The University of Warwick was one of the first RLUK members to engage with the joint RLUK and OCLC collection management initiative. Like other research libraries, Warwick is contributing to a unique evidence base for managing legacy printed stock on a collective basis by loading its holdings data on to WorldCat.  

Ed Kirkland, the Library’s Data Services and Digital Production Manager, got in touch with OCLC before the WorldCat upload project had even kicked off. Spurred on by local needs such as data quality, Ed also understood the more strategic issues that RLUK and OCLC were addressing. Keen too to free up more space for study and collaboration, the Library was looking for further methods of making appropriate decisions in dynamically managing its sizeable collections of printed materials.

‘We have to address the space issue, and we need a better understanding of what we’re keeping and why’, says Ed. “As a research library, we want to collect scholarly materials and preserve them for future generations, but as a university library we have to serve our current users, so we need to strike a balance.”

A collective approach to collection management

OCLC and RLUK are collaborating against the backdrop of the Jisc-facilitated National Monograph Strategy, which opens up the possibility of a shared, community approach to safeguarding print. This involves, in part, forming a comprehensive and accurate picture of collections held in research libraries. The joint contribution of OCLC and RLUK here is to aggregate and interrogate in new ways the holdings data of RLUK members. This will go a long way to identify gaps and overlaps and ‘determine a collaborative programme for the joint stewardship of a rationalised and distributed print collection across RLUK members’, as the RLUK 2014-17 Strategy states.

University of Warwick loads its holdings data on to WorldCat

The Library at the University of Warwick has been involved in a number of RLUK projects, and the Library contributes catalogue records to RLUK on a regular basis. Warwick is also keen to reinstate cooperative cataloguing with OCLC. So as well as understanding the value of a collective approach to collection management, Ed and his colleagues identified other, immediate benefits. ‘We saw that getting our catalogue back in sync with WorldCat would improve the quality of our metadata, and setting the holdings in WorldCat directly from our LMS would make our collections more visible’, says Ed.

The project also offers the University of Warwick improvements to its user experience. The process will generate a two-way link between WorldCat and the library catalogue. ‘Users will be able to go to WorldCat to see what we hold, and switch between WorldCat and our catalogue quite easily’, says Ed.

Nothing hidden, nothing lost

The longstanding user benefits will be the preservation opportunities that a collective approach brings and the visibility that WorldCat will bring to the University’s printed collections. In line with RLUK’s strategy of uncovering hidden collections, Ed and the team at Warwick made sure that the University’s theses were included. ‘If something is unique to Warwick”, says Ed, then it really needs to be visible on WorldCat’. The initiative will transform access to such long-tail resources.

‘It’s a big data processing task that we don’t have time or the expertise to do ourselves,’ says Ed, ‘but I know we can feed into the process along the way’.

The success of similar initiatives such as the UK Research Reserve, which assigns the custodianship of specified journal issues to named libraries, demonstrates the value of sharing responsibilities and costs around legacy print collections, freeing up other libraries to help collectively and progressively manage a distributed national collection for research.

It is indeed ultimately about the user experience of today’s research library. ‘By safeguarding the preservation of research for future generations at a national level, OCLC and RLUK are enabling individual libraries to focus on their key users’, says Ed.

‘Libraries and their universities cannot afford to operate as silos’, concludes Robin Green, Librarian at the University of Warwick. ‘We have to think at an above-institution level and plan and manage our collections on a collective basis. It will involve addressing a range of cultural and practical issues – both our own and those of our academic communities – but this shouldn’t be a barrier. This project moves that agenda forward’.

If you are an RLUK member library that has not yet contributed your holdings to the project, contact Paul Shackleton at OCLC to start the process.