Archive for the 'OCLC Research Library Partnership' Category

Past Forward: One Library

Friday, July 19th, 2013 by Merrilee

This is the first in a series on the OCLC Research Library Partnership meeting, Past Forward.

Past Forward, a meeting for the OCLC Research Library Partnership was held last month, June 4-5 (with a pre-meeting workshop on June 3rd). We’ve just posted the videos and other outputs for the meeting, and it falls to me to summarize the meeting and outcomes. But how to capture such a rich experience? This wasn’t just a meeting, it was the best meeting we’ve ever had (and that’s not just me talking, I have feedback from a survey to back me up). Instead of summarizing chronologically, as I usually do, I’m going to call out some themes that surfaced during the meeting. The overall theme for Past Forward was “managing special collections in the 21st century” (and the workshop was on outreach — teaching, fundraising, and connecting on campus — for special collections). Naturally, I anticipated that outcomes would cleave to special collections. I was surprised to find that they were really much broader. See what you think and if you attended the meeting in person or online (or watched the videos) please contribute your comments!

From Rachel Beckett's presentation -- staff special collections vision exercise

From Rachel Beckett’s presentation — staff special collections vision exercise

One Library

It was during the pre-meeting workshop that it hit me. Lance Heidig’s presentation centered on his relatively novel position at Cornell University, which integrates special collections and general library instruction. This makes all kinds of sense, because this has got to be the way that most library patrons (faculty, students, other researchers) approach their own work. I think it’s probably quite rare that research includes only primary source material or things found in special collections without also citing secondary literature (monographs, journals and the like). So why do we isolate special collections teaching from the teaching about the general collections?

It’s a good question, and the notion of integrating special collections into the broader library surfaced in more than just this one presentation. Robyn Holmes (National Library of Australia), Rachel Beckett (Manchester University), and Mike Furlough (Pennsylvania State University) each hit on the notion of a more incorporated special collections in their presentations in the “Repositioning Special Collections” panel. A the University of Manchester, staff identified gaps in engagement and support for learners and support for research: part of the remedy has been for special collections to sit on committees to address these issues. At the National Library of Australia, repositioning goes a step further, with a single reading room for all formats embodying their “one library” concept. Too, the library is emphasizing shared systems for description and processing of collections, trying to get away from “special” ways of dealing with collections and introduce more common processes. Mike Furlough’s presentation highlighted an external review of special collections, but also emphasized PSU’s organizational structure, in which special collections is in the same administrative unit as digitization & preservation and publishing & curation services, which both has the potential to bring special collections closer to the end products in scholarly communications and also allows for sister units to more easily capitalize on skills of special collections staff.

This notion of getting out of your four walls was taken a step further in Lisa Carter’s presentation on advocacy — she urges special collections to connect more directly with the missions and priorities of their parent institutions, acknowledging that it’s not just special collections must serve the larger needs of the whole.

You can find Heidig and Carter’s presentations on the workshop page; the presentations from the panel on “repositioning” can be found on the Past Forward event page. You might also enjoy the videos from the meeting.

I’ll be back next week with another theme, finding new ways forward.

Special Collections in the Collective Collection

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 by Jennifer

Last month I facilitated a forum at the New-York Historical Society about Putting ‘Special’ in the ‘Collective Collection.’ We think it might be the first ever meeting about the centrality of distinctive and unique materials in discourse about the contemporary research ecosystem of shared print agreements, digital materials (both free and licensed), print collections, regional consortia, and resource sharing.

The meeting was standing room only, with a substantial waiting list. This group of thoughtful representatives from OCLC Research Library Partnership institutions set out to reconsider entrenched ideas about the irrelevance, or even the danger, of the collective collection to special collections.

What is the collective collection? In the recent mega-regions report, Constance and Brian defined the “collective collection” to be the combined holdings of a group of institutions, excluding duplicate holdings.

In our thought experiment, we mentally set aside the widespread overlapping collections, like those runs of STEM journals, subscriptions to Evans Online, or Google Books and the Hathi Trust. What’s left is a virtual collection of scarce publications – all in situ – that are held across the institutions in the group.

What remains is the rare stuff, “thy true heritage.” It is the widely-held material that allows us to focus on collecting (collectively) in the margins. The collective collection is not complete without special collections.

What does this strategy mean for researchers? It means that I can look every one of them in the eye and tell them that I can get them everything they need, regardless of where those materials “live”. And I can provide my rare books and special collections to all of my researchers, no matter where they do their work.

What are the implications for library administrators? The distinctiveness of your library’s materials – in concert with your colleagues’ special collections – is the hallmark of the collective collection.

Putting “Special” in the “Collective Collection” from OCLC Research

Share your ideas, in comments below, or in email to me.

OCLC Research 2012: Born Digital

Thursday, December 20th, 2012 by Merrilee

This is the third posting in a miniseries of blog postings, looking back on what we’ve done in the last year. More to come!

One of the findings from our 2010 survey of special collections and archives in the US and Canada was that dealing with “born-digital” materials is one of the most challenging issues facing special collections. This is nothing new, but we realized that it was time to move past the “deer in the headlights” phase we seem to be in and move towards practical solutions based on emerging practice.

This year, Ricky Erway teamed up with Jackie Dooley and a crackerjack team of experts to push forward on born-digital solutions. The result is our Demystifying Born Digital project area, and two reports: You’ve Got to Walk Before You Can Run: First Steps for Managing Born-Digital Content Received on Physical Media, and Swatting the Long Tail of Digital Media: A Call for Collaboration.

You’ve Got to Walk is a gem of a report, informed by the group of practitioners who advise the Demystifying project. Its simple advice is encouraging, and practical. When we took a big stack of copies to the Society of American Archivists meeting, they were snapped up. This paper inspired the Jump In initiative — SAA’s Manuscripts Repositories section put out a challenge for archivists to take the Jump In pledge and take some of those first steps outlined in the report. Results will be discussed at next year’s meeting in August. We are of course delighted that this report has inspired action and look forward to hearing about the outcomes.

Swatting the Long Tail is a call for action more than it is a report. It calls for collaboration on transferring digital content from unstable physical media, and challenges the community to come up with an ecology of service providers.

More reports are in the works, and we’re looking forward to seeing what other action our work encourages, as well as what inspiration we can take from the community.

Libraries Rebound – A Personal Partial Recap

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 by Jim

In the three earlier posts Merrilee did a great job of summarizing the content of the three different themes – directly supporting researchers, special collections and institutional mission and space as a distinctive asset. The important things to take away were captured in those posts which reflect the attendees highlights as captured in the twitter stream (which has increasingly become the record of conference events).

For those who want a short list of action items from the conference here are mine:

Examine the full research life cycle for one or more disciplines at your institution to identify gaps and pain points where the library could be a continuing source of support. (See the DeBelder slides .pptx

Consider assessing special collections via a task force composed of individuals external to the department to look for alignment with university strategy. (See the Pyatt slides .pptx)

Create a long-term library space plan even if you don’t have current funding or immediate renovation opportunity. (See the Pritchard .pptx and Group4 .pptx slides)

For me the best frame for the event was provided by something taken from a presentation by Wendy Lougee (discussed in an earlier post) in which she characterized future library services as built around local priorities (cf. research support), local infrastructure (space and buildings) and unique institutional assets (special collections). Mixed together thoughtfully these three would result in a portfolio of distinctive services. Read the rest of this entry »

Libraries Rebound: space as distinctive asset

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 by Merrilee

This is the penultimate posting summarizing Libraries Rebound. This posting covers the rich session which looked at the various way that leading libraries are using space as an asset for creating and leveraging partnerships on campus.

Sarah Pritchard from Northwestern University addressed political aspects of leveraging library space as asset, especially in an era where all too often there is a conception that in our increasingly digital world, there is no longer a need for library space (“hasn’t everything been digitized yet?”). However, there is a leadership role for the library to play here, making the case for library services that put campus goals, not library goals, at the center. This understanding of how to build political advantage is key to getting money for space needs. So if a new university president comes in with a new strategic direction for the campus, be sure that library space needs mirror that plan. Sarah also emphasized the importance of having a well thought out master plan before moving forward; “It’s far better to have a plan and no money, then money and no plan.” A plan that incorporates a number of smaller projects can maintain a sense of progress; Sarah cautions that it can be difficult to “motivate the love” for redoing a large building, and it may be more savvy to focus on which parts of the plan are achievable and high priority (for example, point-of-service centers, located strategically in key locations). Library space can be used as a carrot in creating partnerships on campus. If you are a good partner, funds may be freed up for building projects more readily. The good news is that space projects can leverage all sorts of funding: campus funding, estate funding, and philanthropy. Weird as it may seem “code violations can be your friend.” Violations may qualify you to tap into special funds for improvements, so keep up with changes in local codes. Final words of advice: change requires data, politics, and money. Without all three, your chances for success are diminished. And echoing the services theme, “Emphasize the librarian not the library.”

Shawna Sadler’s talk was based on her experiences with the recently built Taylor Family Digital Library at the University of Calgary. The TFDL is a LAMP: Library, Archive, Museum, Press (all under one roof). Before breaking ground on the building key words used discussion with architects included: agile (i.e. reconfigurable), contemporary, inspiring, and innovative. Some outcomes of developing an agile space include having a subfloor for power and data, and movable walls, both of which allow for flexibility going forward. Power and wireless are so essential that Calgary put a lot of thought into making both very easy to get to. For example, electrical sockets are built into furniture (so you don’t need to crawl around to plug in) and wireless was carefully configured so that it worked well throughout the building (who knew that books and bookcases absorb the signal?). Work surfaces are optimized for mobile devices — 1.5 inches lower than usual. Furniture is mobile (and moves around frequently as students reconfigure the space to work for them). When you provide a fantastic workspace, students and others are reluctant to get up, for fear of losing their spot. So reference librarians have been equipped for mobile reference with iPads. The TFLD enables collaborative work through a range of shared workspaces, editing rooms, practice rooms – all with enviable tech bells and whistles.

Wayne Gehrke and Andrea Will from Group 4 Architecture rounded out the session with the architect’s view of the planning process for new and improved buildings. They started by emphasizing, “if you don’t plan your library someone else will.” Much is made of the economic down turn, but recognizing that there is a cycle liberates you to take advantage of “down” cycles to do space planning; even thought it doesn’t seem like it, there will be an “up” and with funding in hand, you can execute on plan. The planning stage presents a great opportunity to think about new and existing programs, and to develop new partnerships. This is also time to get staff out of the building and to help facilitate new ideas, understanding emerging trends. This is also a time to engage students, faculty, and other stakeholders who can help build the story. Where do they do work and how?

Our responder panel included Chris Banks (University of Aberdeen); Simon Neame (University of British Columbia), and Lorelei Tanji (University of California, Irvine).

Chris spoke about her own new library. (You can see photos of the building in this Flickr group, although I don’t think photos do the building justice). Chris reinforced the importance of planning, saying building projects require a “passion for process.” The new Aberdeen library has generated increased use (both reflected in increased footfall and circulation) but she attributes this not only to the new building, but a new integrated discovery layer which was introduced at the same time. A positive outcome of the new building and related efforts? Chris has received reports from faculty in different departments that the quality of citation has increased since opening of new library and introduction of improved services.

Simon said that although space represents a huge opportunity, students on his campus still value traditional spaces. At UBC the building is officially the “learning center” but students still refer to it as the library, even though it has few books. Space planning is a good time to reconsider traditional library spaces and services. Finally, how to assess the success of buildings? Footfall is not the best metric.

Lorelei provided a contrast to other speakers, as UC Irvine is at the beginning of their building planning process. Irvine has many collaborative opportunities — with the writing center, campus IT and student outreach. Lorelie talked about Irvine’s efforts to both use and monitor social media to market libraries and measure reactions. Today’s students are part of the “verge generation” and are very at ease with sharing their experiences. Monitoring social media can be like a focus group on the library every day.

Other takeaways from the space discussion:

Collecting data to manage workflows is more important than design. – Sarah Pritchard

The future of research libraries is working with niche technology. –Simon Neame

Proposals should be clear to those external to the organization — “do not make the user figure out your internal organizational structure.” – Sarah Pritchard

Moves help to create change in research libraries because they allow staff to let go of stuff (not just paper) – Chris Banks

We’ll be back with a final post summarizing the main takeaways from the meeting and the discussion!

Libraries Rebound: Special collections and institutional mission

Monday, June 25th, 2012 by Merrilee

Continuing with our series on Libraries Rebound, we’ll now look at the session on special collections and institutional mission. Here we asked speakers to talk about how custodians of rare and unique materials are emphasizing engagement with the mission of their parent institution.

Tim Pyatt from Penn State University spoke about assessing special collections, and aligning with institutional mission. He described a recent assessment exercise as an opportunity to correct alignment challenges — at Penn State (as elsewhere) special collections have been opportunistically built, are underpinned by dedicated or inflexible endowments. To cast a fresh look on the historic base collection, the library dean charged a task force. The task force includes a mix of librarians (none from special collections) and faculty. The project is ongoing, but there already have been positive outcomes. The group has identified collection gaps, and established a policy for deaccessioning materials. Another benefit of a process that included “outsiders” is that there is now more potential for integrating with the “main” library. Special collections also benefits from having gained buy-in from others on campus.

Lisa Carter from Ohio State University told us that distinctive collections are relative to impact; special collection are less about what you have and more about what you do (or better, someone else does) with them. Special collections are certainly embedded at OSU in various ways (providing consultation, presenting in classes, etc.) but it can be difficult to quantify the impact of outreach. Ohio State is undertaking a more formal assessment of their collections, using a slightly tweaked version of the PACSCL survey tool. Measuring the impact of special collections is difficult, because there are few community metrics (Lisa mentioned that RBMS has a new task force on metrics and assessment). She made the point that it is important to connect to the library and campus strategic plans. (I’m pleased that in their discussions about collections assessment, Tim and Lisa both referred to our report, Taking Stock and Making Hay: Archival Collections Assessment).)

Fran Blouin from the University of Michigan talked about how special collections can better serve the campus mission, starting with university archives. As the information structure of the university is changing, there is a frightening absence of retention policies; this lack of organization, the pressure to shred instead of save, and personal storage of official material have all lead to chaos, and created challenges around creation, retention, storage, retrieval, and use of born digital collections. Clearly, university archives need to be integrated in the information flow but the library, let alone university archives are seldom involved in decisions about records creation systems. The university archive should be the center for institutional memory and should be elevated out of libraries and special collections so that they can integrate into the institutional information flow. (Blouin has made this argument for a few years now and I previously blogged about it here). There is an opportunity to develop programs based on collections, rather than building collections to support programs; in this model, the library shifts from a service unit to a partner.

We closed this session with our reactor panel Matt Reynolds (East Carolina University), Rachel Hart (University of St Andrews),
and Steven Mandeville-Gamble (George Washington University). Matt started out by saying that there is a need to get across that Special Collections are not only for the “elite researcher” — it’s important to assert special collections into undergrad curricula early. East Carolina works hard to connect collections with experience – for example, digitizing campus newspapers has been a project that appeals to students. Rachel spoke about using university archives and the record of 500th anniversary to provide an outline for current 600th anniversary celebration (this generated murmurs from those in the audience at institutions that had not yet celebrated 100 years). Steven talked about deassessioning materials no longer relevant to academic programs. At GWU the practice of tying collections to programs has resulting in the creation of new (and endowed) programs on campus. Success with fundraising for special collections has in itself raised the Library’s profile on campus.

The discussion session raised some interesting topics: the challenge of documenting communities that don’t use traditional documentation methods. There was also a debate about collecting tied to larger institutional priorities versus collecting broadly for the long term, with viewpoints aired on both sides. One note on the usefulness of special collections: if they are not being used, it is our job to make them useful and find connections. Sarah Pritchard noted that we need to make the case for long-term commitment to cultural heritage and get buy-in, while Fran Blouin countered that this can be a difficult sale without the materials having a connection to mission. Steven Mandeville-Gamble said that one of our problems with metrics is that, we don’t (often) ask ourselves what success looks like.

The slides from Libraries Rebound have been posted in their appropriate spots on the meeting agenda; we will let you know when the video from the sessions is also up. We’ll continue soon with a posting on the space session.

Where can I buy clomid online? Let’s purchase xenical drug!

Libraries Rebound: Directly supporting researchers

Friday, June 15th, 2012 by Merrilee

In a previous blog post, Ricky explained a little about our format. I’ll now continue with more of the content of the meeting, focusing on our first panel, where we asked speakers to talk about how librarians are working directly with researchers on their information needs as they plan, carry out, and disseminate their research. I should emphasize that I’m summarizing what I think are high points. All of these talks were quite rich, and will be posted online along with the video for the sessions soon.

Kurt de Belder (Leiden University) told us that the title of his strategic plan is “partner in knowledge”–the library is striving to become library to become the “expert center” for research and teaching and has been gearing up to provide what they see as key services: virtual research environments, capacities in text and data mining, support for data curation, GIS services. Services that focus on the dissemination part of the cycle include copyright consultation and publication support. Librarians have also been given an additional role of providing ICT support. The library is conducting in-depth focus groups with faculty to see which of these services are of highest value, and where they need additional support. As librarians move to becoming service experts, they have been allocated time to developing their new skills. Early signs are that the shift has been well received, with uptake of new services, an emerging reputation of the library as a “go-to” place, and the library being included as partner in developing funding requests.

Tracy GabridgeTracy Gabridge (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) talked about shifting from a model where librarians acted as “loan wolves” in separate services points to a team based model, and a move from providing reactive service to being more proactive in outreach to faculty. At the core of this shift was an effort to equip liaisons with some universal structures, but at the same time allow them to draw on the unique skills required for work with a particular disciplines. For example, there is are now a shared practice for contacting new faculty, which saves each librarian the time of doing this work individually and ensures consistency. There is also dedicated time for liaisons to debrief and share with one another as a large group, and also time for work within “communities of practice” that may share more deeply. Tracy reveled that 60% of MIT liaisons have domain knowledge. She does not consider domain knowledge universally essential — what is most important is continuous learning skills. Curiosity, fearlessness, and enthusiasm were also listed as necessary qualities. A sign of success? Half of MIT reference questions now come to the research liaisons directly, rather than over the reference desk.

David ShumakerDavid Shumaker (Catholic University of America) gave a rationale for moving towards “embedded librarians” in reaction to shifts in information seeking behavior and also disruption of higher education (a topic I’ll be blogging about soon!). The mission of librarians is “to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities*” (emphasis added), then librarians need to become part of communities. Embedded librarians develop deep relationships with researchers, shared goals, and provide custom, high-value contributions as part of a research team. This is not going out for coffee or having a first date, this is marriage! However, librarians need be outgoing to build these strong relationships, which can be a problem because, according to David, librarianship is a “profession dominated by introverted. Librarians should recognize that they bring unique perspective and skills to research teams. Librarians should also seek to develop the right high value services, and expect that this is will be a moving target — you may be continually reinventing services and that’s okay.

Service Panel: Chris, Liz, DanaNext was our reactor panel: Liz Chapman (London School of Economics), Chris Bourg (Stanford University), and Dana Rooks (University of Houston). We asked our reactors to be provocative and they did not disappoint! Liz questioned the concept of embedded librarianship; is this really a new thing? (This notion was met with both approval and pushback – the difference is a focus on deeper engagement and connection to both teaching and research, we are being more responsive to needs.) Chris took on education, stating that subject librarians absolutely need to have domain expertise. (This too, received both agreement and disagreement. Chris, as a good social scientist, called for evidence!) Dana Rooks talked about the importance of the library connectors and matchmakers on campus; if we leave the desk and can become engaged and active. We can put ourselves in a position to the big picture, and can help make connections (and burnish our own reputation in the process). Others in the audience both applauded and took issue with the notion of a continually evolving new services, seeing this as path where it is difficult to get ahead, and quite possible to fall off a cliff.

Some other quotable quotes:
“We should not be in the business of saving libraries, we should be serving scholarship.” – Chris Bourg
On where librarians “live” within the institution: “Work wherever you want, but get together and drink beer every once in awhile.” – David Shumaker
“We need to be comfortable with the idea of working ourselves out of a job.” Douglas Jones, U. Arizona #LibRebound

We’ll continue this series of summaries, so stay tuned! You can also take a look at Chris Bourg’s summary of the meeting here.

*attributed to David Lankes

Libraries Rebound: rethinking services, collections, space

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 by Merrilee

On June 5th and 6th, 125 folks from the OCLC Research Library Partnership gathered in Philadelphia to attend Libraries Rebound: Embracing Mission, Maximizing Impact. We’ll be doing a series of blog posts to try to recap some meeting highlights, including presentations and discussion points. I’m pleased to say that the Twitterstream was particularly active during the meeting and not only captured the proceedings but also carried observations and pointed commentary. For a flavor of the meeting, you can check out #LibRebound. All of the presentations from the meeting will be posted to the event website soon, and in due course we’ll post the video from the meeting as well.

Libraries ReboundWe held Libraries Rebound to foster a conversation about how academic and research libraries have an opportunity to frame the library as a set of distinctive services that better align the library with the mission of its parent institution. There were three broad themes for the meeting: creating services to more directly support researchers; aligning special collections with institutional mission; and exploiting space as a distinctive asset.

We were fortunate to have Scott Walter give our opening keynote. (Scott is University Librarian at DePaul University, where he is freshly arrived from his previous position as Associate University Librarian for Services and Associate Dean of Libraries at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.) I’m sure I was late to the party but I first noticed Scott’s work when he wrote a guest editorial for College & Research Libraries, “Distinctive Signifiers of Excellence: Library Services and the Future of the Academic Library Subsequently, OCLC Research invited him to give an OCLC Distinguished Seminar Series lecture on the “Service Turn.” Scott’s talk was quite rich, and I’ll point to the presentation once it’s up because it has pointers to lots of resources for further reading and exploration.

“Stories,” Scott began, “are important.” And the research library story has been, traditionally “by the numbers,” largely defined by how many books and journals we have. We are largely defined by our “stuff.” Similarly, library services have traditionally been arranged around giving access to collections. This was all a very good thing when libraries were the center of resource discovery. But now, with the academic library becoming increasingly becoming disintermediated from discovery, the library’s well-defined brand should shift from being so very closely tied to collections. We should be wary of having our story so closely defined by collections, because great libraries are not only composed of wonderful things — excellence is also defined by skilled librarians. Scott encapsulated this as “The most important collection in any library is its people.”

Stories Are Important

"Stories Are Important"

In shifting the story, libraries have an opportunity to take a close look at their service array to see if it is meeting evolving needs on campus. Scott gave some examples of services that do not represent the traditional “collection as service” offering, such as the Center for Digital Scholarship at the University of Kansas.

Scott also addressed the question of “distinctive services” which he defined as a campus taking a new approach that ties to campus mission or research strength, and / or which is such a hit that others follow.

Scott Walter at the podium

Scott Walter at the podium

For example, the Levy Library at USC may have been the first “info commons,” which are now, well, common! He also touched on the notion of developing shared services, which seemed to muddy the waters somewhat, because how can you have a services that is distinctive, but shared? I think that a service that starts off as “distinctive,” say chat reference, can evolve into a shared service if the need is broad and if can be scaled. My take on this is that not all services will scale, or need to. And rather than striving for “distinctiveness,” we should be aiming for appropriateness.

As a side note, we met in the historic Hyatt Bellevue Hotel, which was a lovely venue for the meeting. Unlike many historic hotels, this one has not been badly remodeled, and seems to have maintained some of its charm.

Marking Progress: print archives disclosure

Friday, May 25th, 2012 by Constance

For the past year and a half, Dennis and I have been working closely with a group of Research Library Partners and others to develop and test a method for registering print archives in WorldCat.  I’m pleased to say that the OCLC Print Archives Disclosure Pilot is now complete and a final report of our findings has been published. The report was jointly authored by Lizanne Payne (project director of the Western Regional Storage Trust), Emily Stambaugh (manager of  the California Digital Library’s Shared Print program), along with Dennis and myself.  Partners in this project included the Center for Research Libraries, (CRL), the California Digital Library (CDL), and the libraries of 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.

The report has actually been out for a few weeks now; it was published without fuss or fanfare at the end of April. Gary Price was kind enough to feature it in an InfoDocket post last month, and it’s been making the rounds on some of the specialized discussion lists devoted to print archiving and preservation activities.  The specifics of the report — guidance on how and where to register print preservation commitments — apply to a relatively small number of institutions, but the publication itself marks a milestone for library community as a whole.  It represents the culmination of several related efforts directed at redesigning the critical (and costly) business of  preserving print books and journals.

It’s been a long road.  Back in 2009, an OCLC Research working group undertook a review of shared print policy documents that revealed some significant gaps in existing guidance, particularly with respect to how and where print archiving commitments should be expressed or registered:

About half of the policies [examined in the report] stipulate that the special retention and/or shared access status of documents covered by the agreement should be systematically registered; less than 20% specify a location in the MARC21 bibliographic or local holdings record where this information is to be recorded. Only a quarter of the policies reviewed mandate disclosure of the retention or shared access status in regional, national or international union lists.

This last finding has important implications for collection-sharing efforts that seek to achieve significant scale or impact on system-wide economies. More effective and systematic disclosure of retention commitments, in particular, might produce significant network effects by enabling anonymous participation in collection-sharing initiatives, generating secondary benefits for the entire library community.

Predictably, the report closed with a set of recommendations (or admonitions) intended to address the policy gaps that we felt were most important:

Cooperative agreements that are intended to achieve or to enable truly transformative change in the way library print collections are managed should include:

  • A business model that acknowledges the changing value of library print resources in the current information environment;
  • An explicit acknowledgment that effective disclosure of library holdings and retention commitments is necessary to support distributed management of print archives; and
  • A commitment to capture, retain and share item-level condition information so that the preservation quality of print archives may be better judged.

The working group that contributed to the policy review was disbanded in 2009, but several participants continued to work, more or less informally, on drafting a set of guidelines for print archives disclosure in WorldCat.  That effort was explicitly modeled on modeled on practices developed in the 1990s for recording preservation microfilming information.  At the time, NEH was funding a large-scale brittle books preservation program and, to reduce duplicative effort, participating libraries needed a mechanism for identifying the titles and volumes that were already queued for filming.  Nancy Elkington was a prime mover in developing standard practices for recording this information in bibliographic union catalogs, using the MARC 583 Preservation Action Note.

Along with Deb McKern, a preservation officer at the Library of Congress, Nancy encouraged us to extend use of the 583 Action Note to print archiving activities.  Since 2005, use of the 583 had already been extended to registration of digital archives in the Registry of Digital Masters, a joint effort of the Digital Library Federation and OCLC.  It seemed sensible to build upon this past work in developing guidelines for registering print archiving commitments.  However, our initial effort to define guidelines for print archives disclosure foundered when it became clear that the bibliographic record was not an appropriate vehicle for recording item-level condition or retention statements.  For journal archiving efforts in particular, it was difficult to convey in a title-level record how much of a given journal run was actually preserved.  And, in a master-record union catalog like WorldCat, it was even harder to see how archiving commitments from multiple institutions could be adequately represented.

For a year or more, our efforts to define descriptive metadata guidelines for print archiving lay fallow.  Other projects were taken up.  But by 2010, with the emergence of several large-scale print journal archiving efforts and increasing public awareness of the importance of distributed preservation, it was clear that common approach to identifying shared print collections was urgently needed.  As anticipated in our 2009 report, the largest archiving efforts were finding it impossible to “scale up” without some shared infrastructure.  Happily, in the intervening years, support for item-level holdings information in WorldCat had increased substantially and it was possible to design and test a disclosure strategy that was better adapted to journals.  With the support of OCLC product management, the Print Archives Disclosure Pilot project was launched.  And as a result we are now — collectively — in a better place to design and implement scalable strategies for print preservation.

It was a very good year

Friday, April 20th, 2012 by Ricky

One of the top accomplishments of 2012 so far is putting together a summary of our 2011 activities! It’s worth a look to be reminded of the breadth of the work we do and the many ways our partners contribute to those achievements. Let’s not spend too much time looking backwards, though. We’ve got a lot of new activities underway and welcome your ideas and involvement! We hope you have a moment to check it out, but we won’t be resting on our laurels.