One of the biggest fears related to deselection is the inadvertant loss of an important work from the scholarly record. This is a legitimate fear, as evidenced by the academic library community's efforts to prevent such occurences. The principle that no content shall disappear from the record has become the cornerstone of legacy print collections management. It takes a village to assure secure and accessible archives, especially when we drill down into what's required.
To paraphrase Ithaka's What To Withdraw framework (developed in relation to print journals), content security and accessibility is best assured by adopting multiple strategies:
- A secure digital archive
- An accessible digital surrogate
- A dark print archive, representing an agreed number of copies and conditions
- A light print archive, representing multiple copies distributed regionally
For monographs, the needs are very similar. But the infrastructure to support print archiving to these levels is still developing. Many talented people and relevant organizations are committed to developing this "FDIC layer", as I like to call it. The role of this FDIC layer is to provide overall archival security that allows individual libraries to act locally and independently, safe in the knowledge that the scholarly record is intact. At present, that security is incomplete, but growing:
- Hathi Trust provides a secure digital archive for more than 5 million monographs.
- Hathi Trust public domain titles are freely viewable in full-text. Millions of other eBooks can be licensed to provide accessible digital surrogates.
- A dark print archive for books does not yet exist, and it is possible that a completely dark archive may not be necessary, provided sufficient copies remain in the collective collection. There is some thought that monographs now in high-density storage may represent the beginnings of a print archive, but it is essential that retention commitments be standardized and disclosed clearly. Greater coordination is needed.
- A light print archive exists only informally at present. The distribution of copies throughout a consortium can be seen in shared catalogs. The distribution of copies throughout the collective collection can largely be seen through WorldCat holdings. Here again, disclosure of print archiving commitments and a coordinated approach are needed.
Historically, this level of preservation, and the security of the scholarly record, have been the province of large research libraries. Smaller libraries have counted on the larger libraries to perform these functions--to run the FDIC layer. But increasingly, even the largest of these institutions, (even when acting in concert) cannot support the entire corpus and community by themselves. There is a need for every library to contribute to the integrity of the collective collection--by committing to archive specific titles and publicizing those commitments. The most promising avenue for such disclosure is use of the MARC 583 field in a WorldCat record, and work is underway to test the viability of this approach.
Meanwhile, organizations such as WEST (Western Regional Storage Trust), CRL (Center for Research Libraries), ASERL (Association of Southeastern Research Libraries), OhioLINK, the Center for Institutional Cooperation (CIC), ReCAP (Research Collections and Preservation Consortium), Ithaka Strategy + Research, and OCLC's Office of Research and numerous others have come together to plan and build a network of trusted repositories that will provide the foundation of this FDIC layer. A great deal of work has already been done under planning grants from the Institute for Museum and Library Studies (IMLS). WEST, in particular, has made enormous strides, with 89 libraries expressing interest in joining its efforts to coordinate print archiving and storage.
For the past few years, an ad hoc group of people interested in these issues has met during each ALA conference. The group has no official name or organizational locus. Its meetings are generously underwritten by LYRASIS, which also organized a national discussion on the future of print monographs collections in October 2010. Bob Kieft, College Librarian at Occidental College, has provided excellent leadership, facilitating discussion and information sharing among a wide range of voluntary participants. At the ALA Midwinter meeting in San Diego (pictured above), more than two dozen organizations were represented.
In addition to those named in the caption above, this session included: Ed Shreeves (Iowa); Karla Strieb (ARL); Bryan Skib (Michigan); Ross Housewright (ITHAKA S+R); Dennis Massey (OCLC Research); Sam Demas (Carleton College & MLAC); Julie Gammon (Univ of Akron/OhioLINK), Rick Lugg (R2); Sharon Farb (UCLA); Peggy Seiden (Swarthmore); Joni Blake (GWLA); John Berger (ASERL); Rick Clement (Utah State); Kim Armstrong (CIC); Tim Cherubini (Lyrasis). There are at least another 20 people regularly involved in these discussions.
These people, and others, are in the early stages of creating the archiving infrastructure necessary to safely and responsibly manage the drawdown of duplicative, low-use monograph collections. Creating this network of shared print (and digital) repositories--this FDIC layer-- is of critical importance. As a community, we are fortunate to have so many good people attending to this issue. The groundwork done by these "volunteers" will ultimately help rationalize the massive capital investment represented by print collections.