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Right-Scaling Stewardship: A System-wide Perspective on Print Books in the CIC

Academic libraries face difficult choices in determining what to retain—what part of the collection can be managed as a distinctive institutional asset, what part might be managed as a collective resource, and who is responsible for deciding how stewardship will be distributed across the library system? In recent years, a variety of approaches to selecting journals for shared print archiving have emerged, largely informed by risk assessment profiles that weigh factors such as the availability and preservation status of digital surrogates, the relative abundance of library holdings, and the shift in scholarly attention to e-journal content.  For books, the situation is quite different:  the transition from print to digital formats has been slower, redundancy in library holdings is less, and shared preservation infrastructure is limited.  A recent collaboration between OCLC Research, a major academic library consortium and top-ranked research library examines the criteria academic institutions should consider when selecting books for shared print collections and explores the scale at which library stewardship of print books might be organized in years to come.


Mega-regions, a concept developed by urbanist Richard Florida, are geographical regions defined on the basis of economic integration and other forms of interdependence. OCLC Research has used a mega-regions framework to re-imagine the "natural boundaries" of collection management and to examine regional aggregations of print books in the context of shared traditions, mutual interests, and the needs of overlapping constituencies. The result, published in the report, Print Management at "Mega-scale": a Regional Perspective on Print Book Collections in North America, maps North American print collections against empirically derived zones of economic and cultural integration, robust knowledge flows, and networks of exchange.

As an extension of this work, OCLC Research collaborated with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and The Ohio State University (OSU) to investigate how demand-side circulation and inter-lending data might be combined with supply-side library holdings data to inform a regional print management strategy for monographic collections in the Chi-Pitts mega-region. The analysis considers several dimensions of the system-wide print book collection, including institution-level dynamics (reputation and place of the library on campus), consortium-scale interests (investments in shared infrastructure, including HathiTrust), and relevant characteristics of library system in the Chi-Pitts mega-region.

The Chi-Pitts mega-region is useful as an object of study, as it represents a microcosm the larger North American library system.  The collective print book collection of libraries in the region represents more than 40% of titles held in North America.  About 16% of these titles are unique to the region, i.e., not duplicated in any of the other eleven North American mega-regions. The remainder constitutes a significant preservation backstop for other North American libraries: 50-92% of titles held by other individual mega-regions are duplicated in Chi-Pitts libraries. Thus, investments in the preservation of print books in the Chi-Pitts region can deliver significant benefit to libraries throughout North America. Conversely, there are relatively few regional collections that duplicate a significant share of the Chi-Pitts collection, which suggests that the burden of print preservation responsibilities (and investments) will be largely shouldered by institutions within the region. Since less than a fifth of the print books in the region are held by academic research libraries—traditionally viewed as the institutions with the greatest stake in print preservation—it seems likely that networks like the CIC will have an important role to play in rationalizing regional print preservation priorities and investment.


Questions to be addressed in this project include:

  • What part of the OSU print book collection represents a distinctive asset when compared to the aggregate print book holdings within the CIC membership, or the broader Chi-Pitts mega-regional print book resource What are the characteristics of these distinctive resources with respect to subject, age, and system-wide work-level holdings?
  • What part of the OSU collection is widely held across the collections of the CIC membership, or institutions within the Chi-Pitts region? Can a core set of titles be identified at the consortial or regional level that represent duplicative investment? Are there opportunities to reduce local costs by managing these titles as a shared resource at the consortial or regional level?
  • What does the ILL demand profile for OSU tell us about consortial and regional demand for its print book collection? How much of this demand is centered around OSU’s distinctive print book titles? How can OSU cooperate with other CIC members to meet local, consortial, and regional demand for print books?


Most recent updates: Page content: 2014-03-25