A Sea Change: 1. Greater Scale

Friday, February 24, 2017

Over the course of six decades CRL has 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 CRL to expand access to this five-million volume corpus, while safeguarding the materials for the long term.  

We now believe that this approach will no longer scale to the challenges our libraries are facing. CRL analysis, and our conversations at the 2016 CRL Collections Forum @Risk: Stewardship, Due Diligence and the Future of Print, indicate 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.  

Therefore 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 in the process. 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 will require fundamental changes in 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 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
President
Center for Research Libraries

Comments

I understand and support the rationale expressed for the changing emphasis. Unfortunately, the UO Libraries is probably one of the few ARL/CRL members that does not have access to a storage facility. This will greatly impact our ability to participate as a trusted partner repository. We have already taken on as much commitment as we are able in support of WEST.

Thanks, Mark. We expect individual CRL libraries like UO to exploit the CRL partnerships with repositories like Linda Hall Library, rather than serve as repositories themselves. Our aim is to enable member libraries to manage down their own print holdings within the framework of a program that provides a high level of curation.

I have a few questions regarding the sea change. How will the CRL initiative be different from WEST and other initiatives?
If serial titles are to be digitized, how will CRL be in compliance with copyright?
My understanding from last year's meeting was there would be an attempt to identify those publications with few holdings for preservation. This initiative seems much larger in scope since the "critical corpus" is being identified. Could the scope be defined further?
In the latest email from James Simon on March 6th, it states that CRL "will propose to begin to reallocate CRL resources from acquiring and maintaining serials to other activities.." Is this something that will be available for review before the April 21 meeting?
Will there be any possibility of tiered cost or membership in the future?

thank you.

I'll answer Judith's questions about how the CRL initiative differs from other shared print initiatives, and about the scope of the "critical corpus", in subsequent posts. Meanwhile, two answers to the question about compliance with copyright: in instances were a work is likely to have commercial value CRL will obtain the requisite rights from copyright holders; in other instances CRL provides access to materials for research purposes on a restricted basis, taking advantage of the limitations on exclusive rights provided under Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act.

CRL will post its full budget proposal and guide to the event site at the end of March. On the matter of tiered cost or membership, we do not envision that at this time.

Comments:
1. I applaud CRL’s willingness to continue its leadership role in preserving and maintaining access to the print serial record.
2. Wonderful to see preservation, access and digitization so closely linked. This was a really important takeaway from the April 2016 Collections Forum. I assume that we mean preserving all formats (print, micro and digital/digitized) with digital being the primary delivery and access mechanism. I would offer the friendly amendment to add discoverability/interoperability into goal 2 “merge preservation and electronic access”.
3. It is critically important that the membership find common ground on CRL’s place within our larger goals and objectives, so I welcome the promotion of a CRL consensus on print stewardship.
4. A clear narrative is key to all of this. I would submit that the narrative is not just for scholars and funders, but for libraries as well. It is critically important to these efforts that we prioritize network-scale efforts, perhaps at some cost to more localized ones. Given current and foreseen budget realities, we probably need to scale back some locally-focused initiatives in order to create the communal, shared and much-better-in-so-many-ways future. That is, the benefits of network-scale efforts promise to be massive, but business-as-usual at the local level will likely not get us there.

Questions:
1. How do you propose to identify the critical corpus? Who might be involved?
2. Might the idea of a “CRL consensus” also be extended to materials other than print serials? That is, might our principles be created in such a way that they can be extended more broadly to related activities in shared monographs, HathiTrust, etc.? In this way, we who engage with CRL can lead even in areas it will not provide organizational resources.
3. Can you say more about which partnerships we will forge and formalize? What exists now that CRL could join and provide leadership for? What new initiatives are/should be in the offing? Of course, it would be great to hear how CRL might work with the Rosemont Group (which incidentally includes a fair number of CRL members).
4. Visibility, discoverability and interoperability are key to shared collections. How does CRL see this new direction as contributing to those efforts? How might this involve thinking above and with things like OCLC, PAPR, JRNL, etc.?
5. In terms of the CRL budget, does this agenda represent a refocusing of existing resources or a request for significant new resources from members or other funders?

Good questions from Jeff Kosokoff. I'll try to answer them here by number:

Q1: How do you propose to identify the critical corpus? Who might be involved?
A1: By the "critical corpus” we mean the print journal literature that is important to academic research and thus worthy of long-term preservation. Our premise is that the universe of serials which knowledgeable bibliographers and scholars considered important enough to acquire and preserve over the course of the last two centuries is a defensible set of materials on which to base shared print planning. Therefore, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation we are currently testing a methodology for harvesting, normalizing and aggregating title-level serials data from leading academic and independent research libraries with data on CRL and Linda Hall Library serial holdings.

Q2: Might the idea of a “CRL consensus” also be extended to materials other than print serials? That is, might our principles be created in such a way that they can be extended more broadly to related activities in shared monographs, HathiTrust, etc.? In this way, we who engage with CRL can lead even in areas it will not provide organizational resources.
A2: Absolutely. This is why we are making CRL thinking and planing on shared print as open and transparent as possible, through the Print Archive Network forums, the April 2016 @Risk forum, and these blog posts.

Q3. Can you say more about which partnerships we will forge and formalize? What exists now that CRL could join and provide leadership for? What new initiatives are/should be in the offing? Of course, it would be great to hear how CRL might work with the Rosemont Group (which incidentally includes a fair number of CRL members).
A3: I say a lot about our approach to partnerships in my March 10 post on this blog. In general, we aim to work with organizations that can bring tangible benefits to CRL libraries. We are actively exploring how relationships with the BTAA, WRLC, ASERL, WEST, and other North American efforts might provide such benefits.

Q4. Visibility, discoverability and interoperability are key to shared collections. How does CRL see this new direction as contributing to those efforts? How might this involve thinking above and with things like OCLC, PAPR, JRNL, etc.?
A4: A key element in the CRL shared print agenda is electronic access, so visibility and discoverability are things that we will continue to work on. Using RapidILL as the platform for delivery of articles from the Linda Hall resulted in about 7,000 fulfilled requests last year. To be honest, interoperability be limited. There is a trade-off on cost, and we will do as much as CRL libraries are willing and able to support.

Q5. In terms of the CRL budget, does this agenda represent a refocusing of existing resources or a request for significant new resources from members or other funders?
A5: The agenda represents a major refocusing of existing CRL resources. That reallocation will be explained in the budget for FY 2018, which member representatives will vote on at the April 21 annual meeting. At this time we do not think it necessary, or appropriate, to increase the burden of the program on CRL libraries. If more North American libraries participate, we can do much more, and are actively seeking to bring more U.S. and Canadian libraries into the effort.

I appreciate this opportunity to learn more about the proposed "sea change for CRL operations" prior to the annual meeting. My questions are as follows: Will the proposed changes in CRL operations and in the allocation of CRL resources affect in any way the organization's commitment to "preserving and making available to scholars a wealth of rare and uncommon primary source materials from all world regions" or its Global Resources Programs? If so, how?

Bob raises an important matter and one on which I want to be clear: supporting area and international studies (AIS) remains at the heart of CRL's mission.The changes we propose in CRL operations and in the allocation of CRL resources will affect CRL's commitment to "preserving and making available to scholars a wealth of rare and uncommon primary source materials from all world regions" only in a positive way. During the past few years CRL has invested heavily in preserving and providing electronic access to primary documentation and evidence for research in area and international studies: developing the World Newspaper Archive, bringing online a digital archive of documentation from corrupt governments in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, and digitizing the colonial-era laws and legal publications of African and Caribbean nations. CRL also now provides seed funding for digital initiatives of the various Area Materials Projects, to support their embrace of electronic media.

In fact it was the 2012 Global Dimensions of Scholarship and Research Libraries conference at Duke University (www.crl.edu/node/8478) that convinced us that CRL must step up its game to better support AIS research. Making newspapers from Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa available on microfilm a year or two after publication no longer serves the fast-moving world of public policy research. Researchers studying the migration of peoples in East Africa and economic development in South Asia need access to databases of global population and financial information, which are often priced beyond the means of individual libraries. CRL endeavors to make a difference in this space.

I will say more about this in my report to members at the Annual Council of Voting Members meeting on April 21. Meanwhile, Bob, I hope this is reassuring and appreciate your speaking up.

1. How will trusted partner repositories in North America be identified and evaluated? What kind of follow-up/assessment will be put in place?
2. What are the implications of this plan regarding the inclusion of Canadian libraries?
3. RE: point #5 (“Articulate and promote a clear and convincing narrative for scholars and funders”) – I observe that libraries have always faced budgetary constraints, and that libraries have always been answerable (not always successfully) to scholars “for whom access to the physical artifact continues to be indispensable.” Any “narrative” of North American print sharing should include full and clear disclosure of what is happening to protect and preserve legacy collections of print serials, as well as descriptions of shiny “new goods”. Scholars have every right to expect details of appropriate preservation and stewardship of legacy collections, as well as learning about the introduction of new benefits under CRL’s proposed sea change. I’d hate to see the focus fall on the latter to the detriment of the former; Nicolson Baker’s Double Fold is a cautionary tale of getting too excited about “new goods”. A supporting narrative should address the measured, responsible treatment of both print and “new goods”.

Samuel Cassady invokes the specter of Nicholson Baker and the Double Fold controversy of 2001, when libraries were condemned for their embrace of microfilm as a solution to the brittle books problem. He asserts the critical importance of a narrative for scholars about CRL’s agenda that fully and clearly discloses how CRL will protect and preserve legacy shared collections, aside from digitizing them.

We endeavor to promote just that kind of transparency in CRL’s archiving efforts. In recent years we began to use “stories” to convey the nature and impact of our preservation work, highlighting the ways the area materials projects (AMPs) preserve imperiled historical evidence and documentation. (See, for example, www.crl.edu/node/11140 and www.crl.edu/node/10991.) As print serial holdings in North American libraries are inevitably “managed down” in the years ahead, CRL’s agenda calls for assembling shared holdings that are comprehensive, intact, well-curated, and adequately audited, not only as a hedge against loss but to improve the resources available to scholars. As Samuel suggests that message will indeed have to be loud and clear.

As to how we choose trusted partner repositories, a lot depends on a number of characteristics, the chief being their commitment to maintaining and providing access to print collections as a core institutional mission, and a demonstrated capacity to sustain that commitment. Also important is a willingness to have CRL evaluate and monitor their capacity and performance.That involves disclosing data and evidence of the integrity of their holdings and meeting certain service benchmarks on an ongoing basis. In my "Building a Credible Network” post (at www.crl.edu/node/12161) I wrote about how the Linda Hall partnership exemplifies those traits.

Because our community includes 19 major Canadian libraries, we consider CRL’s agenda "North American” in scope. We include the archived holdings of the COPPUL SPAN project libraries in the PAPR database, and we will factor the holdings and practices of the Keep@Downsview project, as it evolves, into our plans for growing the network.

Hi Bernie & all,

Thank you for you the wonderful response. I just wanted to clarify that I submitted the above question on behalf of Liz Mantz, Western Libraries.

Thanks, Samuel

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