Co-operation assisted the growth of library services in Saskatchewan, and continues to be a mechanism for library advancements today. A zeal for libraries and an ethic of co-operation motivated early library leaders to work together to expand library services province-wide. They shared resources and advocated for governments to fund and develop libraries. Over time, as more and different types of libraries developed, co-operation remained necessary for libraries to overcome perennial challenges: limited funds; serving a sparse population dispersed over a vast geographic area; and the reality that no library alone has the capacity to provide access to all information sources.
Co-operative practices were used in all aspects of library operations to produce efficiencies. Libraries exchanged bibliographic information, shared resources and technologies, and co-operated to build information tools such as bibliographies and indexes.
Libraries also sought to give Saskatchewan residents access to the total library materials in the province by arranging co-operative service policies. Reciprocal borrowing enabled residents to directly borrow material from any public library in the province. Interlibrary loans provided for the loaning of materials from one library to another. Public access to many specialized and academic collections was also arranged.
Most significantly, co-operative principles became the foundation for library organizational structures. The Library Inquiry Committee of 1967 recommended the development of regional and public library systems based on co-operative structures. It also recommended increased co-operation among all types of libraries. The Pahkisimon Nuye?áh Library System in northern Saskatchewan was established in 1990 as a federation of all types of libraries - the first organization of many types of libraries into a formal library system in Saskatchewan. In 1988, the Echo Valley Library Forum articulated a vision for formalized province-wide co-operation among all types of libraries. The Saskatchewan Library Association, the Saskatchewan Library Trustees' Association and, later, a Multitype Library Development Advisory Committee advanced the idea. In 1996, the Legislature passed The Libraries Co-operation Act establishing the Multitype Library Board to facilitate the development of the Saskatchewan Multitype Library System - a network of working relationships between any combination of autonomous libraries and information providers, established to share services and resources for mutual benefit. The Act mandated the Provincial Library to provide coordination support to the Board and the multitype system.
Rapid advances in technology, coupled with the establishment of the Multitype Library Board, increased collaborative opportunities, producing a period in which libraries achieved several co-operative innovations of note including: the Multitype Database Licensing Program (joint acquisition of large collections of electronic reading materials); Saskatchewan Libraries: Ask Us (the first province-wide public library collaborative online reference service in Canada); seamless online searching of many different library catalogues; and Saskatchewan Libraries website (www.lib.sk.ca), showcasing the collective resources and services of all types of libraries.
Library co-operation continues to grow and is expanding to include collaboration with other partners such as archives, educational institutions, and other types of information providers.