Total Cost of Stewardship: a new publication from the OCLC RLP

Total Cost of Stewardship: Responsible Collection Building in Archives and Special Collections

I am very excited to announce the release today of Total Cost of Stewardship: Responsible Collection Building in Archives and Special Collections. The report and accompanying suite of tools is a product of the OCLC RLP Collection Building and Operational Impacts (CBOI) Working Group.

The working group originally came together around addressing the enduring challenge of backlogs of un- and under-described materials in archives, rare book, and special collections, and the disconnect we saw between the way the profession was trying to address backlogs and the way we were seeing backlogs created. That is, we had seen much good work dedicated to increasing efficiency in technical services as a means to address backlogs, but little discussion of the supply side of the backlog equation – over-collecting in relationship to institutional capacity to steward. We wanted to bring together collection building decisions and collection stewardship capacity discussions, and the people with skills and responsibilities in both of these realms.

The resulting work puts forward the concept of Total Cost of Stewardship, defined as all of the costs associated with building, managing, and caring for collections so they can be used by and useful to the public. We also outline a Total Cost of Stewardship Framework and offer an accompanying suite of tools, intended to support institutions in operationalizing a resource-sensitive collecting program which considers the potential value of a new acquisition alongside all of the responsibilities associated with stewarding it.

The full collection of materials published includes: 

  • An OCLC Research report: Total Cost of Stewardship: Responsible Collection Building in Archives and Special Collections 
  • An annotated bibliography of related resources 
  • The Total Cost of Stewardship Tool Suite, comprising of a set of Communication Tools, a set of Cost Estimation Tools, and a Manual to guide end users in implementing the Tool Suite. 
Total Cost of Stewardship Framework

This publication has been nearly two years in the making, including a full and challenging pandemic year that slowed but did not stop our effort. I am grateful for the dedication, creativity, and generosity of the working group members throughout our project, and quite proud of what our group created together. Thank you to all who contributed:

  • Matthew Beacom, Yale University
  • Heather Briston, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Martha Conway, University of Michigan
  • Gordon Daines, Brigham Young University
  • Andra Darlington, Getty Research Institute
  • Audra Eagle Yun, University of California Irvine
  • Ed Galloway, University of Pittsburgh
  • Carrie Hintz, Emory University
  • Jasmine Jones, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Brigette Kamsler, George Washington University
  • Mary Kidd, New York Public Library  
  • Sue Luftschein, University of Southern California
  • Nicholas Martin, New York University
  • Erik Moore, University of Minnesota
  • Susan Pyzynski, Harvard University
  • Andrea Riley, National Archives and Records Administration
  • Gioia Stevens, New York University
  • Chela Scott Weber, OCLC

We are excited to get the report and tools out into the world and will be hosting a number of events over the next few months to share more about the Total Cost of Stewardship Framework and Tool Suite. We will host a webinar on April 20, and are scheduling a Twitter chat in late April to talk about building resource aware collecting programs, and a set of office hours in early May where you can come to get guidance on using the tool suite. We hope these tools and ideas will be of use to you and your institution, and that you will join us to learn more in our upcoming events.

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