Cooperation isn't the Committee on Institutional Cooperation's middle name, but it should be, says Susanne Garrison, the officer manager for the CIC's Center for Library Initiatives.
She gets to see firsthand - and be a part of - some of the efforts being made by Illinois and other member universities to find economies of scale and reduce duplicative services. (Current CIC members are 12 Big Ten Universities and the University of Chicago.)
"There is a very good team here and it's kind of a family environment," she said. "There is a lot of cooperation."
Garrison has been in the office for nearly three years after initially being hired five years ago as an office support specialist at the Graduate College.
Her position is multifaceted but her department's mission is to find ways to save money, space and time for campus libraries.
A recent initiative allows participants to use a common space to store redundant printed collections. She said the program works like a branch library system.
"They can be shipped back and forth to any of the CIC member libraries," she said.
Garrison's job focuses on processes related to the annual renewal of electronic publication licenses. It involves obtaining publisher and pricing information and preparing invoices for annual periodic renewals from 30 academic categories.
And it means getting directly involved with a publisher when unexpected problems arise.
"Customer service is a big part of what I do," she said.
She said December and January tend to be her busiest months because many of the titles are licensed by the calendar year.
"I had never worked in a library before I started here, but there's a cycle throughout the year that you pick up on," she said.
Since CIC leaders are scattered throughout the expanded Big Ten, one of Garrison's "hats" has her serving as an event planner, booking hotels and making travel arrangements for out-of-town gatherings.
She said the key is having a list of point people for every trip and multiple ways to contact them.
"If something comes up, you always have to have a contact person who can fix things," she said. "Since I'm here and not there, I ultimately have to trust the event planner that it will get done."
CIC meetings are held on a rotating basis and Garrison has yet to be part of a hosting experience.
She said the CIC office hierarchy can be a little confusing to the outsider. While Garrison's fellow employees and immediate supervisor are all onsite, her department's supervisor is based in Michigan.
"It's a good work environment because we bounce ideas off each other and my supervisors are always willing to answer any questions I have," she said.
She said the next pressing issue for her department will be over the summer finalizing contact information for the two newest Big Ten schools - Rutgers and Maryland - which will join next year. She said it's still not known which programs the two universities will choose to be involved with within the library consortium.
Married for 11 years, Susanne and her husband, Matt, have three children; Natalie, a sports-minded 9-year-old; Trae, a high school junior who excels at science and math; and Paige, a Parkland College student.
Before joining the U. of I. staff, Garrison was a stay-at-home mom for a period before holding a succession of secretarial positions at local companies. The family lives in Homer, Ill., though she grew up in rural Loda, Ill., near Paxton.
The children's activities keep the family going in a multitude of directions, but when they're home, Garrison said, she likes gardening, cooking and baking.
"On the side, I'm also a realtor," she said.