The collective print collection

We have just made available a report on shared storage facilities and the future of print collections as part of the Collective Collection strand of the RLG Programs agenda. It is written by Lizanne Payne, Executive Director of the Washington Research Library Consortium.

It reviews storage facility designs and the extent of their use; the context supporting the development and use of off-site storage facilities; the key trends of shared journal archives, last- and single-copy facilities, “virtual storage,” mass digitization, and local scanning and print-on-demand technology; and considers the future of library print collections, including the potential development of a distributed print repository network.
The author concludes that high-density library storage facilities have moved into the mainstream for collection management in academic libraries, and that this is the optimum time for the academic and library communities to leverage this collective capacity to develop a broader, system-wide approach to maintaining print collections across institutional boundaries. [Library Storage Facilities and the Future of Print Collections in North America PDF]

I believe that we will see a major reassessment of print collection management over the next few years. Mass digitization, the opportunity costs of using valuable central space for storage, and the changing behaviors of researchers and learners are all contributing to a reevaluation of physical library collections.

Comments: 2

Nov 05, 2007
Amos Lakos

Timely and very good report in my opinion.

Although I agree with all the analysis and conclusions, I am not sure that the report expressed the urgency of the situation.

I wish there was more explicit cost and opportunity cost analysis of the shared print options - especially for the mono graphic literature.

I also think that large ARL research libraries will not be able to continue to resist much longer large regional or national collaborative efforts on this front. - But this is mostly a culture, funding and guts issue

I wish more library leaders would take the following quoptes from this report seriously -

"Proactive efforts to optimize use of existing collection capacity in the context of regional or national holdings are likely to realize more value than local deduplication projects alone.

Academic institutions and the libraries that serve them could provide lasting benefits to scholarship and economies to their institutions by proactively developing a network of print repositories on a regional, national, or even a global scale."

I agree with you that libraries face a major reassessment of print collections management in the coming years, but I am not sure that libraries have that much time. I think that most libraries will wait till the space crisis is realized by university leaders, who then will force libraries to collaborate by slashing collection budgets.


Nov 06, 2007
Owen Stephens

The UKRR project (http://www.curl.ac.uk/projects/index.htm#UKRR) is doing work on collective storage in the UK - focussing on Research libraries. This has already had a significant impact on our management of our print periodicals collection at Imperial