Please note that this is archived content and may include details or links that are out of date or no longer accurate.

New OCLC Research report provides evidence base for shift to shared print management approach

‘Understanding the Collective Collection: Towards a System-wide Perspective on Library Print Collections’ provides quantitative, analytic view of library collections

DUBLIN, Ohio, 23 January 2014—OCLC Research has released a new report, “Understanding the Collective Collection: Towards a System-wide Perspective on Library Print Collections,” which establishes evidence that has allowed and encouraged libraries to begin the shift from local provisioning of library collections and services to increased reliance on cooperative infrastructure, collective collections, shared technology platforms, and “above-the-institution” management strategies.

“Understanding the Collective Collection” collects important work OCLC Research has done for the community in recent years in providing a quantitative, analytic, system-wide view of library collections. It provides critical context for the policy, service and strategy questions raised by shared print discussions in the library community.

These discussions are driven by several factors:

  • Interest in shared print strategies has had several drivers: Google Books; the digital turn: changing patterns of research and learning; the opportunity costs of current use of space; efficient access to materials; and a general move to collaboration.
  • The network turn is leading to changes in the focus, boundaries and value of library collections.
  • Libraries and the organizations that provide services to them are devoting more attention to system-wide organization of collections—whether the “system” is a consortium, a region or a country.
  • Libraries are beginning to evolve arrangements that facilitate long-term shared management of the print literature as individual libraries begin to manage down their local capacity.
  • A system-wide perspective signals a real shift in emphasis.

“The purpose of this report is to collect OCLC Research’s work on better understanding the existing collective collection and supporting the optimal evolution of reconfigured collections,” said Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC Vice President, Research, and Chief Strategist. “This work has changed the way in which libraries think about where they source their needs and the scale at which they must organize to deliver new and traditional services. It is a good example of how the OCLC cooperative both serves and helps shape the library community of which it is part.”

Dempsey co-authored the report and coined the term “collective collection” to refer to this more focused attention on collective development, management and disclosure of collections across groups of libraries at different levels. He provided the context for this work in the report’s introduction, The Emergence of the Collective Collection: Analyzing Aggregate Print Library Holdings, which is also available as a separate document. He also described OCLC Research’s three broad interests around better understanding the existing collective collection and supporting the optimal evolution of reconfigured collections:

  1. Understanding the characteristics of the collective print collection
  2. Supporting policy and service decision-making with good intelligence based on WorldCat and other data resources, and
  3. Understanding patterns or trends within the scholarly and cultural record.

View and download the report as well as the introduction from the Understanding the Collective Collection report page. More information on OCLC Research’s work in this area can be found on the Understanding the System-wide Library Web page.

About OCLC

Founded in 1967, OCLC is a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing library costs. More than 74,000 libraries in 170 countries have used OCLC services to locate, acquire, catalog, lend, preserve and manage library materials. Researchers, students, faculty, scholars, professional librarians and other information seekers use OCLC services to obtain bibliographic, abstract and full-text information when and where they need it. OCLC and its member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the world’s largest online database for discovery of library resources. Search WorldCat.org on the Web. For more information, visit the OCLC website.

OCLC Research is one of the world's leading centers devoted exclusively to the challenges facing libraries in a rapidly changing information technology environment. OCLC Research works with the community to collaboratively identify problems and opportunities, prototype and test solutions, and shares findings through publications, presentations and professional interactions. For more information, visit www.oclc.org/research.

OCLC, WorldCat, and WorldCat.org are trademarks and/or service marks of OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Third-party product, service and business names are trademarks and/or service marks of their respective owners.


  • Bob Murphy

    Manager, Media Relations

    O: +1-614-761-5136