In our previous post, we looked at shared print monographs activity in the US, and cited several projects with interesting features of scale or diversity. We have, of course, worked with many other libraries as well, both individually and as part of groups. As libraries and Sustainable Collection Services (SCS) have gained experience with these programmes – employing a blend of group-level and autonomy for each participating institution – specific techniques have begun to emerge as best practice:

  • Focus on retention first: Retention commitments are the building blocks of the collective collection. The group’s top priority should be to protect scarcely-held items, and to secure sufficient copies of widely-held titles to satisfy user demand. Group-level development of retention scenarios and coordinated retention commitments, allocated equitably among participants, enable shared stewardship at the level deemed appropriate by the group.
  • Commit to registering retention commitments: These commitments increase in value to the degree that other libraries become aware of them and can base decisions on them. As a minimum, this should be done in the local catalogue and the union catalogue, but if possible commitments should also be registered in OCLC WorldCat and CRL’s PAPR database. This will make for an even richer analytical environment in subsequent years, and will enable libraries to distinguish between ordinary holdings and committed holdings.
  • Focus on deselection only after retention commitments have been made. Once the group’s safety net has been created, individual libraries can begin to consider deselection of titles for which they have not made commitments. There is no requirement to do this, of course, but the opportunity exists to weed safely for libraries that need to. Data-driven deselection techniques are described in more detail in an article I wrote for Insights in 2012.
  • Print, proximity, trust, discovery and delivery: Early adopters of shared print have adhered closely to these concepts. Collection security in 2015 relies on print availability within 24 hours, existing resource-sharing networks, trusted partners, publicly-registered retention commitments and robust courier services.
  • Plan on an iterative process: As a community, we are at the very beginning of shared print programmes for monographs, and we would be wise to remain conservative in our retention decisions for now. The work is likely to be iterative and cyclical, as we continue to monitor usage and overlap and adjust to changes. We are likely to view print differently over time, and will want to redistribute retention levels and responsibility. The underlying data is dynamic, and will need to be updated periodically, as this work moves from project orientation to part of routine library operations. We will continue to manage print for a long time, so doing that work efficiently and intelligently is important.

There are a number of strategic benefits associated with shared management of print. An evidence-based approach can ensure that scarcely-held titles are identified and secured. Shared stewardship can lower costs by distributing responsibilities and benefits across a broader range of institutions. But shared stewardship is not a vision per se; it is a means towards other ends, especially toward furthering the library’s alignment with teaching, learning and research.

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