Collaborative Collection Development in Academic Libraries by Ashley T. Hoffman


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.

(OhioLINK, 2015)

Print Books

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.

Electronic Resources

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

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


5 thoughts on “Collaborative Collection Development in Academic Libraries by Ashley T. Hoffman

  1. I love this topic because I have always worked in institutions that belonged to consortia that negotiated with vendors collaboratively and offered shared collections. Though we discussed this in the blog discussion post, I just wanted to add that even nearby institutions collaborate on electronic collections. When I worked in Virginia, VIVA, which is a statewide consortium, was responsible for some of the large e-journal deals, and Virginia Tech, UVA, and GMU were the major players that decided some of the provisions of those deals (I remember Wiley-Blackwell specifically). Now that I’m in Raleigh, NC, many of the large e-journal packages are negotiated by the TRLN, a consortium made up of UNC, Duke, NC State, and NC Central. These are all located within 30 miles of each other, but we negotiate licenses with Springer and Wiley-Blackwell collaboratively (these licenses are specifically for electronic materials). Also, we have a shared catalog so that students at any of the schools should be able to search for an item (print or electronic) in a single OPAC. In the WRLC, a consortium in DC, there was a shared catalog that even allowed students at any of the member schools (which included George Washington U, George Mason U, American U, etc.) to request items from other libraries through a document delivery service.

    Interesting topic and great post.


  2. Ashley,
    What an informative post, thank you so much. I believe that collaborating resources is always going to benefit everyone financially. While I am not versed on collection development, I was glad to see that you posted some possible negative to the consortium as well. In your reading, did you discover who makes decisions for the group of Ohio schools represented? Does each school have someone representing them? How often do these groups meet? Again, great post.


    1. Dana, I believe that each school has someone representing them on a collection development committee and that not all of the libraries participate in the print book collection development — though they are able to use the interlibrary loan service to more easily share materials they bought independently. I think the big draw for many of the libraries is electronic resources packages, which as I pointed out can be difficult to make one size fits all so that all libraries feel confident that they are paying for products their patrons would actually use. I think these packages work well if all the libraries are the same type (academic libraries in this case) and I’m not sure how it works when you begin to mix public libraries and academic libraries together. I understand that public libraries in Georgia also subscribe to some aspects of GALILEO and unfortunately I couldn’t find much information about how their package differs, if it does at all. It seems to me that in order to make the package worth the cost for public libraries it would become too watered down to be very useful for academic libraries because all the databases would be so generalized.


  3. The idea of sharing more materials is indeed one that needs to be further expanded. With the dramatic increase in materials being published there is simply far too much out there for any library to collect individually. When local libraries are able to effectively multiply their collections by working together it is of benefit to everyone who frequents those libraries. Common materials would be held by most libraries, but rare books, or rarely used books, would be available on those few times they are needed.
    There are two main concerns that I have with this system. The first you addressed is simply time. If someone needs material quickly and has to wait a week (or more), it may not come in enough time for it to be helpful. I do remember working on some assignments where one or two items did not arrive until after my assignment had already been submitted. Better planning is an obvious solution to this, but given that society tends to want everything immediately this remains a concern.
    The second possible concern is sharing of electronic books. While sharing of databases is a great way to decrease cost and increase selection, many books cannot be shared in the same manner. This is actually one of the problems that exists at a local library in Chicago that I was researching.


  4. I’m really glad that you wrote on this topic, it is something that I know very little about and I feel that after reading your post I know a lot more about the topic. You were very professional and detailed enough to give what I’m sure is a very complicated subject some clarity to those who might be new to the topic. All in all I think you did a really good job. I do think its good that you posted what some of the cons are for this practice. It seems like an obvious thing all libraries should do, but with many things in this world there are hidden costs and issues that may not always be seen. It’s hard to imagine that there are trust issues between academic libraries or public libraries. I always think of trust as a personal thing and not something large entities have issues, with, but at the end of the day its a lot of money and I guess you do have to trust in the other library to have it together and to be able to make correct choices and work with you. So great post girl!


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