Analyze Current Shared Print Policy Frameworks Project History

Note: This project has been completed.

In March 2008, a subcommittee of the RLG Programs Shared Print Working Group was formed to undertake a review of single- and last-copy policy documents. The objective of this project was to examine current practices in policy documentation for distributed print preservation initiatives, with the goal of discovering areas where community consensus has been achieved, and where significant gaps appear to exist. Particular attention was given to identifying gaps in current policy frameworks that might prevent joint preservation initiatives to achieve network scale.

Members of the committee compiled a collection of 18 policy and guidance documents from print preservation initiatives in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. A review template was devised and used to create brief summaries of each document in the collection. Independent reviews were carried out by individual members of the working group between March and June. The results were tabulated and shared with the Shared Print Working Group as a whole and presented at an open meeting at the ALA Annual Conference in June 2008.

Among the key findings of this project is the fact that relatively lightweight agreements appear adequate to support collection-sharing initiatives in groups of 10 or fewer institutions.  An implication of this is that motivated libraries, especially those with existing consortium agreements, need not dwell on formulating comprehensive joint preservation policy statements; indeed, it would appear that pragmatic agreements that leverage existing collection strengths of contributors, and allow for flexibility in implementation (for example, allowing specific exemptions to the policy) are most likely to succeed in attracting and retaining participants. Core requirements appear to be limited to the inclusion of an explicit retention commitment (regardless of duration); an explicit "escape clause" or exit strategy detailing the conditions under which a participant may withdraw from the agreement and the consequences of such an action; and allowance for specific exemptions permitting participants to contribute content to an archive without surrendering institutional autonomy or authority. In sum, the policies reviewed appeared to confirm that relatively small-scale (regional or consortium) archiving efforts strike an agreeable and highly effective balance between local and group interests and motivations. One might conclude from this that national or international print preservation schemes might best operate as loose federations of more strongly-coupled regional and local interests.

Several significant gaps in the policies under review were identified as representing potential risks to achieving network scale in a distributed preservation environment. Foremost among these is the absence of policy requirements related to effective disclosure of title or item-level retention and access attributes beyond the collectivity directly participating in the initiative. Thus, single-copy retention commitments negotiated within one library group are not systematically shared with other groups, limiting their potential impact. Local practices in recording title or item-level preservation status may vary, but for true economies of scale to achieved, this information must be made visible and actionable to network partners. Similarly, the general absence of clearly-defined terms (for example, how duplication is measured; across what collection, at what level of bibliographic description) significantly weakens the aggregate value of individually negotiated preservation commitments. This is in turn compromises the preservation guarantee of the system as a whole. Global registries and union lists may provide a partial solution to this proble, by providing a common baseline against which to assess local preservation risks in the context of system-wide holdings.

Detailed findings on Governance, Collection Management, Selection, Cataloging and Access are summarized in the slide set (.pdf: 92KB/12pp.) referenced below.

This work was declared complete in July 2008, when the Shared Print Working Group held its final conference call. A variety of follow-on activities have been taken up by the RLG Programs Shared Print Coordinating Committee and the Journal De-accessioning Working Group.


For more information, contact Program Officer Constance Malpas