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The Proposal for a Five-College Library Depository

The Five-College Libraries, having taken successful consortial approaches to ordering, cataloging, circulation, subscription database management, and materials delivery in earlier collaborative efforts, explored ways to extend their cooperation to the growing problem of finding space to store little-used books in their collections. Aware of Amherst’s success in creating a library depository, the Five-College library directors discussed the possibility of turning the Amherst facility into a Five-College Depository.

The location for a central depository could not have been better. The bunker was situated within a mile of Hampshire College, about midway between Amherst College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on the north and Mount Holyoke on the south, and about 10 miles from Smith College in Northampton. The access road leading to the bunker was along the regular routes of the Five-College library delivery service and the free intercampus bus service

The directors were not immediately convinced that it was in their libraries’ best interests to participate in a Five-College approach to off-site storage. They were concerned about losing control of portions of their collections, as well as browsing capabilities and convenient access to their materials. The University of Massachusetts, with the obligations of a state research library, was concerned about ownership issues. All five members were uneasy about finding a way to divide the costs equitably.


Fig. 4. Map of area served by Five-College Library Depository

On the positive side, the five library directors had a long history of close and successful cooperation on a variety of projects, including the operation of a Five-College online catalog and circulation systemin which the holdings of the four college libraries were combined in online bibliographical records. The level of trust among the library directors was high. They also had considerable encouragement from their presidents to explore ways to expand the coordination of collection maintenance and development among the five libraries.

Patricia Battin,2 who advised the librarians in planning for the depository, described the Five-College situation as follows:

Cooperation was the first stage, when the libraries agreed to explore joint activities but continued to retain their individual identities, collections, budgets, and services. Coordination was the second stage, when the institutions began looking at their operations as pieces of the whole, trying to make it all work as a system. Collaboration, now made possible by the capacities of digital technology and mandated by economic realities, is the creation of something greater than the sum of its parts. The decisive test of collaboration is that participation means passing the point of no return. Dropping out is no longer an option.

All five facilities were running out of shelf space in both their main and branch libraries, and the campus presidents were resisting the idea of expanding the libraries to accommodate growth. The library directors were impressed by the favorable environmental conditions at Amherst College’s bunker-conditions made possible with modest initial expenditures and relatively low maintenance costs. They understood the economies that might be realized through joint staffing of a shared off-site library storage center. They saw the potential advantage of being able to develop complete periodical backruns from fragmented sets of the five individual libraries. They supported the idea of choosing the best copy of a book or periodical volume of which there were duplicates for retention in a depository. They thought that it would be efficient to establish one conservation service at the bunker for all the materials transferred there. They thought that a joint approach might be more likely to attract external and internal funding. But most of all, they were interested in relieving the shelving space pressures in their libraries.

Outside Interest in Participation

While considering the possibility of establishing a jointly operated depository, the Five-College Librarians Council, a standing committee composed of the five library directors and the coordinator of Five Colleges, Inc., discussed the issue with other college and university librarians in the region. One nearby consortium expressed interest in observing the project, and another inquired whether the five colleges would consider expanding the plan to allow other libraries to participate.

Careful thought was given to the advantages and disadvantages of opening the project to other libraries. On the positive side, additional college members would help share the maintenance costs and would enrich the holdings of the depository. On the other hand, there was concern about the capacity of the bunker and the issues of governance and cost sharing. The Five Colleges, because of their history of cooperation, knew each other well. Representatives at all levels met regularly. For purposes of cost sharing, they had devised a unique “elevenths” formula. This formula considered Hampshire College, with the newest and smallest library, a single unit of cost; the three older colleges (Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith) as two units of cost each, and the University of Massachusetts as four units of cost, for a total of 11 units. The librarians reasoned that the “elevenths” formula could be used for depository costs as well.

In the end, participation in the depository project was restricted to the Five-College libraries for the immediate future, but future cooperation with other consortia would be encouraged when appropriate. For example, if another academic library depository were to be established elsewhere in New England, the presidents would expect the Five-College libraries to collaborate with the other nearby consortium in matters of collection retention and resource sharing.

Preliminary Cost Estimates

With the support of a planning grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Five-College librarians hired two consultants, Danuta Nitecki, associate university librarian of Yale University, and Curtis Kendrick, then an assistant director of Harvard University Library and director of the Harvard Library Depository. With the assistance of the Amherst College Physical Plant Department, the consultants determined the feasibility of creating the depository and estimated the costs. An architect created preliminary plans for the renovation of a 9,180-square-foot area in the bunker as a Five-College Library Depository, and Willis Bridegam, librarian of the college at Amherst, visited the depositories at Harvard and Stanford Universities, as well as The University of California Northern Regional Library Facility (NRLF) in Richmond, California.

Estimated costs to operate the depository for a 10-year period were as follows:

Lease of property $480,100
Personnel $1,042,847
Physical plant maintenance $111,885
Circulation/transport of materials $43,823
Utilities $145,490
Telecommunications $12,006
Book trays $21,665
Office supplies $12,006
Equipment service and upgrades $30,358
Miscellaneous $50,000
Total $1,950,180

Applying the Five-College “elevenths” formula, the estimated 10-year cost breakdown for the each member of the consortium was as follows:

Hampshire College (1/11) $177,289
Amherst, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith Colleges (2/11 each) $354,578
University of Massachusetts (4/11) $709,156

The storage cost per volume for 10 years, calculated by dividing the anticipated total cost ($1,950,180) by the estimated capacity (about 500,000 volumes), was $3.90.

The librarians estimated that over that 10-year period, they would need additional space to store a total of 470,000 volumes, well within the capacity of the proposed storage center. In terms of volumes, the breakdown among the five institutions was as follows:

Amherst College 75,000 volumes
Hampshire College 5,000 volumes
Mount Holyoke College 65,000 volumes
Smith College 75,000 volumes
University of Massachusetts 250,000 volumes
Total 470,000 volumes

Storage Options Available to the Five Colleges

Comparisons of the costs and advantages of storing 500,000 volumes at the Amherst College bunker rather than at other sites indicated that creating a Five-College Library Depository at the bunker had advantages in addition to being cost beneficial. As plans moved forward, the following four alternatives were considered.3

Deaccessioning Duplicate Volumes from all but one Library

If the libraries wished to reduce unnecessary serial duplication by deaccessioning all but one copy of little-used materials and by retaining the remaining copy in one of the libraries, the savings would be considerable. The additional advantage of storage in a depository is that all retained little-used material can be stored inexpensively. Duplicates are likely to figure heavily in early transfers, but at later stages, it is likely that substantial numbers of unique volumes will be transferred to the depository.

Renting Commercial Storage Space

No local commercial rental space that met the libraries’ environmental, access, and telecommunications requirements could be found in the Five-College area. The closest possibility was a warehouse near Smith College that would have charged a minimum of $2.40 per square foot per year for a non-environmentally controlled space. The books would have been stored in stacks of boxes, there were no facilities for transmitting electronic copies, and there was no space where users could consult retrieved material. The cost to lease and maintain the proposed depository at Amherst’s bunker for the first year was $57,329. Dividing that amount by the available 9,180 square feet indicates that the cost at the Amherst College bunker was $6.24 per square foot for environmentally “friendly” storage space. That advantage aside, there were further considerations to be borne in mind. The fact that Amherst College-an affiliate, partner, and financially stable institution-was willing to be the landlord ensured the project against sudden escalations in prices, relocation, or the unexpected imposition of additional fees. Finally, Amherst’s success in implementing its own off-site storage facility at the bunker was reassuring.

Buying Storage from Another Library

The Harvard University Library Depository estimated the cost for storing 500,000 volumes at $245,200 per year (with a 5 percent increase per year). The average yearly total cost for the proposed Five-College Library Depository (renovation, start-up, lease, and annual operating costs) for a 10-year period was about $220,000. The Harvard estimate covered storage only and did not include costs for retrieval ($3.19 per volume), transfers, and transportation between Harvard and the Five Colleges (200 miles per round trip).

Building a New Facility

The cost of constructing a 19,000-square-foot depository and preservation laboratory at the University of South Carolina in 1998 was $3.8 million, or about $200 per square foot. Of that space, a 10,000-square-foot area is dedicated to storage, for an approximate cost of $2 million. The cost of renovation (just under $1 million) to the Five-College Library Depository, along with the annual lease of $48,000 per year for 10 years, would amount to about $148 per square foot. Extra transportation costs would be an added expense for the South Carolina facility, since it is 12 miles from the main campus, and, unlike the Amherst College bunker, is not on a regular route.

Approval in Principle

Having considered the four options, the Five-College librarians decided to propose greater overall collaborative collection development and the use of Amherst College’s bunker as a Five-College Library Depository. In November 1999, the presidents of the participating institutions approved in principle the Librarians’ Council’s proposal and authorized Five Colleges, Inc., and the Librarians’ Council to look for outside funding to help support the project. It was noted that space for the depository in the bunker would be available by December 2000.

Anticipated Implementation and Operation

As the Five-College librarians discussed the guidelines and policies that would govern the operation of the proposed depository, they were able to reach a consensus on most issues. The following are some of the issues that were discussed and resolved:

Transfer of library materials. When Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, or Smith transfers library materials to the depository, it will relinquish ownership of those materials. The new owner, the Five-College Library Depository, will have the right to add materials contributed by the four colleges or to dispose of them. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst Library, as a public research institution, will retain ownership of its materials. Its materials will be shelved separately at the depository.

Disposal of duplicates. To save space, duplicate copies of items sent to the depository by the four colleges will be compared, and the best copy will be retained. Unwanted duplicates will be given to needy libraries around the world.

Stack arrangement. The depository stacks will be closed. Materials may be requested by page for use in the depository reading room. The stacks will be arranged by size. Range and shelf numbers will be indicated. Materials added to the depository collection will be sorted first by section (that is, the university or the four colleges) and then by size. They will be shelved in the order of their receipt.

Catalog location indications. The existing Five-College online library catalogs will be updated to show the new locations of materials transferred to and retained by the depository. The location fields in the four-college item records and check-in records will be a new four-college location code such as “FCDEP” (Four-College Depository).

Circulation of materials. Five-College faculty, students, and staff will use the Innovative Interfaces online catalog “Get” function to request material from the depository. Every effort will be made to respond to requests within 24 hours on working days. Materials will be circulated by the Five-College interlibrary delivery service; copies will be supplied through photocopying, faxing, and scanning.

Staffing. A project manager, reporting to the Five-College Librarians’ Council, will be hired to manage the depository and to oversee the approval process for depository materials. The manager will work closely with the Collections Management Committee. More staff will be provided during the first three years of operation to facilitate a rapid transfer and assimilation of library materials. After four years, the staff will be reduced to a half-time manager plus 1.5 full-time equivalent staff members.

Materials transfer. Because the cooperating institutions’ need for on-campus shelf space varies, the order in which journals will be moved to the depository will be determined by the project manager in consultation with the Collections Management Committee. There may be instances when three colleges agree to transfer one run of journals to the depository while the remaining campus chooses to retain its run. The goal is to move toward a shared depository collection of “best copies” without duplication in the four colleges’ section; however, occasional exceptions will be made if necessary.

Funding. The Five Colleges are seeking substantial external funding for the establishment of the shared depository. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Davis Educational Foundation have awarded grants to the Five Colleges, Inc., for the project, and the Five Colleges have applied to other funding agencies for support. The “elevenths” formula will be used to determine each institution’s share of the remaining cost.

Five-College Collections Management Committee

In 1999, the Librarians’ Council appointed a Five-College Collections Management Committee to facilitate cooperative collection development among the participating facilities and to establish collection development guidelines and policies for the proposed depository. The committee members included collection development librarians from each of the institutions plus a representative of the Librarians’ Council.

The Librarians’ Council gave the committee two initial charges: (1) to improve implementation of the existing Five-College collection development policies; and (2) to examine shared storage issues. In May 1999, the Librarians’ Council approved the following policy proposals made by the Collections Management Committee:

  1. Before canceling the last subscription of a serial, each institution will inform the Five-College Collection Management Committee of its intention. This information should be as timely as practicable. Response to the cancellations might be an acknowledgment of the decision or an effort to reverse the cancellation decision through negotiation, persuading one of the other institutions to pick up the subscription, or any other appropriate response.
  2. Any new electronic, paper, or microfilm serial added to a collection that costs $5,000 or more will be reported by e-mail to the committee members of the other four institutions.
  3. The five libraries will be released from all previous Hampshire Inter-Library Center (HILC) subscription maintenance responsibilities.
  4. Recognizing that electronic materials are playing a steadily increasing role in library services, each institution will make every effort to keep the others informed of new electronic purchases not initiated through a Five-College committee.

The Librarians’ Council asked the Collections Management Committee to begin its consultations with representatives from academic departments who could provide examples of the different ways in which faculty might react to the development of a Five-College Library Depository. In addition to discussing the reactions and requirements of individual disciplines, the Librarians’ Council asked the committee to identify periodical backruns for transfer to the depository. The library directors suggested that the first periodicals sent to the depository should be the backruns of journals that were also available in JSTOR, reasoning that faculty would have fewer qualms about removing these volumes from the library stacks and discarding all but one copy. They also encouraged transferring to the depository the journal backruns from the HILC collection that had been distributed to the libraries in the late 1970s.

Academic Department Reactions to the Proposed Depository

In anticipation of the meetings with the Five-College faculty representatives and their departmental librarian liaisons or subject area specialists, the Collections Management Committee prepared the following list of questions:

  • What do you consider “convenient access” to library resources? Consider future alternatives as well as past experiences.
  • What is an acceptable delivery time for receiving materials not held on campus?
  • What are the core materials that need to remain physically on campus?
  • Can you help us identify subfields in your discipline for which journal backruns are less important and therefore could be considered for off-site storage?
  • If back files of selected journals were moved off campus, how many years of those files would you wish to retain on campus? The last 10 years? 20?

Some of the responses from the faculty in these disciplines (Norton 2001) were as follows:


The physics representatives were delighted with the expanding electronic access to journals in their field. They emphasized the importance of receiving requested library materials or copies as quickly as possible-fax copies and electronic transmissions to their departments would be satisfactory; a one-day wait for delivery would be too long if their need was urgent. They suggested that the depository be open on Saturdays and some evenings. They recommended that the first items sent to storage be those that were available online. They said it would be important for physics faculty to be able to receive color copies of some items.

African Studies

Members of the African Studies Council asked about the reason for considering a depository library. They were of the opinion that if the primary goal was not to reduce expenditures for acquisitions but to provide more space for library materials, they could support the project. One faculty member asked, “If we consolidate our holdings on a Five-College basis, could we jointly subscribe to more journals or purchase more materials?” (The answer was “yes.”) There was concern about the loss of browsing capacity, particularly for books. The faculty supported the transfer of periodical backruns, but hoped that books could be excluded from the depository. An anthropologist stated that he rarely needs references in the American Anthropologist that are more than five years old, but a historian said that he would feel insecure if volumes from the last 10 to 15 years were sent to the depository. Hours were important; the faculty believed that consideration should be given to remaining open one weekday evening and Saturdays throughout the year. Perhaps the most encouraging outcome of the meeting was that the African Studies Council invited the committee to return to tell the faculty more about online resources.

Slavic Studies

The Slavic studies faculty and librarian liaisons represented a group that had a history of cooperation by using a Five-College approach to collection development. They were interested in the arrangement of materials at the depository-would items be misshelved and consequently lost? (The committee pointed out that the likelihood of misshelving is usually greater in an open-stack arrangement than in a depository.) The faculty urged the librarians to distinguish between materials needed for teaching and those needed for research, and they recommended that only less-used items be stored offsite. Faculty members were concerned about how they would be able to look through runs of journals. (The volumes would be provided in chronological order at the depository or sent to a supervised area in one of the libraries for review.) A faculty member wondered whether off-site storage might be an obstacle to “timely research.” (Desktop delivery of copies was a partial answer.) There was agreement that humanities scholars needed campus access to the backruns of their journals for longer periods of time than did science scholars. The faculty encouraged the committee to permit, within a reasonable period of time, reversals of decisions about what to send to storage. Keeping in mind the need for a solid core collection at each of the libraries, participants agreed that a cooperative approach, that is, apportioning responsibility for holdings according to each institution’s strengths, was a good idea.


The philosophy faculty and liaison librarians were reluctant to see any books or periodicals transferred to the depository. They did, however, moderate their reaction by saying that when reliable electronic access is available, they would be willing to let the materials represented electronically go to the depository. Although they were reluctant to put books in the depository, they would consider doing so if they could choose the books, and if they could on rare occasions request the delivery of a small group of books that would have classed together in open stacks. These books would be identified using the online catalog classification number. They observed that students are increasingly unwilling to enter the library stacks. If the material the students want is not online, they feel that it is not worth the effort trying to find it. Several faculty members were of the opinion that both students and faculty needed to learn more about using online resources.

Fine Arts

Some of the fine arts faculty were concerned about the targeting of periodical back runs for remote storage. They suggested that if a portion of the collection in their field had to be transferred to the depository, they would be more inclined to choose little used monographs. Members of the committee pointed out that the processing time per volume would be much greater for books than for periodical back runs. In reply, the faculty suggested that the librarians ask the presidents for temporary staff with the necessary expertise to review monographic collections and circulation records in order to make appropriate recommendations. Another faculty member pointed out that we are moving from a traditional to a modern library system that provides digital access to information. He suggested that we identify the advantages and disadvantages in both systems and try to offer the best of both worlds. The faculty’s principal concern was for the quality of images being offered in an electronic format, which was judged to be uneven at this time.

Biology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry

The faculty representatives responded to the question, “What constitutes convenient access?” by saying, “It depends.” Sometimes immediate access is important; other times 24-hour service is adequate. Perhaps we should consider providing a “rush” service for a fee. Concerns were expressed about the quality of scanned images, particularly those in color. The librarians were admonished to provide good equipment and staff who would be trained to communicate effectively with faculty about items that might not scan well. The question of whether or not to circulate materials from the Depository had proponents and opponents. The Depository’s circulation policies should take into consideration both the need to preserve materials and provide access to them.


The faculty representatives thought that there was not much use of back issues of economics journals that are more than 20 years old. On the other hand, they pointed out the greater use of older general journals such as Fortune and Scientific American by economic historians. Assuming that current journals will, for the most part, be provided electronically, the faculty recommended strongly that we pay attention to the need for adequate computers and network facilities. Faculty thought that the availability (or unavailability) of reference service at the Depository might influence the types of material selected for it.

English and Romance Languages

Reading electronic text for any length of time is a concern. Some faculty deal with it by printing needed materials from the electronic versions; others “hope for early retirement.” Circulation concerns and the desire to retain the printed page raised the question of retaining two copies, one as a “copy of record” and the other as a circulating copy. One faculty representative suggested that in some cases she hoped the needs of a faculty member from another institution might influence what is sent to the Depository by the library owning the volumes.


Faculty representatives thought that if electronic access to back runs of periodicals were genuinely easy, then those volumes should be early candidates for storage. Circulation of “copies of record” should be carefully regulated. Faculty wondered if the text of volumes could be scanned as they were transferred to the depository. (Librarians replied that that work could be done more economically nationally or internationally.) The faculty hoped that there would be no copyright problems when it was necessary to copy and transmit publications still under copyright.

A National Trend Toward Academic Depository Libraries

New and expanded library buildings enabled college and university libraries to accommodate their increasing storage needs until the mid-1970s. In the late 1970s and the 1980s, when administrators became increasingly hesitant to approve funding for library construction or expansion, librarians installed high-density storage. When even that remedy provided insufficient shelving for their growing collections, librarians began to look at the solution that Harvard College President Charles W. Eliot had proposed at the beginning of the century: depository libraries.

Virginia Steel reported in 1990 that 45 of 90 Association of Research Libraries (ARL) libraries responding to her survey stored materials in a separate storage facility, and 10 more were planning to do so (Steel 1990). The popularity of depositories continues to grow. The following paragraphs describe some of the depositories created during the past 20 years.

Examples of Academic Depository Libraries

Harvard University, which opened its first storage section in 1986, has served as a model to other library depositories. It added three more storage units in the 1990s and completed two additional units in 2000. Harvard’s depository initially stirred controversy among faculty members, but the skeptics have reportedly been won over by the service record of the depository (Young 1997). Harvard currently provides some storage space to other libraries (Harvard University 2001).

The Yale University Library Shelving Facility, located in Hamden, Connecticut, has an 8,000-square-foot processing area and a 13,800-square-foot shelving system. Materials are retrieved from the shelves with the aid of a rail-guided, adjustable height mechanism that enables staff to reach all shelves. The building environment is maintained at 50 degrees Fahrenheit with 30 percent relative humidity. The facility opened in 1998, and by August 2000, the staff had shelved more than 500,000 volumes in the facility4 (Yale University Library 2001).

The University of California’s Northern Regional Library Facility in Richmond was opened in 1983 with a master plan calling for seven modules for library storage. Two modules, containing a total of approximately 4 million volumes, have been built to date. The facility was adding about 130,000 to 200,000 volumes per year, but in recent years its rate of growth has been reduced because its third module is not yet ready for use. Libraries depositing books in the NRLF retain ownership of the materials they deposit and may request their return at any time. Northern University of California libraries have a quota of books they must place in the NRLF each year. If a volume is withdrawn, it must be replaced (University of California 1999).

The Stanford University Auxiliary Library (SAL), unlike most other depository collections, uses traditional shelving so that the collection can be arranged in call-number order and browsed by users (Weber 1997). The books are arranged in four size sequences and double shelved on 19-inch-deep shelves. The collection contains not only books but also maps and microforms. The SAL collection contains about 1.5 million volumes and circulates approximately 25,000 volumes per year (Stanford University 1998).

The University of California’s Southern Regional Library Facility (SLRF) is located on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles. The primary depositors are the libraries of the university’s southern campuses, but other libraries in the region, public and private, may become depositors. Although the State of California recommended the establishment of the SRLF in 1977, construction of the first phase was not completed until 1987. A second phase was completed in 1995, bringing the stack capacity to 6 million volume-equivalents. The building was designed to permit construction of additional stacks as needed. Materials are shelved by size and accession number. A high-security area is provided for special collections (University of California 1995).

The University of Missouri Libraries Depository (UMLD) serves the university’s Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla, and St. Louis campuses, as well as the State Historical Society of Missouri and the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection. The University of Missouri-Columbia manages the depository. Each library of the University of Missouri has a regular schedule for sending deposits to UMLD. The schedule is agreed upon by the library directors and takes into consideration issues such as the number of books an institution has ready for transfer, the institution’s need to transfer materials, and the availability of space (University of Missouri Libraries Depository 1997).

The University of Michigan’s Buhr Shelving Facility, holding more than 1.9 million items, is a depository library for the University of Michigan Libraries. Because space is limited in the 16 campus libraries and the libraries receive nearly two miles of books per year, they regularly transfer less-used volumes to the facility (University of Michigan 1999).

The Southwest Ohio Regional Depository, located on Miami University’s Middletown campus, is one of five such facilities to be constructed in the State of Ohio with funding from the State of Ohio’s Board of Regents. The depository has about 13,700 square feet, about 8,000 of which are allotted for storage. The facility is 30 feet tall and can accommodate more than 1 million volumes. It provides storage for little-used library materials from the collections of Miami University, the University of Cincinnati, and Wright State University. (Southwest Ohio Regional Depository 2001).

Unusual Approaches

Although the following two examples cannot be considered traditional library depositories, they are worth mentioning for their unusual approaches to the storage of less-used library materials.

Vanderbilt University not only provides off-site storage for library materials at its Library Annex but also offers limited short-term storage, by the square foot, to its schools, departments, and divisions. Materials for storage must be able to coexist with library materials; no chemicals, foods, or liquids are permitted. As the library system increases off-site book storage space, it will decrease the space available for general storage. Examples of candidates for short-term annex storage are boxes of faculty papers, boxes of books, computer tapes and cartridges, filing cabinets, inventory records, and furniture (Vanderbilt University 1999).

At Eastern Michigan University, the Bruce T. Halle Library was opened in June 1998. Only newer and heavily used books (about 150,000 volumes) are in the open stacks. The remainder of the collection (approximately 300,000 volumes) is stored in bins and must be requested by the patron at the circulation desk. Retrieval takes from 5 to 10 minutes. The bins are maintained in a multistory closed access area of the library (Eastern Michigan University 2000).

Planned Storage Facility

The trend toward the construction of academic library depositories is continuing. For example, the New York Public, Princeton University, and Columbia University libraries are planning a shared joint offsite storage facility that is scheduled to open in July 2001 on Princeton’s Forrestal Campus. The first three modules will accommodate approximately six million volumes (ALA. ALCTS 2000).


The Five-College Libraries’ collaborative approach to the storage of little-used research materials is but one of many current national efforts. The Five-Campus project differs from the others, however, because it takes collaborative off-site storage a step beyond simply storing the library materials of several universities or colleges separately. It calls for deaccessioning of duplicate copies and joint ownership of the remaining collection. It requires a level of interdependence and trust that, to the author’s knowledge, has not been tested by other consortia. It offers the possibility of substantial cost savings through the elimination of duplication and the maintenance of a single depository for five institutions. It also guarantees ready access to original paper copies of research materials. Patricia Battin has summarized the situation well:

Despite the growth of electronic resources for certain kinds of instruction and research, I believe that humanities disciplines will require, for a very long time, traditional books and journals, in addition to newer media and formats. The concept and design underlying this [project] make it an especially useful model for other institutions. The collaborative history and experience of the Five Colleges, Inc., make it the perfect candidate to pioneer in the recasting of traditional autonomous structures into a new organizational concept that provides a sum far greater than its parts. I am convinced that the collaborative model proposed by the Five Colleges Inc., represents the future for liberal arts institutions in the twenty-first century.5


2 Patricia Battin is the former president of the Commission on Preservation and Access (now part of the Council on Library and Information Resources [CLIR]).

3 A considerable amount of the information in these options was collected by Renee Fall, assistant coordinator for program planning and development, Five Colleges, Inc.

4 E-mail, from Danuta Nitecki to Willis Bridegam, August 9, 2000.

5 Letter, Patricia Battin to Lorna Peterson, April 24, 2000. Lorna Peterson is the Five College Coordinator.

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