Inside scoop on collections summit, part two

Previously I talked a little about the original impetus behind the RLG Programs print collections summit coming up next month in Philadelphia. Now I’d like to share a bit about why we invited the institutions we did, and what RLG Programs hopes to get out of the event.

Let’s face it: maybe five or six libraries among us will continue to buy nearly everything about everything in which their constituents might have an interest. Those five or six libraries will also keep pretty much every single volume they’ve ever bought. Forever.

Everyone else is going to have to adapt. Everyone else is going to at least think about finding someone to play with when it comes to managing print collections.

For the November meeting, we decided to focus not on the five or six libraries that will be able to keep on doing it all for themselves, but rather on those RLG Programs partner institutions that we know are actively engaged in collaborative collective management activities. That’s who we invited. We’re hoping to draw out the early adapters, as it were. One way to adapt is to start thinking about your own local collections, particularly print collections, as something that fits in with a larger whole. We feel that RLG Programs might be in a unique position to help frame an interesting conversation about that.

No doubt we missed some important work already going on right under our noses. Certainly, other partner institutions could have contributed as much as those that have been invited. Some partners with ongoing work in this area asked after the announcement that they be invited. So our group has grown larger than will fit comfortably around a conference table. Meanwhile, we at RLG Programs have grown smarter about the landscape. We hope that one effect of the conversations about the November summit will be that such projects of yours that we might have missed (and that interested others might also have missed) get talked about and documented much more widely and become an accessible part of our collective experience.

RLG Programs already has a set work agenda in the area of managing the collective collection. This agenda is based in part on our understanding of the opinions, wants and needs of the community. This November meeting is not for us some idealistic blue-sky exercise where we will gather experts in a room, listen to what you say, and then try to chart a programmatic or development path that will solve everyone’s problems within a couple of business cycles. It is also not a ploy to gather smart people into a closed space and then hope that magic happens, with some of the glory reflecting back on RLG Programs. Rather, it’s an opportunity for us to bring together a different sort of group than the ones that usually gather to discuss collaborative print collection management issues, to take a practical look at where progress in this area currently stands from both a collections and an access perspective, to catalog and categorize the kinds of obstacles that are keeping such efforts from going further, and to throw the full force of our collective experience and creativity at those obstacles in an effort to defeat them.

What do we at RLG Programs hope to get out of this meeting?

  1. Departing attendees who have identified at least one thing they will do upon returning home to further their collaborative print collection management efforts, with a promise to report back in three months.
  2. A grid showing various approaches to collaborative collection management, and the successes and obstacles associated with each approach, based on recent experience.
  3. A half-day’s worth of brainstorming about solutions to the identified obstacles and ruminations about how those solutions might change in a more digital future.
  4. Some high-level understanding of which types of solutions to managing collections collectively might be more effective at a local level, which at a regional level, and which at a national or global level.
  5. Some high-quality grist for refreshing the OCLC Programs and Research work agenda on the theme of “Managing the Collective Collection.”

A draft agenda for the meeting will go up on the RLG Programs Web site shortly. There will soon be an opportunity for anyone who’s interested to contribute to the conversation via a pre-meeting survey. Outcomes and next steps will be widely shared.

That’s the inside scoop on the November RLG Programs collections meeting.