There are four categories:
- Oxford Online Library Champion of the Year. Designed to honour the exceptional contribution of an individual member of library staff who has successfully championed Oxford Online resources.
- Best Overall Strategy to Promote Awareness of Oxford Online Resources. An award for the public library authority which has carried out the most imaginative and effective range of awareness campaigns to promote the availability of Oxford Online resources to library members and the general public.
- Best website promotion. An award for the public library authority which has used their website most effectively to build awareness of Oxford Online resources.
- Most effective staff training. An award recognising the public library authority which has best demonstrated their commitment to staff training on Oxford Online resources.
Nomination forms are available at http://www.oxfordonline.com/mla/awards/As with the Love Libraries Award I am generally in favour of this. The MLA/OUP National Agreement covers 145 out of 149 library authorities in England and means that over 48 million English residents can explore good quality online resources free of charge until 31 March 2008 simply by joining their local library. If OUP wants to promote this by sponsoring these awards then they are to be congratulated. However there is an issue here. Despite the headline, this award is not about promoting online resources - it is about promoting the resources of one particular publisher. To quote the CILIP Code of Professional Conduct , librarians should:
8. ensure that the materials to which they provide access are those which are most appropriate to the needs of legitimate users of the service
This implies that we should provide access to a range of resources and not just the output of one publisher. It is similar to a debate that is going on as to whether library catalogues should provide links to Amazon as a source of information about titles. This is done by some academic libraries but I don't know of any public libraries doing this. I suspect that most library authorities would not want to be seen promoting a single commercial company.
Personally I don't think that librarians should be too concerned about this. OUP has taken the initiative to set up this agreement with MLA and if other publishers want to make their resources available in the same way then they can. Also OUP does have a reputation for good quality products. Given that public libraries can't aford to pay the commercial subscription rates for all electronic resources the alternative would be to rely on free sources such as Wikipedia. I am not anti Wikipedia but I think we are providing a better service by making Oxford Online resources available as well. I don't believe that any librarian chasing the prize - a two-night luxury stay for two people in Oxford, lunch at the Printer’s House of OUP and individual tour of OUP Museum, tour of the Bodleian Library, and a copy of the new edition of the leatherbound Shorter Oxford English Dictionary - will really compromise their professional commitment to providing their users with the most appropriate materials. On the other hand we must be aware of the ethical dimension of such awards.