Collective collection

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The academic library of Van Hall Larenstein, University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands.
The academic library of Van Hall Larenstein, University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands

A collective collection, shared collection, or shared print program is a joint effort by multiple academic or research libraries to house, manage, and provide access to their collective physical collections. Most shared print programs focus on collections of monographs and/or serials.[1] Similar efforts have addressed acquisition and/or retention of microform,[2] federal government documents,[3] and digital collections.[4] Shared print programs often have activities in common with national repositories and archiving programs.[5] Discussions surrounding shared print programs in their current form have come to the forefront as a popular solution to shrinking collection budgets, rising costs of resources, and competing space needs.[6]


The goal of shared print programs is to leverage a physical collective collection to preserve and provide access to the scholarly record in its original print form.[7] Each library participating in a shared print program agrees to retain certain titles for a stated period of time, usually at least ten years.[8] This practice ensures that the collective collection contains a predetermined number of unique items (such as specific editions of books and complete runs of journals) and that these items will be cared for and made available to all libraries participating in the shared print program.[9] To prevent the loss of any given title, participating libraries determine an appropriate number of copies that should be retained, so that if one were lost or destroyed, other copies would remain available. Shared print programs base these decisions on the number of libraries involved, the total number of items held in retention, availability of the item outside of the program, and other factors.[10]

Shared print programs also enable participating libraries to make informed decisions about weeding locally-held volumes that are duplicated in the collective collection.[1] This practice enables libraries to create cost savings and to repurpose shelf space, whether to accommodate other print materials or to create a greater number and variety of spaces for users, especially students, to study, collaborate, teach, consult, and pursue other research and learning activities.[11]


Two basic types of collection storage models exist. A distributed (or decentralized) collective shared print collection is one in which items in the collection are retained at the original library but are accessible to all partnering libraries. Centralized shared print collections are those in which books and journals are removed from the original library and stored in a shared shelving facility.[12] In many cases this shared shelving facility is a high-density preservation facility built according to the Harvard model, featuring rigorous temperature and climate controls to facilitate preservation of materials, along with elevated stacks and special shelving methods to maximize storage efficiency.[10]

Library consortia generally coordinate shared print programs. A consortium can create and manage a formal agreement (such as a memorandum of understanding), signed by each participating library's director, which ensures that certain books, journals, or other materials are both retained and made available to other libraries, generally through interlibrary loan. The consortium can also manage the analysis of each library's collection to divide the responsibility for retaining items equitably. The consortium can also establish criteria for shelving environments (to ensure long-term preservation), as well as outline the methods for providing access to titles to other participating libraries.[13]

Library catalogs generally include indicators of which materials are part of a shared print agreement, making commercial vendors such as OCLC an important part of the shared print ecosystem. Some shared print programs such as CAVAL (Australia) or CSLS (Switzerland) may develop catalogs specifically for their collective collection. Many shared print programs are additionally tracked at a regional or national level. In the United States, the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) hosts a Print Archives Preservation Registry (PAPR) to record titles, holdings, and conditions of serials held in major shared print programs across the country. While there is no equivalent tool for monographs, other tools serve the shared print monograph community, such as Gold Rush Library Content Comparison System[14] from the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries, OCLC's GreenGlass, and HathiTrust Shared Print Registry. In 2018, CRL and OCLC were awarded a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to enable collective collection retention commitments for serials to be reflected in the global union catalog WorldCat.[15] In the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom Research Reserve (UKRR) developed the Linked Automated Register of Collaborative Holdings (LARCH) through which all Member Libraries’ holdings are run, and is now hosted by the British Library.[16]


Shared print programs may be regional or national in scale. National libraries and academic consortia often participate in shared print programs.

United States and Canada[edit]

In the United States and Canada, shared print programs are often a consortial effort. Libraries may also participate in collection sharing on an individual basis, such as participating in the HathiTrust Shared Print Program.[17] Support organizations also exist, such as the Partnership for Shared Book Collections, Rosemont Shared Print Alliance, and North/Nord (North: the Canadian Shared Print Network/ Nord: Réseau canadien de conservation partagée des documents imprimés) that library consortia may join in order to increase collaboration, communication, and information sharing.

According to the Partnership for Shared Book Collections, participating programs have committed to retain over 38 million volumes.[18]

Latin America[edit]

The following consortia do not participate strictly in shared print programs, but do participate in sharing collections of digitized print material:

  • Consorcio de Bibliotecas Universitarias de El Salvador (El Salvador)
  • Consorcio de Bibliotecas Universitarias del Caribe (Central American Caribbean and the Antilles)
  • Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries


  • CAVAL Archival and Research Materials (CARM) Centre (Australia)
  • CONZUL (Council of New Zealand University Libraries) (New Zealand)


African librarians have cited the lack of and need for shared print programs among libraries, due in part to insufficient infrastructure.[19] Efforts focus more on consortia building than on shared print, and are mostly centered in southern Africa[20][21]


  • Consortiall-Joint University Library Advisory Committee (Hong Kong)

Europe & United Kingdom[edit]

  • European Print Initiatives Collaboration (EPICo) (Multinational)
  • United Kingdom Research Reserve (United Kingdom)
  • White Rose University Consortium (United Kingdom)
  • Sammlung Deutscher Drucke/Collection of German Prints (Germany)
  • Der Speicherverbund Nord/Storage Network North (Germany)
  • Centre technique du livre de l'enseignement supérieur (France)
  • Kooperative Speicherbibliothek Schweiz/Cooperative Storage Library Switzerland (Switzerland)
  • Varastokirjasto/National Repository Library (Finland)
  • Shared Archiving Austria–Council of Austrian University Libraries (ubifo) (Austria)
  • Consorci de Bibliothèques Universitàries de Catalunya/ Consortium of Academic Libraries of Catalonia (Spain)


Libraries' efforts to collectively manage and provide access to their holdings date back to antiquity[22] and, in the United States, extend through twentieth-century projects such as the Midwest Inter-Library Corporation (now CRL)[23] and the Farmington Plan.[24] Funding reductions and escalating storage costs, as well as space constraints, for physical collections in the 2000s created an environment where library directors needed to rely on partnerships with consortia and other libraries. Librarians began to write about shared print collections as one possible method of dealing with these mounting constraints. In 2002 Richard Fyffe argued that librarians needed to start a dialogue with stakeholders and patrons in the scholarly community about the need to rely more on collective collections.[25] In 2004 Bernard F. Reilly (former president of the Center for Research Libraries) envisioned "drawing together the major independent regional and national repository initiatives into a coordinated, community-wide print preservation effort."[26] The Print Archive Network Forum (PAN) was created in 2010 by the Center for Research Libraries as an information sharing opportunity between shared print professionals. In 2013 Lorcan Dempsey popularized the term "collective collections" in an OCLC research report.[27] The trend toward collective collections has also received significant coverage in the mainstream press.[28][29]


  1. ^ a b Crist, Rebecca; Stambaugh, Emily (2014). SPEC Kit 345: Shared Print Programs. Washington, D.C.: Association of Research Libraries. p. 15. ISBN 9781594079283. OCLC 899212694.
  2. ^ Dupont, Jerry (1983). "Cooperative Microform Publishing: The Law Library Experience". Microform & Imaging Review. 12 (4). doi:10.1515/mfir.1983.12.4.234. ISSN 0949-5770. S2CID 162613068.
  3. ^ Dinsmore, Chelsea; Glenn, Valerie D. (2012). "Using Targeted Distributed Collections to Enhance Government Depository Collections at a Regional Level: The ASERL Collaborative Federal Depository Program". Collection Management. 37 (3–4): 307–321. doi:10.1080/01462679.2012.685831. ISSN 0146-2679. S2CID 61650404.
  4. ^ Garskof, Jeremy; Morris, Jill; Ballock, Tracie; Anderson, Scott (2016-01-01). "Towards the Collective Collection: Lessons Learned from PALCI's DDA Pilot Projects and Next Steps". Collaborative Librarianship. 8 (2). ISSN 1943-7528.
  5. ^ Shorley, Deborah; Yang, Daryl; Kromp, Brigitte; Mayer, Wolfgang (2015-01-28). "Collections Earning Their Keep. An Overview of International Archiving Initiatives". 027.7 Zeitschrift für Bibliothekskultur. 3 (1): 30–46. doi:10.5281/zenodo.4704913.
  6. ^ Lavoie, Brian; Dempsey, Lorcan; Malpas, Constance (2020-09-10). "Reflections on Collective Collections". College & Research Libraries. 81 (6): 981. doi:10.5860/crl.81.6.981. ISSN 0010-0870. S2CID 225193580.
  7. ^ Demas, S.; Miller, M. (2016). "Curating Collective Collections--What's Your Plan? Writing Collection Management Plans" (PDF). Against the Grain. 24 (1): 65–68.
  8. ^ "Retention Period – The Partnership For Shared Book Collections". Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  9. ^ "Best Practices for Scarce Copies – The Partnership For Shared Book Collections". Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  10. ^ a b Hale, D., ed. (2016). Shared Collections: Collaborative Stewardship. Chicago: ALA Editions. ISBN 978-0-8389-1405-2. OCLC 1030796851.
  11. ^ Kieft, Robert H.; Payne, Lizanne (2012-07-01). "Collective Collection, Collective Action". Collection Management. 37 (3–4): 137–152. doi:10.1080/01462679.2012.685411. ISSN 0146-2679. S2CID 144068614.
  12. ^ Clement, Susanne K. (2012). "From Collaborative Purchasing Towards Collaborative Discarding: The Evolution of the Shared Print Repository". Collection Management. 37 (3–4): 153–167. doi:10.1080/01462679.2012.685413. ISSN 0146-2679. S2CID 61768353.
  13. ^ Kieft, Robert H.; Payne, Lizanne (2012). "Collective Collection, Collective Action". Collection Management. 37 (3–4): 137–152. doi:10.1080/01462679.2012.685411. ISSN 0146-2679. S2CID 144068614.
  14. ^ Machovec, George (2014). "Shared Print Archiving—Analysis Tools". Journal of Library Administration. 54 (1): 66–76. doi:10.1080/01930826.2014.893118. ISSN 0193-0826. S2CID 62236447.
  15. ^ "OCLC awarded Mellon Foundation grant to register library retention commitments for print serials in WorldCat". OCLC. 2018-06-24. Retrieved 2019-12-13.
  16. ^ Stubbs, Theo; Banks, Chris (2020-03-11). "UKRR: a collaborative collection management success story". Insights. 33 (1): 10. doi:10.1629/uksg.503. hdl:10044/1/106958. ISSN 2048-7754.
  17. ^ "Shared Print Program | | HathiTrust Digital Library". Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  18. ^ "Membership Stats – The Partnership For Shared Book Collections". Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  19. ^ Ossai, Ngozi Blessing (2010-01-01). "Consortia Building among Libraries in Africa, and the Nigerian Experience". Collaborative Librarianship. 2 (2): 74–85. doi:10.29087/2010.2.2.07. ISSN 1943-7528.
  20. ^ "ALA | Partnerships in Libraries". Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  21. ^ Alemna, A.A.; Antwi, I.K. (2002-01-01). "A review of consortia building among university libraries in Africa". Library Management. 23 (4/5): 234–238. doi:10.1108/01435120210429961. ISSN 0143-5124.
  22. ^ Casson, Lionel (2001). Libraries in the Ancient World. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 100. ISBN 0-300-08809-4. OCLC 45123204.
  23. ^ Weltin, Heather; Fulkerson, Natalie (2021-07-29), Old Texts, New Networks: HathiTrust and the Future of Shared Print, ALA Editions Core, hdl:2027.42/169166, ISBN 978-0-8389-4882-8, retrieved 2023-01-11
  24. ^ Dempsey, Deon (2004). "Review of A History of the Farmington Plan". Libraries & Culture. 39 (4): 473–475. ISSN 0894-8631. JSTOR 25541874.
  25. ^ Demas, Samuel; Miller, Mary E. (2012). "Rethinking Collection Management Plans: Shaping Collective Collections for the 21st Century". Collection Management. 37 (3–4): 168–187. doi:10.1080/01462679.2012.685415. S2CID 61728677.
  26. ^ Reilly, Bernard F. (2004-04-01). "Preserving America's Print Resources: Toward a National Strategic Effort – Report on the Planning Day Discussions". Library Management. 25 (3): 104–117. doi:10.1108/01435120410699050. ISSN 0143-5124.
  27. ^ Dempsey, L. (2013) "The Emergence of the Collective Collection: Analyzing Aggregate Print Library Holdings," 1-5. In B. Lavoie and C. Malpas, eds. Understanding the Collective Collection: Towards a System-wide Perspective on Library Print Collections. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research, 2013.
  28. ^ Ellis, Lindsay (2019-10-09). "The Future of Campus Libraries? 'Sticky Interdependence'". The Chronicle of Higher Education. ISSN 0009-5982. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  29. ^ Cohen, Dan (2019-05-26). "The Books of College Libraries Are Turning Into Wallpaper". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2019-12-12.

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