Coverage of non-English language resources in the global library system as it is represented in WorldCat has shown steady growth. Since mid 2008, more than half of the titles registered in WorldCat represent non-English language content. So clearly there is an important trend toward ‘internationalization’ of the library system as it is reflected in WorldCat. However, the growth in non-English collections is not a reflection of major changes in collecting behaviors among US university libraries but rather a deliberate effort to add non US national bibliographies and university library holdings to our catalog. This means that the uptick in coverage of non-English language content does not track with an uptick in availability of that content in the US.
As a further illustration of this, we can consider the example of languages deemed ‘critical priorities’ by the US Department of State. As this graph shows, there has been significant growth in the number of titles in 6 of the 7 priority languages since about 2007. This coincides with efforts to expand coverage of non US national libraries in WorldCat. New partnerships with the National Libraries of China and Taiwan contributed to the rapid growth of Chinese language titles; contributions from the University of Hong Kong were also a major factor. In this same period, we added records from the National Library of Iraq and the Arabic Union Catalog, which is managed in Riyadh. Another major factor was the merging of WorldCat and another large union catalogue (RLIN) that included a much richer base of library materials in non-Roman scripts (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Hebrew and Cyrillic).So this tells us that the scope of the library system as it is reflected in WorldCat has diversified significantly in areas that are important to US interests. But it is not necessarily the case that the ‘existence proof’ that these titles exist in the library system translates into increased availability for US researchers.
A network of >125 institutions supporting foreign language education and area studies scholarship for 10 global regions. Part of larger system of >3000 colleges and universities in the US.Over the past six months, we have looked at how the coverage of global resources in NRC libraries compares to library collections outside the NRC network.
One of the most striking findings of this analysis is the highly diffuse nature of global resource collections. For example, even the most comprehensive institutional collections fall far short of achieving significant coverage of literature related to particular geographies. In this example, for Crimea, we see that among the largest NRC libraries coverage varies from 11% to a maximum of 47%. What this suggests is that more than half of the literature related to Crimea is dispersed across library system as a whole. That’s a potentially significant gap in evidence base for scholarship and policy making.
If we look beyond the network of National Resource Centers for Russia and Eastern Europe, we see that other US university and research libraries hold collections that are as strong as (or even stronger than) holdings in individual NRC libraries.This speaks to the collective strength and scope of the US research library system – but it also points to the need for systemwide coordination to ensure that this widely distributed resource is made discoverable and useful to students and researchers.
In addition, we find that large-scale digital aggregations like Google Books and the HathiTrust Digital Library now constitute discovery ‘hubs’ in their own right. This is relevant to the recommendation from Duke Global Resources symposium that additional effort be directed to improving digital access to global resources. The irony here is that visibility in digital aggregations does not guarantee availability to researchers, who must instead fall back on traditional print fulfillment options. And with an inventory that is widely diffused across the library system, this can be a costly affair.
So, we have seen that ‘institution-scale’ coverage for literature related to Crimea is relatively limited. What about other high priority regions? This map compares the maximum National Resource Center library coverage of literature related to 9 countries in South Asia. I’ve color coded each country according to the level of library coverage that is available. At the upper end, individual NRC libraries can provide coverage for 35% to 38% of content related to Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.NRC libraries can provide about 26% coverage of literature related to India and Sri Lanka.For the rest, NRC libraries can provide coverage for less than 20% of the related literature – and only about 16% for Afghanistan.
Now, as I’ve already noted, coverage of relevant literature is sometimes better outside of the NRC network. For example, if we consider four different approaches to identifying content relevant to Afghanistan – titles about the country, titles produced in the country, titles about the Pushto language and titles published in that language – we can see that there is fairly substantial coverage in non NRC institutions. The University of Nebraska is a center of excellence for studies of Afghanistan and its library collections reflect that strength. The Library of Congress also has very strong collections in this area, as does Harvard University.The designated NRC for South Asia have comparatively weaker coverage. I want to emphasize that this is not necessarily a problem – indeed, it may well reflect deliberate efforts at those institutions to collect different but complementary materials.
One of the critical challenges in managing global resources collections lies in the spiky distribution of content within and outside of the National Resource Center network, and in the digital environment.It is quite difficult to characterize the strengths and weaknesses of library infrastructure along the traditional lines of area studies. As this chart shows, the scope of library collections for different countries in South Asia varies enormously. So too does the available coverage of those titles in NRC and other libraries. There are notable ‘troughs’ in coverage of literature related to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iran and this should give us pause, because we know that the collective capacity of libraries is sufficient to provide 100% coverage. What it means, in practical terms, is that ‘filling the gap’ will require cooperation on a broad scale – involving institutions within and outside of NRC, as well as international partnerships.
To recap briefly:The global library system is diversifying and a growing share of international publications are now discoverable; however, the institutional and geographic distribution of these resources makes it all but impossible for any library to offer anything approaching ‘comprehensive’ coverage of the relevant literature.Compounding this problem, library managers have limited access to decision support tools that would enable cross-institutional coordination of acquisitions, cataloging and stewardship of global resources. Equally important, current incentive models continue to reward ‘institution-scale’ approaches to building and managing research collections.Finally, it is abundantly clear that while the visibility of global research resources in the networked digital environment is growing, it is growing very unevenly – so that even ‘high priority’ areas that are well represented in physical library collections are comparatively under-represented in digital formats.The good news is that these are tractable problems.
I would single out four areas for immediate attention.First, there must be a deliberate effort to increase coordination within and outside the NRC network – we have seen that it is impossible for any institution to provide adequate coverage of relevant global resources, especially in an environment where international relations and economic partnerships are no longer determined by geographic proximity or bounded by common languages.Second, it would be sensible to dedicate some attention and effort to implement discovery and delivery solutions that leverage the aggregate capacity at least of NRC-funded libraries. The requirements for these systems are likely to be different than those required for ‘generic’ library services.It is important to recognize, in the US especially, that universities and research organizations are in competition with one another for funding, influence and brand recognition. Without some new incentives to encourage and reward cross-institution collaboration, we cannot reasonably expect to see higher education institutions (or their libraries) adopt ‘cross institution’ solutions. It is up to funders and policy-makers to develop appropriate incentive mechanisms to enable broader coordination across the international education sector.Finally, it is critically important that we prioritize investments that will increase digital access to global resources, especially in those areas where traditional library fulfillment models can no longer meet the needs of students and researchers.
Global Resources - a system-wide perspective
Demand & Supply: The Critical Role of Research Libraries in International Education
Program Officer, OCLC Research
12 April 2014
Internationalization of US Education in the 21st Century
Global Resources: a system-wide view
Research libraries as shared infrastructure
• Aggregate library resource represents vital
infrastructure for foreign language and area
• Current organization of research library
‘system’ is ill-adapted to support emerging
requirements for international education
• Institution-scale approaches to building global
resource collections misaligned with realities of
networked scholarship and international
Growth of Non-English Content in WorldCat
Source: Glenn Patton, OCLC
More titles, fewer
Fewer titles, more
Coverage of critical priority languages in the
global library system has increased substantially
Yet, institution-scale coverage in US
research libraries remains limited
Title VI National Resource Centers
A loosely integrated network
within larger HE system
129 centers in ~50 universities
in coverage among
*As represented in
Non-NRC coverage of
global resources equals
or exceeds coverage
in Title VI Centers
*As represented in
*As represented in
discoverability of global
pressures on libraries
Maximum Title VI NRC Library Coverage of Content
related to South Asian Geographies
Coverage is moderate, content highly diffused
Content about Afghanistan
U Nebraska, Omaha 34%
Library of Congress 28%
UC Berkeley 16%
Content about Pashto
Library of Congress 27%
U Nebraska, Omaha 20%
UC Berkeley 19%
U Chicago 18%
Content from Afghanistan
Library of Congress 38%
U Nebraska, Omaha 15%
UC Berkeley 7%
U Chicago 2%
Content in Pashto
Library of Congress 41%
U Chicago 19%
UC Berkeley 12%
U Pennsylvania 12%
10*Title VI National Resource Centers for South Asia
‘Spiky’ Distribution of South Asian Resources
Single Library Single NRC Library Hathi Google Total Related Works in WorldCat
Fewer titles More titles
• Diffuse distribution of global resources across
US research library system limits discoverability
• Limited ‘network intelligence’ for distributed
• Incentive models (reputation, funding) favor
• Significant disparities in coverage and
availability of global resources in digital
Areas for attention
• Maximize library coordination capacity within
and beyond NRC network
• Address need for integrated discovery/delivery
solutions that leverage distributed resource
• Support and reward ‘above the institution’
acquisitions and stewardship models that
improve resource coverage, reduce management
• Prioritize investments to improve digital access
to global resource collections in targeted areas.