On November 12 and 13, 2007, at the University of Pennsylvania, RLG Programs will hold an invitational summit on collaborative management of print collections. Folks from institutions both inside and outside the RLG Programs partnership have expressed a strong interest in the content and outcomes of this gathering, as well as curiosity about certain aspects of its aims and planning.
The impetus for the summit, entitled “When the Print Hits the Fan: Collaborative Approaches to Managing Print Collections in a Digital Era,” was a simple question: How can the trust built up among members of the SHARES resource sharing consortium over the past two decades be extended to (and leveraged by) other parts of the libraries beyond interlibrary loan? Shared offsite storage presented itself early on as a potential point of resonance. That soon expanded into the idea of examining current collaborative collection management efforts within the RLG Programs partnership, because, like interlibrary lending, this activity is comprised of shared policy agreements, shared data, and shared confidence that needed materials will be made accessible in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Another factor in shaping the November meeting is RLG Programs’ past success in bringing very different perspectives together in the same room for focused discussion on a common challenge. In 2002, with “Sharing the Wealth,” we brought together interlibrary loan administrators and special collections curators. In 2007, with “Discovery to Delivery in New Contexts,” we brought together library directors and other senior managers with middle managers and frontline staff, then stirred them up with a series of provocative speakers. With the collections meeting, we hope that bringing together teams of access and collections folks from a variety of types of institutions – ARL’s, non-ARL academic, law, museum, CURL’s – will result in a dynamically different sort of conversation about collaboratively managing print collections, with a hard focus on real experience, real obstacles, and real strategies for overcoming those obstacles.The decisive factor in our choosing this topic for the November summit, of course, is that nearly every institution in the diverse RLG Programs partnership is invested in the issues surrounding the management of shared print collections. Most that aren’t soon will be.
That’s some of the behind-the-scenes thinking that went into planning the print collections summit. Tomorrow I’ll have some more to say about why we invited the institutions we did, and what RLG Programs hopes to get out of the event.
Dennis is a senior program officer for OCLC Membership & Research, concentrating on studies and activities involving the sharing of collections.