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7. Factors that Promote Cooperative Collection Management

The repositories discussed here achieved some success in coordinating collection management at the regional level. Many of them, notably those of the University of California system and the two consortia of private colleges, have been the sites of coordinated collection management and development among affiliated libraries. At these sites, the participating libraries have moved beyond merely satisfying their immediate needs for storage space and have begun to use the repository facilities as tools with which to reduce or eliminate redundancy and systematically archive last copies of certain kinds of materials. For CONStor, Five Colleges, and California, this cooperation has enabled the rationalized management of individual on-campus library collections as well. Several factors contribute to success on this front. First, proper architecture, technical systems, geographic location, workflows, and policies are all important to the facilities’ effectiveness, as are the geographic proximity of the members served and the expandability of the facility. Providing a set of services (for example, ILL, reformatting, and DD) that enhance access to and care of the materials, without sacrificing the specialization of activities that yields economies of scale, is essential.

Most critical to success, however, are the nature and structure of the partnerships that support the repositories. The organizational model and financial system adopted to build and sustain a repository has a decided effect on the repository’s program and durability. The existing models are prone to produce different kinds of outcomes. The state model creates accountability to the funding authority, the state. The consortium model creates accountability to the community of participating libraries and universities, usually in proportion to the level of their individual financial contribution to, or their equity in, the repository. The proprietary model establishes a landlord-tenant relationship between the operating authority and the depositing library. Of the three models, only the first two—state and consortium—promote coordinated strategic collection management among the full range of participants.

Beyond this there are a range of other factors that promote cooperation.

7.1 History of Cooperative Action or Common Governance

Cooperative collection management is best realized in repositories where the participating institutions have a history of cooperation and strong interinstitutional ties. Organizations such as the Five Colleges of Massachusetts and the libraries of Ohio’s CONStor were cooperating in other library-related activities before the repositories were established. There was a longstanding history of cooperation, including coordination of acquisitions and implementation of shared online catalogs and joint licensing arrangements, among the private colleges in both consortia. This interaction is not confined to the libraries but is academy-wide, involving such activities as curriculum sharing and intercampus transportation networks. Through such activities the colleges have established a pattern of interdependence and a high level of trust that support the building of truly cooperative repositories where the merging of collection control and management regimes can flourish.26

The repositories in California and Ohio are bound in a different way, namely, by the common governing authority of the state higher education system. This authority fosters a high degree of interinstitutional cooperation.

In repositories supported by established consortia and state systems there is a pre-existing organizational dynamic that strengthens the aggregated resources of the community as a whole. A strong interinstitutional culture, in short, seems essential to cooperative long-term management of collections.

7.2 Formalization and Transparency

All the repositories involve some measure of cooperation among the depositing libraries. The consortium and proprietary models involve a certain apportionment of the costs of supporting the repository among those libraries. All three models involve a similar allocation of benefits. Since repository endeavors entail sizable capital investments, these costs and benefits need to be formally allocated and documented through contracts, written agreements, bylaws, memoranda of understanding, policies, and similar instruments. Such documents define the specific roles and benefits of the invested parties and thereby distribute risk. Such instruments also promote a clear understanding of the equity that each holds in the shared resource—in this case, the repository collections.

To the extent possible, this “paper infrastructure” should be a matter of record. Because of the interreliance among libraries for collecting and preservation of materials in certain areas and types and for provision of services such as ILL and DD, some outside the consortium might have a stake in the repository’s program. The terms and duration of a cooperative agreement covering a repository’s last-copy archiving project, for instance, might be of interest for neighboring nonmember libraries in making their own retention decisions. When the terms of a cooperative endeavor are unclear or unknown, the other actors and even the participating parties are deprived of useful knowledge on which to base acquisition or preservation decisions. In the absence of information, all stakeholders operate at a higher level of risk. This risk can be mitigated somewhat by transparency. Certain repositories, notably CONStor, have been diligent about posting their policies and governance documents on the Web.

7.3 Homogeneity of Scale, Type, and Governance

Diversity of membership can be problematic. For example, within the Five Colleges consortium the inclusion of state and private institutions introduces operational complexities. State funding for the University of Massachusetts brings with it constraints on the use of state funds and the disposition of state property that affect the school’s ability to harmonize the management and use policies of its own collections with those of other consortium members. For this reason, materials owned by the university may not be merged with the holdings of the other colleges that are combined and de-duplicated under the repository program.

The funding and governance of the facility have implications for the eligibility of potential participants for use of the facility and terms of the relationship among the participating libraries. State funding, for example, makes other state-funded institutions the most eligible partners. At minimum, it also requires that benefits derived by private universities under the consortium be on a quid pro quo basis and auditable as such. As a general principle in such enterprises, the return of benefits should correspond to the scale of investment by each party.

7.4 Equitable Investment

If chosen with care, the funding model adopted by a repository will promote members’ consistent and maximum investment in the common resource. This involves, at minimum, a direct correspondence between each participant’s investment and benefit. To promote stability and continuity of the activities, these metrics have to be applied over a sufficiently long term. The ultimate mission of the repository, strategic management of the collective knowledge resources of a community, is not a short-term enterprise.

In calculating the investment and benefits of the participants, it is necessary to factor in collections as a form of equity. The respective contributions of the participating libraries to the shared corpus of materials, even if ownership is not shared, must be recognized and compensated. Libraries that have invested for many years in developing research collections will not always be willing to share the benefits of those collections with newer libraries whose collections are not on the same scale or with smaller libraries.

There are also other forms of equity in the repository to be acknowledged, such as ownership of the repository building or the land on which it is located. The SRLF is situated on the campus of UCLA, one of the depositing universities. Amherst College owns the building in which the Five Colleges repository is located and the land on which it stands.

In CARM Centre and ReCAP, the founding members, as funders of the initial capital costs of the repository facility, have a high level of investment in these endeavors. This would give those institutions a greater stake in the long-term viability of the program.27

7.5 High-Level Engagement with the Governing Authority

The level at which the repository “engages” with the universities or other governing authority is important. If the repository is under the purview of library circulation, facilities, preservation, or processing its programs are likely to be driven by operational considerations. They are also likely to be shaped by, rather than factored into, larger university- or community-wide decisions and strategies. If the program is driven wholly by the individual needs of the participating libraries, the repository will become the product of their only common need: a relatively inexpensive solution to collections storage. If the program is tied to the community’s larger collection-development and preservation goals, it can become a powerful tool for strategic management of the community’s knowledge resources as a whole.

The creation of California’s regional facilities was an integral part of the state’s overall strategic plan for libraries. The interests of the larger community are on the side of strengthening the collective research assets available to scholars in the state’s higher educational community, in order to attract the highest caliber of teachers and scholars to the state system. The repositories in California, thus engaged, have been the loci for impressive cooperative movement.

The same holds true with regard to the academic community within the university. Most of the repositories studied had built into their governance structures roles at the policy-making level for faculty; others involved faculty on an ad hoc basis in decisions regarding specific collections or materials. Systematic faculty engagement in the decisions and policies of such enterprises, though arduous to sustain, increases the probability that programs will be responsive to the research community.

It is unclear how much attention is paid to the needs of the larger community, that is, the academic community and research libraries community outside the consortium, in shaping the programs of the repositories. Recently, planners at the UC registered the notion of an archival role for repositories within the framework of national scholarly resource preservation:

The role of the Regional Library Facilities (RLFs) is key in framing the archival role of the UC libraries and the means of achieving it. In discussion, the committee affirmed that the charge to re-examine the archival role should not be construed as suggesting there is no archival role for the UC libraries; rather, it will be important both to reaffirm that role and to articulate it in a concrete and compelling way that is understandable to external constituencies. The importance of attending to various national interests and initiatives (e.g., the Association of Research Libraries, the Association of American Universities, various scholarly societies) and considering organizational perspectives (e.g., the Modern Language Association’s position on responsibility for archival retention of primary source records) was emphasized. 28

Finally, the intervention of funders in repository efforts can foster action at the local level that advances the interests of the greater scholarly community. Prime examples are The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s funding of cooperative storage and collection-management initiatives undertaken by the Five Colleges of Massachusetts and the CONStor group and its support of ReCAP’s investigation on cooperative archiving of JSTOR print materials.

7.6 Economic Factors

Once created, repositories are subject to their own economic imperatives. The level of investment in such ventures creates a pressure to exploit the resource to its fullest. In California, the UCOP required from the start that the libraries set quotas for volumes sent each year to their respective repositories before their construction requests would be considered.

Simple economics might also drive cooperation by requiring adherence to common policies and management regimes and by merging key processes and activities in order to achieve economies of scale. The efficiencies of cooperative management of the collections create pressure to strengthen centralization. The State of Ohio’s repositories, for instance, do not try to prevent duplication among the collections held at the various facilities. Such action is seen as too costly and not sufficiently beneficial. Impending budget shortfalls, however, may force the state to reconsider this policy. Similarly, the WRLC, pondering its forthcoming funding campaign for a new storage module, expects to revisit the feasibility of a no-duplicates policy.


26 Significantly, the Five Colleges of Massachusetts and Five Colleges of Ohio consortia were encouraged and supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, through grants for cooperative cataloging, collection development, and preservation.

27 CARM acknowledges this in its fee structure for depositing libraries.

28 Notes on the Standing Committee on University-wide Library Collection Management Planning, meeting, February 21, 2001.


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