hard work of many - consultants, institutional administrators, library directors, library staff and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The Wentworth Institute of Technology provided vital institutional support and, to this day, continues to host FLO's headquarters. Three people, in particular, deserve special credit for ensuring the early success of the organization. From 1984 to 1989, Ann Montgomery Smith, then Library Director at Wentworth Institute of Technology, volunteered her time to serve as project director and later President of Fenway Libraries Online. She provided FLO with the strong leadership needed to establish its stability and credibility. From 1988 to 2006, Jamie Ingram headed the FLO staff as Executive Director and with the assistance of Stephanie Norris, FLO Operator/Technician from 1989 to 1999, was responsible for the smooth implementation and running of the entire system.
In addition to providing libraries with a fully automated library system, Fenway Libraries Online has continued to offer its members additional benefits that would not have been attainable without their joint collaboration. From its very beginnings, FLO has given its library staff ongoing opportunities for professional development and the sharing of knowledge and experience. In 1990, FLO implemented a document delivery system that resulted in a dramatic increase in interlibrary loan throughout the network. In 1994, FLO offered its members their first Internet connection, including e-mail capabilities for faculty and staff. For several years, FLO has afforded member libraries new opportunities for cooperative collection development, especially in the acquisition of electronic databases.
As FLO anticipates the next ten years and the challenges of the 21st century, it will continue to look for new and improved ways to provide cost-effective information services to its users and to help its members deal with a constantly changing technological environment. Above all, FLO will continue to assist with the management and preservation of a combined collection now numbering 900,000 volumes to support the educational and research needs of its users.