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Shared Print Management

Academic and research libraries increasingly are planning and implementing programs to share the responsibility and costs of maintaining print collections. A number of factors are driving this change:

  • A growing shift in scholarly attention from print to electronic formats means that low-use retrospective print collections are perceived to deliver less value.
  • Competing demands for library space favor teaching, learning, and collaboration vs. a "warehouse of books."
  • The universe of institutions with both the mandate and the capacity to support long-term print preservation is shrinking.
  • As the return on investment in local print collections diminishes, libraries seek to externalize print operations to shared repositories.
  • However, more works are being published than ever before, making it nearly impossible for a single institution to maintain a complete collection.

Several large-scale shared print programs are under way around the world. In this emerging environment, widespread dissemination of item- (copy-) level data for archived/shared materials is required to support:

  • Preservation risk assessment: How many copies exist in the system? What is their condition? Are they subject to archival/persistence agreements?
  • Collection management: Which copies in the local collection should be retained? How can space recovery be maximized? How can inventory be optimized?
  • Resource sharing: Which retained copies can be accessed and by what means, under what terms and by whom?

Beginning in late 2010, several individuals who were active in the shared print (print archiving) community began to explore ways in which OCLC could help to support libraries' immediate and future needs for shared print management. OCLC WorldCat was perceived as the logical basis for the required bibliographic infrastructure because of its global reach and integration with the workflow of most libraries that participate in shared print programs. OCLC's WorldCat and other services constitute a key part of the bibliographic infrastructure that will support and connect regional shared print initiatives.

In January 2015, OCLC acquired Sustainable Collection Services (SCS) to accelerate efforts in collection management and shared print projects. SCS provides tools and services to help manage and share print monographs through data-driven decision making. OCLC defines the shared print workflow in the graphic to the right.    

To learn more about the community involved in shared print initiatives, the Print Archive Network (PAN), a forum run by the Center for Research Libraries, is a great resource. 

OCLC support for shared print programs

Libraries and groups wanting to analyze their collections as part of a shared print program should consider Sustainable Collection Services. Libraries and groups wanting to register their shared print collections in WorldCat and provide access to the collections via WorldShare Resource Sharing can contact the OCLC Shared Print Community Liaison, Bill Carney. For more information on the process, please see our FAQ.

OCLC is working with the library community to gather and evaluate additional requirements for cooperative management of print collections, including relevant services.

We will also continue an established program of research in Shared Print Collections. This research will continue to explore the evolution of library operations associated with the ongoing shift from locally-owned print inventory to jointly managed print and digital collections.

For questions about the Shared Print Management Project, please contact us via e-mail at

Shared print metadata guidelines

Between 2010 and early 2012, a community-based committee conducted a pilot project to develop and test recommendations for how libraries could use WorldCat to register content contributed to shared print archives.

The recommended approach includes three key elements:

  • Define separate OCLC Institution Symbols to identify print archived titles in facilities and full-service libraries
  • Enter holdings-level print archives data in MARC Holdings records (OCLC Local Holdings Records, LHRs)
  • Use the 583 Preservation Action Note to describe specific characteristics of the print archives action(s) for each set of holdings

For more information, please see:

Please note that these guidelines were designed and tested for journal holdings. While the data structures theoretically would be usable for monographs, there may be variations in functions related to using LHRs for monographs that have not been tested.

Libraries participating in shared print agreements are encouraged to begin to disclose preserved print journal holdings in WorldCat according to this method as soon as possible.