Managing down collections ...

Lorcan 3 min read

I was interested to read this from Karen Schneider a while ago: “Centralized mass storage for legacy print materials (paper-based books and journals) is by far the most under-observed trend in libraries today”. I agree, with the friendly qualification that the trend is about managing the relationship between local, mass storage and emerging digitised resources. Many libraries are ‘managing down’ their local print collections. The reasons for growing interest are clear and I touched on them in an earlier blog post that was partly prompted by Karen’s:

One of the recurrent themes in these pages is that systemwide coordination of print materials is necessary as libraries begin to retire collections – to offsite storage or removing them altogether. There are various drivers here: the demands on space, the emergence of a digital corpus, the cost of managing a resource that releases progressively less value in research and learning. Print runs of journals have been an early focus, but interest is extending to books also. I believe we are moving to a situation where network-level management of the collective collection becomes the norm, but it will take some years for service, policy and infrastructure frameworks to be worked out and evolution will be uneven. The network may be at the level of a consortium, a state or region, or a country. At the moment, this trend is manifesting itself in a variety of local or group mass storage initiatives, as well as in several regional and national initiatives. [Emerging network level management of the collective print collection]

This managing down of local collections in the context of wider systems of stewardship and provision is acquiring greater prominence, creating a need for new policy and service frameworks. In this context, I would like to note three recent items.
First, we are pleased that much of the empirical context for this discussion and quite a bit of intellectual leadership has come from OCLC Research work being done for the RLG Partnership. Constance Malpas has been leading this activity, and has been creating and supporting links between various community initiatives and relevant product areas in OCLC. A report detailing the initial work that formed the basis for this activity appeared recently and we hope it, and ongoing work, help influence future planning.

The objective of the project was to examine the feasibility of outsourcing management of low-use print books held in academic libraries to shared service providers, including large-scale print and digital repositories. The study assessed the opportunity for library space saving and cost avoidance through the systematic and intentional outsourcing of local management operations for digitized books to shared service providers and progressive downsizing of local print collections in favor of negotiated access to the digitized corpus and regionally consolidated print inventory. [Cloud-sourcing Research Collections: Managing Print in the Mass-digitized Library Environment]

The second is the GIST Gift & De-Selection Manager from SUNY College at Geneseo. This talks to the Worldcat API, Amazon, Hathi Trust and Google books, as well as the local library system, to provide decision support:

The Gift and De-Selection Manager is an easy to implement and easy to use open-source standalone software for automating your gift management and de-selection processing. This standalone software is part of the Getting It System Toolkit (GIST), designed to leverage data of various systems, streamline library processes, and reduce staff time for decision making. [Getting It System Toolkit (GIST)]

I have no first-hand knowledge of this tool, nor do I know how others find it. However, it is interestingly symptomatic of the growing interest in deselection support.
And third, I recommend that folks begin reading Rick Lugg’s very interesting blog devoted to issues around this topic: Sample & Hold: Rick Lugg’s Blog: Sustainable collections, academic libraries, and management of legacy print. As a principal in R2, Rick is well known as a consultant on library workflow efficiency. R2 have introduced a new deselection service, Sustainable Collection Services [pdf], which again compares local holdings with a variety of other sources (including Worldcat) to provide decision support.
Here is a sample from Rick’s blog:

Historically, this level of preservation, and the security of the scholarly record, have been the province of large research libraries. Smaller libraries have counted on the larger libraries to perform these functions–to run the FDIC layer. But increasingly, even the largest of these institutions, (even when acting in concert) cannot support the entire corpus and community by themselves. There is a need for every library to contribute to the integrity of the collective collection–by committing to archive specific titles and publicizing those commitments. The most promising avenue for such disclosure is use of the MARC 583 field in a WorldCat record, and work is underway to test the viability of this approach. [The FDIC Layer]
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