The theme of collection development in academic libraries over the past few years has been limited budgets and limited space (Lehman, 2014, p. 169). One solution to save money while also conserving precious library real estate is collaborative collection development. Collaborative collection development is when two or more libraries agree to pool a portion of their funds to purchase – or purchase access to – library resources. Rather than invest in each library’s local collection, libraries in these consortia focus on creating a shared collection that has access to a larger range of resources than any one of the libraries could afford – much less have the space for – on its own. According to O’Neill & Gammon (2009), “In today’s resource sharing environment, it doesn’t matter who owns the materials, but that the right materials are available to meet the needs of users,” (p. 36). Because electronic resources can be accessed anywhere with the proper authentication and books can easily be transferred between libraries using interlibrary loan, libraries no longer need to have huge local collections to support their patrons’ research.
Because trust is a critical component of these partnerships, most shared collection development programs emerge from already existing library consortia (Lehman, 2014, p. 173). The South Central Academic Medical Libraries (SCAMeL) consortium began as a resource sharing partnerships and evolved into a collaborative collection development agreement (Van Schaik & Moore, 2011, p. 413). Many collaborative collection development consortia emerged from the same state university system, such as Georgia’s GALILEO consortium. Some consortia collect print books jointly, such as OhioLINK, while others mostly collaborate on electronic resources, such as GALILEO.
Watch this informative video overview on OhioLINK to learn more.
The goal of collecting books as a group is to minimize the amount of duplicate book purchases and maximize the variety of books available in order to make the most efficient use of consortium members’ funds. To perform this balancing act, often a committee is charged with setting collection development parameters. OhioLINK uses YBP’s GOBI program for collection development, which allows all members to see instantly how many copies of a title are already available at member libraries before purchasing (O’Neill & Gammon, 2009, p. 37). Analysis is needed to determine how many copies of a given title are needed to adequately meet the needs of the consortium’s patrons. One parameter proposed by the OhioLINK consortium was whether fewer than 25% of the consortium’s copies of a title were listed as “available” in their libraries’ catalogs (O’Neill & Gammon, 2009, p. 38). If they were, additional copies were likely not needed.
Collaborative collections do not always have to be distributed among the partner libraries. A solution for a lack of shelf space is a shared offsite storage repository (Lehman, 2014, p. 173), accessible by a courier or interlibrary loan service. OhioLINK is a consortium that was formed originally for the purpose of space concerns and the desire for a shared storage facility (O’Neill & Gammon, 2009, p. 37).
Challenges of print collection collaboration are the amount of time it may take to transport books between sites. Patrons who expect a book to be available immediately may have to wait up to a week to receive their request. This time “cost” may be worthwhile for libraries that would otherwise lack the funds or space to provide access to that book at all. According to Lehman (2014), “Although access for local patrons may not be as immediate as it would be if all material were owned locally, a large shared collection is more of a financial reality and the scope of the collection available is wider than any one library can house,” (p. 173). Libraries will have to weigh the costs and benefits of a shared print collection before undertaking collaborative collection development.
For library consortia that span a wide geographic area, collaborative collection development of print books may not be a feasible option. As an alternative, collaborative collection development of electronic journals and books presents a great cost-saving alternative to purchasing subscriptions individually. Larger groups of libraries are able to negotiate more favorable license rates for journal subscription packages than they would be able to individually. Consortia purchases benefit vendors as well by saving them time, money, and effort negotiating with just one entity as opposed to several (Van Schaik & Moore, 2011, p. 420).
Because electronic resource packages are so expensive, libraries can find it difficult to surrender autonomy and funds for the purpose of collaborative collection development. A library might – justifiably – not wish to pay for an electronic resource that will not benefit its patron base. A solution tried by the SCAMeL consortium was to allow individual libraries to opt in or out of resource packages as suited their individual library’s needs (Van Schaik & Moore, 2011, p. 414). It is also important to conduct assessment of actual usage of all resources being packaged to avoid purchasing resources that do not benefit the consortium (Busby, 2011, p. 163).
The benefits to collaborative collection development are lower prices for resources, the ability to gain access to more varied and more specialized resources your library might not have been able to afford on its own, reduced risk, and shared negotiation with vendors (Busby, 2011, p. 162). However, they are not beneficial to all libraries. Collaborative collection development entails a significant loss of autonomy for the sake of the group’s interest and print book sharing may mean longer wait times for patrons. Libraries should undertake a careful assessment of their needs and potential risks before entering into a collaborative collection development agreement and be prepared to continually evaluate the benefits of their agreement as time goes on.
Busby, L. (2011). Our friends are killing us. The Serials Librarian, 61, 160-167.
Lehman, K. K. (2014). Collection development and management: An overview of the literature 2011-2012. Library Resources & Technical Services, 58(3), 169-177.
OhioLINK. (2015). OhioLINK overview [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ohiolink.edu/videos/ohiolink_overview
O’Neill, E.T. & Gammon, J.A. (2009). Building collections cooperatively: Analysis of collection use in the OhioLINK library consortium. ACRL 14th National Conference. Seattle, WA.
Van Schaik, J. J. & Moore, M. (2011). Group purchasing by a regional academic medical library consortium: How SCAMeL made it work. Journal Of Electronic Resources In Medical Libraries, 8(4), 412-422.
Post by Ashley T. Hoffman