Over the course of six decades CRL libraries have assembled the largest shared collection of print materials in North America, preserving and maintaining them in a purpose-built collections facility, and making them available through ILL and document delivery. In recent years digitization enabled us to expand access to this five-million volume corpus, while safeguarding the materials for the longer term.
We now believe that this approach will no longer scale to the challenge our libraries are facing. CRL analysis and our conversations at the 2016 CRL Collections Forum @Risk: Stewardship, Due Diligence and the Future of Print indicated that pressure on North American libraries to divest of print is intensifying, and that the threat to survival of important print serials is growing. We estimate the size of the corpus of print serials worth preserving to be upwards of 500,000 titles. Accommodating those would require increasing current CRL storage by a factor of ten.
Point one in CRL’s new shared print agenda is to “substantially expand the scope and improve the quality of the shared collections.” To do this CRL must evolve from a single repository to a network of trusted partner repositories. CRL’s role in this network will be to build and support curation of print serial collections where they are most likely to be well maintained, and to provide electronic access to those materials for the CRL community.
We tested this approach with the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering and Technology, thereby doubling the number of STE journals available, and building new digital resources for the CRL community. The next step is to apply the same template to expand serial holdings in the humanities and social sciences. That will involve forging robust partnerships with trustworthy partners, working with them to further develop, and fill gaps in their holdings. CRL will also subsidize digitization and hosting of those materials, much as we now support document delivery and digitization at Linda Hall, and ensure continuity of archiving and service.
This solution, we believe, is proportionate to the scale of the stewardship challenge CRL libraries now face. However it represents a sea change for CRL operations. Therefore on April 21, at the Council of Voting Members business meeting, we will propose to begin to allocate significant CRL resources to key activities necessary to support the new approach: collection analysis, data-gathering, licensing, and digitization. At that time we will ask representatives of CRL libraries to approve a budget that moves us decisively in this new direction.
Because time for discussion at the business meeting will be limited, we are inviting member thoughts and questions from member libraries about this direction between now and April 21, using the “Comments” function below. (Since the comments are moderated, we can anonymize input if requested.)
This is an important moment for CRL.
Bernard F. Reilly
Center for Research Libraries