Collaboration among libraries has been a grand tradition, but the need to collaborate has, perhaps, never been more pressing than now.
There are numerous examples of exciting and innovative experiments in large-scale collaboration, particularly projects like the Digital Public Library of America, HathiTrust, and Europeana. In addition, there are interesting consortial efforts, such as the Orbis Cascade Alliance’s recent decision to implement Ex Libris’s Primo and Alma across all 37 member libraries or the new model for monographic cooperation created by the Triangle Research Libraries Network and Oxford University Press.
The lack of available space, budget cuts, uneven usage, and availability of electronic resources and new technologies help give impetus to these efforts, but there is a layer of collaboration that is less provocative and does not always receive the spotlight but which, nevertheless, is driven even more so by these factors and is just as integral to the future of libraries.
I am speaking about the numerous shared print archiving programs that are being built around the country, many of which are expanding at a significant rate.
LJ recently took a close look at the Maine Shared Collections Strategy (MSCS), which is striking because it involves all the state’s major libraries, including public libraries, academic libraries (both public universities and private colleges), the state library, and the statewide consortium (Maine InfoNet).
MSCS and other projects, which were discussed at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, deserve continued support and increased attention.
For example, a sharper awareness of the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP) might have helped to avoid some of the brouhaha that erupted a few months ago over plans to move some of the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) collection off site. ReCAP, first conceived in 1999, comprises Columbia University, Princeton University, and NYPL, and it has been an integral and growing part of how those library systems operate and remain vital. Through February 2013, it had accessioned 9,977,731 items. The site on the Princeton campus will eventually allow for 252,000 square feet of storage space that can hold 37.5 million items. The program’s eighth and ninth storage modules are scheduled to open in June 2013.
The Florida Academic Repository (FLARE) achieved “shovel ready” status in March for a secure high-density facility in Gainesville operated by the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida on behalf of the libraries in the 11 state universities and the libraries of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida and the Florida College System. The University of Miami has already shipped 175,000 volumes of journal and monographic series to an interim facility, and other partners have scheduled deliveries. But the project needs state funding in FY14/15 if the permanent utility is to become operational two years later.
The Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC) has nine partners and a shared collections facility that houses 1.8 million volumes, and they are planning to build a third module in 2015. In addition, WRLC and the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) have agreed to combine their respective print journal archives (300,000 volumes, or 8,000 journal titles) under a single retention and access agreement, making it one of the largest print journal archives in the United States.
Other projects, such as the University of California’s shared print projects or the plans for ConnectNY, abound and are too numerous to list here. Still, the point is that these projects, mundane as they may seem, often dealing with ladders and shelving and acid-free cardboard trays, represent some of the most significant work taking place in libraries today, and those responsible deserve a word of thanks for their yeoman efforts.
Michael Kelley, Editor-in-Chief