FARMINGTON — Libraries at New Mexico colleges and universities will save hundreds of thousands of dollars after the schools worked together to purchase access to databases and e-book collections for students.

Via the New Mexico Consortium of Academic Libraries, more than two dozen higher education libraries recently purchased access for two years to 10 online research databases and two e-book collections managed by EBSCO Publishing.

The databases offer information on a number of topics, including environment, history, literacy and technology.

The plan has been in the works for five years.

The two-year contract cost about $897,000 for the 26 public colleges and universities involved in the initiative, said Christopher Schipper, the consortium's president and San Juan College's library director.

By purchasing as one entity, Schipper said the schools will save about $230,000.

The funding for the initiative comes from a portion of general obligation bonds, which voters decide on every two years for all libraries across the state.

"The NMCAL looked at the amount of money that has been allocated from the bond, then decided to set it aside to use for a joint purchase," Schipper said. "The challenge for us was we wanted to provide access to all of our students on all campuses in the state."

Schipper said the challenge was balancing the needs of a large university, like the University of New Mexico, with what students at a two-year school, like San Juan College, may need.

Some schools will receive access to new databases and will save additional funds on databases they already subscribe to. And those savings can be rolled into additional library services.

Because of the joint purchase, Schipper said San Juan College has improved its e-book collection, which helps the growing number of online students attending New Mexico colleges.

"We can help a student in Tennessee when they call and have a question," Schipper said. "They can do their coursework at home and have the same access to high quality resources."

Jim Pawlak, librarian for the Ruidoso campus of Eastern New Mexico University, said the university's nursing database will be upgraded to an enhanced version, and the school will also gain access to other databases.

Pawlak, who is also NMCAL's vice president, has been visiting science and English instructors on campus to demonstrate the benefits of the system for online students.

"All the academic libraries benefit, big and small," Pawlak said. "Small libraries get a lot more resources, and, if our students go on, they'll be exposed to the same system at UNM or the (Eastern New Mexico University) Portales main campus. It's a good deal all around."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.