A Sea Change (2): The Terms of Stewardship

Friday, March 10, 2017


Historically CRL has set a high bar for the stewardship of shared print. For almost seventy years the organization has set rigorous terms: incorporated as an entity with full legal standing, CRL is governed by formal bylaws and an elected board accountable to the stakeholders, and is capable of owning property and entering into contracts that are legally binding. The CRL commitment to shared print rests upon the foundation of a dedicated, bricks-and-mortar collections facility, sound and audited financial practices, and $7 million in net assets.  

Those features differentiate CRL from other shared print initiatives. They are essential to our members’ ability to guarantee researchers long-term access to shared resources, while avoiding the costs of creating and maintaining those resources locally. Today the terms of stewardship are critical to the same libraries’ ability to manage down print responsibly, to make decisions that are consequential, and in some cases irreversible.  As a program on which libraries throughout North America depend, we take our obligation to maintain a high level of curation,constantly generating new value, very seriously. 

We approached formation of the CRL partnership with the Linda Hall Library in this spirit. We are now constructing a new agreement to govern the partnership for the next decade.  These are the main features we propose for the agreement: 

  • The term is ten years. Given the rapid pace of change in today’s information sphere, ten years is the longest period for which conditions can be known with any certainty. Forecasts that go beyond that horizon, and commitments made on the basis of those forecasts, are simply not credible.  
  • The agreement will be executed at the chief executive level between two legal entities, i.e., a non-profit corporation (CRL) and a trust (LHL), and therefore has legal enforceability. 
  • The collections involved are central to each partner institution’s mission, are (and have always been) non-circulating, and are maintained in a secure, climate-controlled physical environment. 
  • Funding is guaranteed to Linda Hall by CRL, in return for explicitly defined services. The services include document delivery of articles from over 3,500 current STE serial titles and 40,000 retrospective STE titles through RapidILL, and digitization of historical serials to preservation standards.
  • Development of the Linda Hall serial collections will continue, governed by a joint STE collection development policy adopted by CRL and LHL in 2015. 

These features provide a level of certainty we believe to be both appropriate and in line with economic realities. The arrangement is one of the activities to be supported by the proposed CRL budget for FY 2018, which will be posted to the web later this month and submitted for member approval at the April 21 Council of Voting Members meeting. 

CRL is exploring new partnerships with other trusted repositories, to further expand the scope and improve the quality of the shared collections. The benefits and obligations of such partnerships will be the topic of discussions at a forum we are hosting at ALA in Chicago this summer. That forum is open to all CRL libraries, and will be held on Friday, June 23 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.  Further details and registration site will be open soon. 

Bernard F. Reilly
President (2001-2019)
Center for Research Libraries