I stumbled upon the pages at Swarthmore College Library devoted to WH Auden's spell as a teacher there earlier today. There are a few nice pages pointing to his use of the library.
Auden was a great poet and a provocative professor, but he was not always the ideal library patron. His sometimes indecipherable scrawl probably provided an interesting challenge for those who attempted to parse his library call slips. ....An interesting use of patron data!
view some of Auden's other library requests. [W.H. Auden @ Swarthmore]
This reminded me that when I visited Bryn Mawr earlier this year I was interested to discover that the three colleges (Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr) had extensive retrospective data about the use of their collections. Their experience is also instructive in that they have progressively moved to managing their 'collective collection' in more coordinated ways. They produced a very interesting report several years ago examining what a shared resource would mean in practice. They looked at faculty preferences and behaviors; the comparative uniqueness and use of their collections; space, growth and logistics issues. It is a very interesting read.
Library Buildings and the Building of a Collaborative Research Collection at the Tri-College Library Consortium. Report to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Judy Luther, Linda Bills, Amy McColl, Norm Medeiros, Amy Morrison, Eric Pumroy, and Peggy Seiden. April 2003.One important step they have taken is to consolidate the catalog across the three libraries: Tripod: Tri-college Library Catalog. As one might expect this has resulted in more flow of library materials between the colleges as the slide below shows.
Clearly, given the wider context of these institutions and their geographic proximity, these libraries are better placed to move in this direction than others. And the report provides a useful reminder of some of the issues to be addressed, in particular faculty preferences for local access. That said, it is an interesting example of a trend that may become more general in certain environments over time as shared discovery and delivery environments encourage shared collection development, and perhaps shared inventory management also.