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A Summary of a Report Published by the Council on Library and Information Resources

Developing Print Repositories: Models for Shared Preservation and Access

Bernard F. Reilly, Jr. and Barbara DesRosiers
Center for Research Libraries
June 2003

With the introduction of duplicating technologies, interlibrary loan, and, most recently, networked digital access to texts, libraries feel less pressure to collect and own volumes of print to provide access. At the same time, the changing economics of purchasing, serving, and storing books and serials has resulted in a complex landscape of increasingly homogenized collections-one in which texts are often purchased in several formats simultaneously. Secondary storage facilities to accommodate the growing volume of hard copies are proliferating as libraries move little-used materials off-site.

How can libraries best manage their burgeoning collections of low-use, high-value materials? 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?

Shared print repositories may offer an answer. To explore this possibility in detail, CLIR commissioned Bernard Reilly and Barbara DesRosiers of the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) to investigate existing models of repositories. Their report includes information about both regional and national repositories. While documenting the growth and achievements of such facilities, the authors also point to the potential they hold for collaborative solutions to problems that libraries share but are used to grappling with on their own.

The authors challenge us to think about how such cooperative arrangements might do much more than solve problems caused by a shortage of real estate on campus. They sought to determine how, and to what degree, various consortia and university systems are using repositories to begin to cooperatively manage and preserve their research collections. The report suggests which practices, policies, and programs best foster the equitable sharing of the costs of collections care and identifies which practices and organizational and financial structures best support the integration of cooperative collection development and preservation efforts. It also explores the extent to which the repositories studied represent an emerging architecture of broader cooperation-one in which libraries might move beyond serving their regional communities and participate in a national network for cooperative preservation.

The report presents valuable comparative information about the facilities, collections, staffing, services, funding, and policies of eight American shared repositories. Reilly and DesRosiers analyze these enterprises according to three basic models of governance and funding-state, consortial, and proprietary-and identify the advantages and disadvantages of various models of shared responsibility for preservation of and access to research collections.

The authors also document some critical features of two other types of repository systems. The first 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. Only one such repository of record exists in the United States; the others analyzed are abroad. The challenges of building and sustaining archival repositories 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.

Desirable as it may be, the transformation of existing shared repositories into sites for shared collections development and management has been difficult to achieve. 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 been reluctant to take on the task. There are many reasons for this reluctance, but it is imperative that we understand the role that trust plays in the development-or lack of development-of shared management of collections. As Reilly and DesRosiers point out, a “strong interinstitutional culture” is necessary for the kind of long-term commitments required to achieve economies of scale and improved stewardship. Repositories that go beyond the mere sharing of storage space to the sharing of management and accessÑin some cases decoupling ownership from governanceÑare those that have a history of collaboration and interdependence. (The University of California and Five-College Depository are the chief examples discussed in this report.)

Finally, the report touches on another factor critical for the success of shared repositories: faculty acceptance. Faculty members must be consulted about how much to deposit in off-site repositories as well as about when materials should be moved.

Libraries must be open in sharing their plans and experiences if they are to build trust with each other and with those they serve. As the library community develops new models of stewardship and service, information sharing will be a keystone in the building and maintaining of trust.

Summary by Abby Smith


Developing Print Repositories: Models for Shared Preservation and Access
Bernard F. Reilly, Jr. and Barbara DesRosiers, June 2003.
ISBN 1-932326-01-4. 63 pages.

The text of the report is available free on CLIR’s Web site at Print copies will soon be available for ordering at this URL for $20 per copy plus shipping.

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