RLG Collections Summit


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Slides from opening orientation session at invitational Future of Collections Summit organized by RLG Programs (part of OCLC Research) in November 2007

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  • To the YouTube generation, references to the 11 th Hour conjure up the thrilling prospect of 95 minutes in the company of Leonardo DiCaprio, bearing witness to the impact of global warming on our ecosystems, watching breathlessly as floods and firestorms threaten to wipe out human civilization. I think everyone here is old enough to recall that the allusion to the “11 th hour, of the 11 th day, of the 11 th month” refers to a different historical crisis, which marked the end of the Great War. The new film capitalizes on this association, eliding the dashed hopes of the Armistice Agreement with Winston Churchill’s assurance that if the British troops could rally in defense of their fallen European allies, their glory would be would be assured. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.' Winston Churchill - June 18, 1940
  • Unsustainable growth model Budgets are limited electronic resources absorb up to 70% of ARL collection budgets (+40% median) – and are the most heavily used monographic acquisitions, chiefly print books, are constrained by high cost of electronic resources Space for collections is limited Low-use print titles compete with cafes and collaboratories Storage facilities compete with parking garages and sports arenas Limited redundancy in system-wide print holdings Uniqueness is common; collection rationalization offers limited cost savings Ongoing preservation costs for print are irreducible (real estate) – no Mohr’s law for print storage! Preservation responsibility is inequitably distributed Institutional mandates differ – some can weed, others can’t (or won’t) Access to storage facilities is limited Free-rider problem
  • For whom are our collections built? Local users? All academic users?
  •  Look at gross volumes added to ARL collection in aggregate since 1999; consider that 13% of uniquely held books in ARL collections (886K titles) were published after 1999. There is some level of duplication in what remains – the question is how to leverage it in cost-effective ways.
  • Map represents geographic distribution of approx 60 library storage facilities in the lower 48 states. Includes only high-density off-site storage facilities. Number of facilities, total (aggregate) built capacity, and current occupancy measure in volume equivalents.
  • That’s the end of the art history lesson. I’m going to spend the balance of my time talking about the work (or some of the work) that RLG Programs is doing to help research libraries mobilize their collections for discovery and use in the networked environment. I will focus on a few projects that fall within the theme we call “Managing the Collective Collection” – essentially, exploring ways to characterize and manage local library holdings as part of a large, distributed inventory; what we sometimes refer to as the system-wide print collection.
  • NYARC collective collection (combined holdings of approx 1M titles) amounted to more than 960,000 unique titles. About 80 percent of these titles were held by a single NYARC institution; only about 1 percent were held by all four.
  • NYARC collective collection (combined holdings of approx 1M titles) amounted to more than 960,000 unique titles. About 80 percent of these titles were held by a single NYARC institution; only about 1 percent were held by all four. And for those duplicated elsewhere, the duplication is very thin (fewer than 10 libraries). Within the group, duplication was low – approx 30% of each individual collection was duplicated by someone else in the group.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, we’re tackling the challenges associated with managing redundancy in library print collections. Anatomy of Aggregate Collections (2005) showed that aggregate collection of original Google 5 libraries amounted to 10.5M volumes – of which only 9% (or 900K titles) were held by 4 or more libraries in the group.
  • Ensure retention of last copies Ensure back-up to online access Expand coverage, reduce cost Shared access to low-use collections
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