Define Policy and Infrastructure Requirements for Shared Print

OCLC Research is pursuing projects aimed at characterizing the core business requirements needed to sustain broad-based participation in a shared print management regime and the technical requirements needed to support effective network disclosure of institutional print archiving commitments.

The first of these projects has explored requirements for ‘cloud sourcing’ collections at an academic research library through cooperative agreements with large-scale print and digital repositories. The goal was to produce a model service agreement suitable for widespread implementation in the academic library community. A second project has explored the feasibility of extending use of the MARC 21 Local Holdings Format to support programmatic enhancement of union catalogs with detailed item condition and preservation commitments.


As scholarly workflows move to the Web, academic research libraries have begun to re-evaluate the place (both location and function) of legacy print collections in the research enterprise. Since the mid-1980s, academic institutions in the United States have transferred more than a billion volumes to off-site storage facilities to reduce space pressures on campus and departmental libraries. This distributed resource represents a collective asset capable of transforming the library service landscape; yet, its potential value remains largely untapped.

In recent years, the rapid pace of mass digitization and the emergence of robust digital preservation providers have raised urgent questions about the traditional organization of academic library collections and services around locally managed physical repositories. A growing number of research institutions are exploring cooperative service models in order to reduce costs and increase efficiencies in local print collection management. For such initiatives to achieve lasting impact, a significant change in the system-wide organization of library services is required.

Can large storage and delivery hubs provide a cost-effective solution to the challenge of managing a local physical inventory that is increasingly duplicated in digital format? What kinds of organizational and economic models are needed to sustain "Web-scale" collection management regimes? The success of large-scale shared print library services will ultimately depend on the emergence of a new social and technical infrastructure that increases system-wide efficiencies and reduces library operating costs.

OCLC Research is working with partner libraries and allied organizations to analyze library print collections, identify critical infrastructure requirements associated with the shift to cooperative management, and prototype potential solutions.

Anticipated Impact

Empirical study of the changing research collections environment and evolving infrastructure requirements for shared print management will result in improved understanding of the risks, benefits and likely time horizon for wide-scale adoption of cooperative print management.


OCLC Research is pursuing projects aimed at characterizing the core business requirements needed to sustain broad-based participation in a shared print management regime and the technical requirements needed to support effective network disclosure of institutional print archiving commitments.

Two recently completed projects illustrate our evidence-based approach to examining critical issues in managing library print collections, and engaging with motivated partners to scope potential solutions.

The Cloud Library project (2009-2011) examined the overlap between physical collections in US research libraries and the digitized corpus of materials managed in the shared HathiTrust repository, and considered how the preservation infrastructure embodied in large-scale print storage facilities might be leveraged to provide research institutions with cooperatively sourced solutions for managing legacy print collections. The project, funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, was a cooperative effort between OCLC Research, HathiTrust, New York University's Elmer Bobst Library, and the Research Collections Access and Preservation (ReCAP) consortium, comprising Columbia University, Princeton University, and the New York Public Library. A final report from the project is available here:

The Shared Print Archives Disclosure Pilot project (2010-2012) was a cooperative effort to develop and test a method for registering print archiving commitments using existing bibliographic infrastructure. In collaboration with the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), the California Digital Library (CDL), Indiana University, Stanford University, the University of California - Los Angeles, the University of California - San Diego, the University of Minnesota and the University of Oregon, OCLC Research established metadata guidelines and a recommended approach for recording item-level condition statements and archiving commitments using the MARC 21 Local Holdings Format. Pilot sites tested record creation and contribution procedures and evaluated the impact of the proposed approach on existing inter-lending workflows. A final report from the project describes and provides a rationale for the recommended approach to disclosing print archive collections; describes record creation and resource-sharing tests undertaken by pilot sites; and identifies critical technical, operational and cost considerations associated with implementation of the proposed method. Appendices include detailed metadata guidelines, sample data, and an implementation checklist. The project report is available here:

Past Work

Related Projects

  • Print Management at “Mega-Scale”: a Regional Perspective on Print Book Collections in North America (report in-press)


Mellon Foundation

Most recent updates: Page content: 2012-05-15


Constance Malpas

Team Members

Dennis Massie

This activity is a part of the Understanding the System-wide Library theme.