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Developing Print Repositories: Models for Shared Preservation and Access

report cover

by Bernard F. Reilly, Jr.
with research and analysis by Barbara DesRosiers, Center for Research Libraries

June 2003

Copyright 2003 by the Council on Library and Information Resources. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transcribed in any form without permission of the publisher. Requests for reproduction should be submitted to the Director of Communications at the Council on Library and Information Resources.

Biographical Information



1. Introduction: Purpose of the Study

1.1 Related National-Level Efforts
1.2 Limitations of the Study

2. U.S. Regional Repositories: General Characteristics and Features

2.1 Development Funding
2.2 Scale
2.3 Physical Plant
2.4 Staffing
2.5 Affiliated Services and Access
2.6 On-Campus Access to Materials
2.7 Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery
2.8 On-Site Use of Collections
2.9 Configuration of Collections

3. Regional Repository Policies: Selection and Management Regimes

3.1 Programmatic Selection Efforts
3.2 Withdrawal from Storage
3.3 Implications for Collective Management
3.4 Collection Ownership

4. Underlying Organizational and Funding Models

4.1 The State Model
4.2 The Consortium Model
4.3 The Proprietary Model

5. Other U.S. Supraregional and National-Level Repositories

5.1 Center for Research Libraries
5.2 Library of Congress
5.3 American Antiquarian Society

6. Some Repository Models Abroad

6.1 National Repository Library of Finland
6.2 CARM Centre, Australia

7. Factors that Promote Cooperative Collection Management

7.1 History of Cooperative Action or Common Governance
7.2 Formalization and Transparency
7.3 Homogeneity of Scale, Type, and Governance
7.4 Equitable Investment
7.5 High-Level Engagement with the Governing Authority
7.6 Economic Factors

8. Obstacles and Prospects


Appendix 1: Capacities/Occupancies of Repository Storage Facilities
Appendix 2: Types of Material Currently Housed in Repository
Appendix 3: On-Site Services Provided by Repositories
Appendix 4: Repository Costs and Expenditures
Appendix 5: Australian National Collections Storage Program
Appendix 6: National Print Collections Planning: United Kingdom
Appendix 7: A Collaborative Academic Library Store for Scotland (CASS)
Appendix 8: Methodology and Sources


Biographical Information

Bernard F. Reilly, Jr. is president of the Center for Research Libraries, a consortium of North American college, university, and independent research libraries. As chief executive officer, Reilly plans and directs the Center’s activities, programs and services. From 1997 until 2001, he was director of the Department of Research and Access at the Chicago Historical Society and, before 1997, chief curator in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

Barbara DesRosiers joined the Center for Research Libraries in July 2002 as project coordinator for the Distributed Print Archive. Before that, she was the access services librarian at Georgetown University Law Library, where she got her first exposure to regional repositories by moving 20,000 volumes offsite to the Washington Regional Library Consortium. She received her MLIS from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 2000 while working for the University of Chicago as the Head of Lending Services.


Many people at the institutions surveyed were extremely generous in responding to an endless stream of questions and requests for information. The following made available to the survey an exceptionally rich fund of experience and knowledge on the planning, operations, and programs of the interinstitutional repositories: Claire Bellanti, director, UCLA Library Resource Sharing and UC Southern Regional Library Facility; Sue Berry, depository manager, Southwest Ohio Regional Depository; Willis Bridegam, director, Amherst College Library; Margo Warner Curl, coordinator of cooperative collection development, CONStor Colleges; Nancy Davenport, director of acquisitions, Library of Congress; Ellen Dunlap, president, American Antiquarian Society; David Ferriero, vice provost for library affairs and university librarian, Duke University; Daniel Greenstein, executive director, California Digital Library, Cecily Johns, deputy university librarian, and Gary S. Lawrence, director, library planning and policy development, University of California; Eileen Henthorne, executive director, ReCAP; Bernie Hurley, director of Northern Regional Library Facility and director of libraries technology, UC Berkeley; Patricia McCandless, associate director for public services, Ohio State University; Steve O’Connor, executive director, CAVAL; Lizanne Payne, executive director, Washington Research Libraries Consortium; and Thomas Wall, director of the Duke University Libraries Service Center.

The study also benefited from the informed perspectives and thoughtful advice of Joseph Branin and William Studer at Ohio State University. And Abby Smith, at the Council on Library and Information Resources, brought her exceptionally acute analytical skills and broad knowledge of the academic community to bear on the study and the final report.


For centuries, printed texts have been the staple of the scholarly and teaching professions. Committed to providing access to physical copies of texts to their local patrons, libraries have collected these texts in abundance and in redundancy.

With the introduction of duplicating technologies, interlibrary loan, and, more recently, networked digital access to texts, the need for libraries to collect and own volumes of print to provide access has diminished. At the same time, the output of publishers has grown enormously. The changing economics of purchasing, serving, and storing has resulted in a complex landscape of increasingly homogenized collections-one in which texts are also often purchased in several formats simultaneously. It has also led to a modest boom in the construction of secondary storage facilities that are needed to accommodate the growing volume of hard copies.

As librarians survey their burgeoning holdings, they can readily see that their retrospective collections are seldom used. This does not mean, however, that these materials have lost their value for research and teaching. How can libraries best manage these collections? More specifically, how can they do so in a way that increases the purchasing power of stagnant or shrinking collections budgets? What innovative approaches to collection development and management can they use? This report presents information about cooperative collection storage and management initiatives that can shape and support new strategies for the management of print collections.

In 1998, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) convened a task force of senior humanities and social science faculty to look at the role of artifactual collections in libraries that are increasingly meeting their patrons’ needs through digital delivery of information resources. The task force examined faculty members’ need for information resources and libraries’ ability to secure adequate financial resources to meet that need. The task force published its findings in a report, The Evidence in Hand: Report of the Task Force on the Artifact in Library Collections, in 2001.

The task force recommendations were clear, and their implications daunting: libraries should keep up with current collecting demands, achieve greater efficiencies of storing and serving little-used materials, and tighten the national safety net for the preservation of research collections. They should achieve this vision primarily through cooperative collection, storage, and management of information resources. The task force called for the planned growth of cooperatively managed repositories for little-used materials. These central facilities should be backed by a number of smaller repositories to serve the community at large as archival repositories of record for American imprints. Such a system, the task force believed, would ensure preservation as the key to safeguarding the intellectual and cultural heritage of the country.

These recommendations were not based on the unrealistic expectation that libraries would then be able to preserve everything that may be of value for scholarship. A sober look at the pressures on libraries and their budgets led task force members to conclude that libraries could no longer aspire to collect universally, or even as deeply and broadly as they had in the past. Task force members also realized that secondary storage is an excellent response to space shortages incurred by growing collections. Finally, if the facilities were optimized for preservation of physical collections, this would greatly benefit collections and, by extension, their users, by prolonging the useful life of imprints.

Implementing these recommendations requires further defining what should go into these repositories; how they are to be organized, governed, and sustained; and how collaborations among libraries and between libraries and scholars can be nurtured. The task force recommended, for example, that “such repositories might be organized along chronological lines, with institutions specializing in certain periods; along disciplinary or linguistic lines; or along geographical (that is, physical location) lines for consortial use” (Nichols and Smith 2001, 73). As might be expected, the scholars on the task force were looking for repositories that could serve as “scholars’ archives,” to be organized in a way that maximized the use of specialized materials by aggregating them according to discipline or language. While this approach makes sense from a researcher’s point of view, it does not address the pressing problem of cost-effective management of little-used collections. From the libraries’ point of view, organizing repositories based on geographical proximity, rather than chronologically or by discipline, presents the greatest opportunities in the near-term. Direct stewards of collections are best positioned to address the rationalization of cooperative storage, building on existing shared repositories to develop opportunities for shared collection management and, simultaneously and over time, creating repositories of archival collections that are meant to be used only as a last resort.

To build on the recommendations of the task force, CLIR commissioned the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) to investigate existing models of repositories organized along geographical lines for consortial use as well as models of some archival repositories. This report is the result of that study. Authors Bernard Reilly and Barbara DesRosiers looked broadly at existing shared repositories. Their report includes information about both regional repositories and those that collect on behalf of an entire nation. While carefully documenting the growth and achievements of such facilities, Reilly and DesRosiers also point to the promises they hold for new collaborative solutions to problems that libraries share but are used to grappling with on their own. Seeing such repositories as tools or sites for new forms of cooperation, the authors challenge us to think about how these cooperative storage arrangements might do much more than solve problems caused by shortage of real estate on campus.

The authors also document some critical features of two other types of repositories. One type includes repositories that have developed a concentration of rare or little-used materials in specific collecting areas. The second type collects and preserves “last-copy” imprints (that is, items that are rare and possibly unique) and serves such materials under highly controlled protocols or, in some cases, does not serve them at all. There are few such repositories of record in place to study, and the challenges of building and sustaining them are different from those associated with repositories that allow some level of access. Nonetheless, the requirements of building and sustaining such fail-safe collections can be related to or inferred from the experiences of shared repositories. In order to fulfill the crucial societal roles of last-copy or “heritage-copy” collections, there should be an agreement, among other things, about the following: · core attributes of such copies · protocols governing management and preservation · protocols governing access · how to record such copies · how to make such information widely accessible

The authors discuss several international models, as well as the single active model in the United States, the American Antiquarian Society (AAS). Interestingly, the AAS also serves as a “scholars’ archive”-one whose collections are of depth and breadth in a specific set of genres, languages, and time periods (in this case, early American imprints).

All special collections libraries, and especially those that are members of the Independent Research Libraries Association, could be described as “scholars’ archives.” Outside of the independent research libraries, it is not uncommon for research centers to be set up in relationship to existing collections. The Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., uses the resources of the Library of Congress. The National Humanities Center uses a network of libraries in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Both the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress have recently established on-site research centers specifically to bring in scholars to use their collections. AAS alone, however, has also declared its mission to be a repository of last resort. It has in place a plan for acquiring a comprehensive set of items and is committed to preserving a copy of each item in perpetuity on behalf of a larger community.

Another type of last-copy or archival collection is being developed by JSTOR, the journal archiving enterprise that creates and distributes digital surrogates of print journals in specific academic fields. JSTOR is trying to collect a full set of hard copies of each of the journals it makes available online. It will not make these hard copies available for use; instead, they will constitute a true archival back-up collection that will be used only for disaster recovery. JSTOR’s intention is to create the ultimate insurance against loss. Though plans are very much in the early phases, JSTOR is even contemplating maintaining more than one such back-up archive of hard copies to further reduce the risk of catastrophic loss.

It is interesting that JSTOR, an independent third-party provider of library resources, should be the first to plan for building such fail-safe repositories. Preliminary discussions among librarians about creating a network of such repositories usually end in general agreement that libraries should be doing something like this themselves, but so far they have backed away from actually doing so. There are many reasons for this reluctance; nonetheless, it is imperative that we understand the role that trust plays in the development-or lack of development-of shared management of collections in any repository. JSTOR is building a back-up repository system to build trust in the community of libraries it serves; its goal is to be a fully trustworthy archive. Libraries, in contrast, have been unable to build shared repositories without such trust already in place among the potential partners. As Reilly and DesRosiers point out, a “strong interinstitutional culture” is necessary for the kind of long-term commitments that can achieve scales of economy and improved stewardship. Repositories that go beyond the mere sharing of storage space to the sharing of management and access-in some cases decoupling ownership from governance-are those that build on previous histories of collaboration and interdependence. (The University of California and Five-College Depository are the chief examples discussed in this report.)

A crucial factor in building trust among members of a community is transparency. JSTOR has made a point to inform the community about what it does, how it operates, and why it reaches the decisions about access and preservation that it does. The University of California and the Five-College Depository have likewise been open in sharing their plans and experiences. As the library community develops new models of stewardship and service, information sharing will be a keystone in the building and maintaining of trust. CLIR is grateful to those who so graciously agreed to open their doors to the investigators from CRL, took time to provide detailed information, and encouraged us in the publication of this report. By doing so, they demonstrate their own commitment to our shared goal of responsible cultural stewardship.

Abby Smith
Director of Programs, CLIR


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