When the Print Hits the Fan: Collaborative Approaches to Managing Print Collections in the Digital Era

November 12-13, 2007
Organized by RLG Programs at the University of Pennsylvania, Van Pelt Library

This day and a half event was designed to gather together collections officers and access/public services heads from partner institutions already engaged in collaborative collection management projects, or actively seeking partners for such projects. It was essential that the group for this initial conversation remain quite small to allow for a manageable, productive discussion, with all contributing. RLG Programs made every effort to include a good cross section of types of libraries and a variety of approaches to collaborative collection management. Challenges and outcomes from this first discussion will be taken to the larger group of RLG Programs partners for action.

Our purpose was to take a snapshot of current efforts, zero in on what's working and what's preventing further progress in each type of project, and then throw the data onto a grid to see how the various approaches compare.

We also examined the different objectives involved in shared print collection management; e.g., ensuring last-copy retention (the NAST approach); back-up to online access (JSTOR print archive, etc.); shared access to low-use material; etc., and considered how these objectives might change when 80% of our print collections have been digitized.

(Additional information about the current context and status of library storage facilities can be found in Library Storage Facilities and the Future of Print Collections in North America, a new white paper commissioned by RLG Programs and prepared by Lizanne Payne, executive director of the Washington Research Libraries Consortium (WRLC). This paper explores the current state of the art in high-density storage solutions for libraries, focusing on the design and organization of such facilities in North America.)

Outcomes include:

  • synthesis of the experiences of those involved in various approaches to collaborative collection management
  • identification of the major obstacles to effective collaborative action in managing print collections—cultural, technical, financial, legal
  • strategies for overcoming those obstacles
  • a list of actions that OCLC Programs and Research could take to facilitate collaborative collection management activities, and
  • a specific action identified by each attending institution that will move their own collective collection management efforts to the next level.


Invitees were asked to answer a series of questions before the event, such as:

  • What collaborative approaches to managing print collections are you trying?
  • What would you like to do that you haven't been able to do?
  • What are the obstacles keeping you from that next level of accomplishment?


Day One
Class of '55 Room
University of Pennsylvania, Van Pelt Library

Most of the day consisted of a series of four discussions fueled by the survey results about specific approaches to collaborative print collection management. Our goal was to plot the successes, categorize the obstacles, compare and contrast them, and see where solutions and further effort suggest themselves.

RLG Programs Shared Print Collection Management Summit: Summary Report
Presentation file (.pdf: 222 kb, 35 pp.)

Managing the Collective Collection: The Future of Print Collections in the Networked Environment
Presentation file (.pdf: 733 kb, 6 pp.)

9:00 a.m.

Coffee and mingling


Welcome and introductions


Context-setting, whys and wherefores, viewpoints, projected outcomes for Day One


Session One: Ensuring retention of last copies




Hear from your peers, Part 1


Session Two: Ensuring back-up to online access

12:30 p.m.

Lunch (brought in)


Hear from your peers, Part 2


Session Three: Ensuring shared access to low-use materials


Hear from your peers, Part 3




Session Four: Expanding coverage, reducing duplication


Wrap-up of Day One


Adjourn to wine and cheese reception

Day Two
Meyerson Conference Room
University of Pennsylvania, Van Pelt Library

We hammered at the obstacles identified on Day One and helped each other come away with at least one thing that can be done at home to take collaborative print collection management a step further than it is right now.

We all agreed to report back in three months to see how we've gotten on.

Managing the Collective Collection: Strategies for Local, Group and Global Action
Presentation file (.pdf: 97 kb, 22 pp.)

9:00 a.m.

Recap of Day One; projected outcomes for Day Two


Session Five: Strategies for the Four Objectives, or, Solutions for Day One Obstacles




Hear from your peers, Part 4


Session Six: Naming next steps for each institution.

Has your thinking changed since you selected your unreached goal? Is your "next thing" reflected in the strategies/solutions that came out of Day One?


Wrap up. Taking stock. How next steps will happen.

12:00 noon



Problem statement: Print collections remain vital to the mission of the research library. But few libraries can continue to commit the bulk of their space to warehousing books and bound serials. As collections become more digital, as individually owning a comprehensive collection in any subject area becomes less feasible, and as libraries increasingly become centers for collaboration and social activity rather than storehouses packed with shelved volumes, managing print collections efficiently becomes more essential and increasingly difficult. Many libraries are teaming up to meet this challenge via collaborative approaches.

Current landscape: We live in a world where:

  • more and more information is either born digital or being reborn digitally
  • libraries are filled to the brim with print collections
  • use of legacy print collections is declining while total print production continues to grow, creating new pressures on institutional acquisition and preservation mandates
  • offsite storage is also filling up with print materials (in some cases, new acquisitions are accessioned directly into storage)
  • it may be cheaper to build a new storage pod than it is to weed collections stored in the old storage pod
  • many libraries are buying and storing the same titles
  • no one has an accurate idea of what anyone else is storing
  • or of the physical condition of stored material

RLG Programs Partner institutions are almost universally invested in these issues, or are about to be. But we are all over the map as far as where we are or how we're approaching them.

There are a number of identifiable "breeds:"

  • Some have their own offsite storage facility, which is filling up or located on real estate that is too expensive.
  • Some have partnered with others in shared print repositories, a few of which feature shared ownership (though most do not).
  • Some are looking within their peer group for partners in creating such a facility (and would appreciate help in identifying such partners).
  • Some are sending materials to an independent agency that will own, store, preserve and provide access to the materials.
  • Some are part of massive consortia and have established shared ownership, shared storage, and shared collection development programs.
  • Some intend to keep only minimal collections themselves and rely on borrowing the rest of what their constituents need from other institutions.
  • Some are taking part in modest cooperative collection development projects with peer institutions
  • Some check the holdings of peer institutions before making acquisitions, storage, preservation, or weeding decisions
  • Some are looking outside their normal group of peers to find partners for the endeavors listed above.
  • Some are attempting to create a distributed network of shared print facilities.

Attendees included examples of most "breeds" (some institutions belong to more than one category). We profited from hearing discussion of various approaches to collaborative collection management, whether those approaches are similar to our own or radically different. We benefited from learning about the successes of our peers, from the identification and frank discussion of the obstacles to management of shared print collections, and from a half day spent swarming over those obstacles with the force of our collective expertise and creativity.


Name Title Institution
Ivy Anderson Director, Collections California Digital Library
Patricia Barnett Director Frick Art Reference Library
Julie Bobay Director for Scholarly Communication Initiatives

Indiana University

Steve Bosch Materials Budget, Procurement, and Licensing Librarian University of Arizona
Martha Brogan Director of Collection Development and Management

University of Pennsylvania Law

Robert Byrd Associate University Librarian for Collections Services; Director of the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library Duke University
Angela Carreño Head of Collection Development New York University
Jeff Carroll Assistant Director for Collection Development Columbia University
Susan Currie Associate Director of University Libraries Bighamton University
Chuck Eckman AUL and Director of Collections University of California, Berkeley
Jill Evans Service Development Manager, Scottish Consortium of University and Research Libraries National Library of Scotland
Sharon Farb Associate University Librarian for Collection Management and Scholarly Communication University of California, Los Angeles
Margaret Flood Keeper, Collection Management Trinity College Dublin
Anne Garrison Humanities Bibliographer Swarthmore College
Denise Hibay Interim Director for Collections Strategy New York Public Library
Milan Hughston Director Museum of Modern Art
Terry Kirchner Director of Access Services Columbia University
Jesse Koennecke Access Services Librarian Cornell University
Bob Krall Director for Departmental Libraries, Resource Sharing & Delivery Services University of Pennsylvania
Laurel Kristick Head, Collection Development Oregon State University
Amy McColl Assistant Head of Technical Services and Coordination of Collection Development Swarthmore College
Kent McKeever Director Columbia University Law
Jeanne Richardson Chief Officer, Collections and Scholarly Communication Arizona State University
John Saylor Interim AUL for Scholarly Communications and Collections Cornell University
Matthew Sheehy Chief, Access and Reader Services

New York Public Library

Bryan Skib Acting Collection Development Officer University of Michigan
Merle Slyhoff Collection Development and Document Delivery Services Librarian University of Pennsylvania Law
Emily Stambaugh Shared Print Manager California Digital Library
Liz Stevenson E-Resources Manager University of Edinburgh
Isabel Stirling AUL and Director of Public Services University of California, Berkeley
Tom Wall Associate University Librarian for Public Services Duke University
Carolyn Walters Executive Associate Dean Indiana University
Sarah Watstein Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services University of California, Los Angeles
Bob Wolven Associate University Librarian for Bibliographic Services and Collection Development Columbia University
Nicola Wright Project Manager, UK Research Reserve Imperial College London, UKRR

Program Advisory Group

Name Title Institution
Martha Brogan Director of Collection Development & Management, Van Pelt–Dietrich Library Center University of Pennsylvania
Angela Carreño  Head of Collection Development, Elmer H. Bobst Library New York University
Terry Kirchner Director of Access Services Columbia University
Sarah Watstein Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services University of California, Los Angeles

RLG Programs Staff

Name Title
Constance Malpas Program Officer
Dennis Massie   Program Officer
Karen Smith-Yoshimura Program Officer