A Sea Change (8): Integrating CRL Print in a North American Shared Collections Network

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

In advance of the upcoming Council of Voting Members meeting, I will be sharing some ideas about CRL’s future that have emerged in discussions with CRL’s Board and its Collections and Services Policy Committee. One of those ideas is integrating CRL collections into a North America-wide shared collections network. This idea was informed by conversations at CRL's 2016 @Risk Forum and the excellent @Risk North Forum held by CARL/ABRC, whose recent report is recommended reading.  

Some background: CRL holdings largely consist of print serials deposited by member libraries. Several Big Ten universities, the New York Public Library, University of Cincinnati, and University of Miami are among the many contributors. In the course of more than sixty years CRL created a shared collection of over 50,000 print serial titles and a secure, climate-controlled facility to house that collection. Yet there is much more to do: we estimate the number of humanities and social science print journals in American libraries to be close to ten times CRL's current holdings.

Unfortunately, CRL's collection facility is now at 85% of capacity and will not scale adequately. The building is "landlocked", surrounded on four sides by developed properties, and its foundation will not meet the load-bearing requirements of additional stories of collections storage. Therefore the next decade requires a new template.   

CRL's Agenda for Shared Print, 2017 – 2026 calls for "expanding the scope and improving the quality of the shared collections by identifying and assembling secure and well-curated serial collections and by working to improve their integrity and comprehensiveness".  What if, instead of continuing to enlarge its existing collection, CRL enlisted certain "libraries of record" and/or shared print programs to maintain humanities and social science titles prioritized by CRL libraries, and to provide a specified level of access to those titles? 

Of course the devil is in the details. CRL would have to subsidize the services those partner libraries provide its members, and actively work to fill gaps that may exist in the holdings. CRL would also continue to provide holdings data and analysis to support collection decisions.

No easy task, but perhaps a more scalable solution than CRL's current course. We will discuss this possibility further at the meeting on May 17.  Meanwhile, I will report here again soon on another idea we’re exploring.    


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