North American Storage Trust (NAST) – Project History

Note: This project has been completed.

In 1999 members of the of the Association of South Eastern Research Libraries Association ( ASERL) began discussing a cooperative "shared virtual storage" project. The project was originally conceived by Paul Willis, dean of libraries at the University of Kentucky, and Paul Gherman, university librarian of Vanderbilt University, as an effort to promote shared institutional commitments to retaining and sharing research collections held in offsite library storage facilities. The idea gained further traction during a 2002 ARL/OCLC Forum on Future Library Architecture, when Don Kelsey (library facilities planner at the University of Minnesota) observed that at least some offsite library storage collections will "never be weeded"—suggesting that a shared pool of low-use research collections could effectively be maintained in perpetuity.

In 2003 OCLC Research staff undertook a special project to identify unique holdings in Vanderbilt University Library's collections. When compared to WorldCat collections as a whole, some 24,000 titles were found to be held by Vanderbilt University alone. Additional analysis was performed to identify "true last copies" within Vanderbilt's collections, effectively confirming that a systemwide approach to collection management could enable the institution to make wise weeding and preservation decisions. Results of this study were published in College and Research Libraries; a preprint is available here.

In 2004 in collaboration with OCLC, 9 ASERL members participated in a collection assessment exercise directed at identifying overlaps in regional library holdings and opportunities for systemwide rationalization of collections. These efforts are described in an April 2005 article on ASERL's Virtual Storage/Preservation Concept and in an Overview of ASERL's Proposed Virtual Storage System (May 2005). The ASERL overlap study confirmed that economies of scale could be achieved if member institutions adopted a cooperative collection management regime.

In 2006 OCLC surveyed 500 member libraries in North America to explore the level of community interest in a systemwide approach to managing print collections. Three concepts embodying different levels of cooperative engagement were tested, ranging from a simple data-sharing scheme to a transformative model that would consolidate low-use collections in a shared physical space and provide participants with cost-effective access and preservation services. Results from the survey were presented at the October 2006 meeting of the Association of Research Libraries and are summarized here. A group of research institutions interested in advancing the vision of shared print management coalesced in the North American Storage Trust (NAST).

In 2007, RLG Programs agreed to help the NAST partnership transition from a loose confederation of institutions with shared interest in leveraging existing library storage capacity toward a community-oriented effort in defining service requirements. With OCLC product managers, Programs staff facilitated discussions with the NAST steering committee, helped to raise community awareness of the "virtual shared storage" concept within the research library community, and identified components of an emerging registry-based OCLC service architecture that could support shared collection management.

A series of phone interviews with managers of shared print repositories in the US and Canada helped to identify gaps in current policy frameworks and core infrastructure requirements for multi-institutional collection sharing. A parallel effort to identify data requirements for a registry of items held in library storage was also undertaken. Two focus groups of institutions currently managing offsite collections were convened to identify data elements for a specially adapted collection analysis report, intended to help library managers make local decisions based on the availability and preservation status of items held in remote storage facilities.

Results from these parallel exercises were presented at a meeting of the NAST interest group at the ALA Midwinter meeting in January 2007 and are available here:

Programs staff and OCLC product managers continued to work through the spring and early summer to define business and community requirements for a pilot project that would enable NAST participants to pool information about library storage holdings and evaluate its utility in collective decision-making about the disposition of local print collections.

At the ALA Annual Conference in June 2007, the NAST pilot implementation was successfully transitioned from RLG Programs to OCLC product management and the launch of the Cooperative Collection Management Trust was announced. A presentation summarizing the history of the NAST effort and outlining RLG's continuing program of work in Shared Print Collections marked the close of this project, which was one of the first to explore Programs' role in scoping new OCLC service opportunities.

Related work:
Shared Print Collections