Panel 19: One Size Does Not Fit All: Cooperative Collection Development within the Borrow Direct Consortium (2015)
June 17, 2015, 8:30 am-10:00 am, East Pyne 027, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Moderator: Lynn M. Shirey, Harvard University
Rapporteur: Joseph Holub, University of Pennsylvania
Jill Baron, Dartmouth College
& Fernando Acosta-Rodríguez, Princeton University
Divide and Conquer Brazil: A New Approach to Cooperative Collection Development within the Borrow Direct Consortium
Rebecca K. Friedman, Princeton University
Ivies+ Art & Architecture Group: Tackling Contemporary Art Publications from Latin America
Thomas Keenan, Princeton University
Eastern Europe, the Former Soviet Union and the Challenges of Inter-Consortial Cooperative Collecting
Darwin F. Scott, Princeton University
The Borrow Direct Contemporary Composers Cooperative Collection Plan
Jill Baron (Dartmouth) and Fernando Acosta- Rodríguez (Princeton) described the agreement of a number of Borrow Direct libraries to share coverage of the academic publishing output of Brazil. The focus on Brazil stems from the country’s status as the largest Latin American country, the ninth largest publishing country in the world, and a growing interest in Brazilian studies. The libraries’ major Brazilian vendors have estimated that the country produces approximately 5,000 academic (or titles of interest to academic libraries) titles annually. Meanwhile, an analysis of Borrow Direct holdings using OCLC showed that Harvard, which acquires the largest number of Brazilian titles of all members of the Borrow Direct group, has been capturing about half of Brazilian titles. The numbers were compared to peer institutions, including New York Public, Texas Austin, and the Library of Congress, and they were found to be far fewer than those acquired by the University of São Paulo. Overall, US libraries do not approach comprehensiveness in their Brazilian collections.
The Brazil Borrow Direct group participants include Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. The group aims to increase the diversity and depth of their combined Brazilian book collections, improve coverage of small publishers, reduce lacunae and redundancy, and make long-term commitments to the program. It does not specifically aim to reduce duplication, however. Each institution commits to working with a vendor of its choice (there are effectively two major vendors for Brazilian academic books) to cover a specific state or group of states. The group felt that using more than one vendor will help support the diversity of their acquisitions and, in any case, the freedom to use a preferred vendor was an incentive for each institution. Vendors provided estimates on academic publishing and costs for each state. For each state the library will acquire all books of an academic nature that fall within agreed upon subject limits (primarily monographs in the social sciences and humanities), although libraries are free to collect beyond those boundaries. Only the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are excluded from the agreement, since these are the two largest publishing centers of the country and their output has been more consistently acquired than other cities, states and regions. The libraries had to make estimates of what they would be able to spend as well.
The Borrow Direct Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Brazil was signed in 2014; all libraries agreed to start collecting from their state(s) starting with 2015, but were free to acquire earlier years. The libraries are committed to good preservation practices, including replacing lost or damaged items. It is still too early to assess the success of the program, and there are some concerns about the potential for cataloging backlogs.
The Brazil project has taken its inspiration from a number of other collaborative collection activities undertaken by Borrow Direct librarians. Rebecca Friedman (Princeton), who is Assistant Librarian of the Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology and Librarian for the School of Architecture Library, explained the details of the 2012 agreement developed by the Ivies Plus Art and Architecture Group. Collaboration was impelled by the realization that no one collection could keep up with an increasingly globalized art scene, and collections data showed slow growth collecting outside traditional areas. They sought to expand their collections beyond the art of North America and Western Europe. The first initiative of the group has been to focus on the visual arts since 1975 in Latin America, as each of the five participating institutions (Columbia, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Chicago) took responsibility for individual countries. Their evaluation was that Latin America represented a less complicated first step in collecting outside traditional areas than, for example, Africa. The focus has been on contemporary art. They excluded architecture and design, which are more difficult to divide by country. The country(ies) chosen by each library is generally consistent with the already existing focus of the library.
A number of the libraries were already using Karno Books for their Latin American acquisitions, but they are investigating other vendors in order to diversify collections, including using more than one vendor (contrary to current trends) for the same institution. Collective responsibility is a positive aspect of the project, but there are some questions about to how to adapt to the addition of new members. There is also a question whether this group is best situated for covering Latin America. For example, it would be helpful to compare holdings to some known for the strength of their Latin American collections: the Museum of Modern Art, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the University of Texas-Austin – and it might make sense to work with one or more of those libraries.
They used the Borrow Direct Music group as a model in composing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Each group member commits to an internal annual report. The members are committed to timely acquisitions and preservation, but there are cataloging challenges and a need to track initiatives. Assessment at this juncture is difficult, and they need to develop metrics for evaluation. Meanwhile, web archiving is another likely project for the group.
Thomas Keenan (Princeton) described the collaborative activities of librarians in what is known as the SEEES (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies) fields. The area covered includes 27 nation states and 28 major languages (from eight different language families) and corresponds to the area of the old Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc. It is difficult for any one institution to cover such a wide area, and the difficulty is compounded by the fact that the focus of the librarians and the collections has typically been Slavic or Russo-centric. As research interests in SEEES change, including more interest in areas where non-Slavic languages are spoken, collections are unable to keep pace. There is a need to collect in languages other than Russian, especially the non-Slavic languages, and to focus on low-demand items and free up those that collect idiosyncratic materials. Some of this interest comes from students from the old Soviet republics or from Eastern Europe who want to work in those areas and in those languages. Russo-centric scholars, too, sometimes develop interest in non-Russian topics.
Keenan said that when he came to Princeton two years earlier, there was already discussion of collaborative activities to encourage more specialized collecting and reduce redundancy. The BorrowDirect SEEES group has been in discussions, but have not yet been able to initiate an agreement, in part because of the many variables involved, including personnel changes. As BorrowDirect increases its membership, a single copy distributive plan is no longer sufficient (the goal would be 2-3 copies within the group).
The discussion occurred not only in Borrow Direct, but in other cooperative platforms, such as ReCAP, the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (which includes a storage facility located near Princeton) shared by Princeton, Columbia University, and the New York Public Library. Plus, the Cornell-Columbia shared bibliographer experiment had been underway since 2009. It has been easier to work within the smaller group, which came up with a single copy plan for lower demand monographs for the four institutions (NYPL, Princeton, Columbia, plus Cornell). Higher demand items published in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and parts of Ukraine are excluded from the single copy plan. The program also employs a lead-institution model, so that the institution with a strong collection and/or a high level of scholarly activity will acquire the bulk of titles in a specific area. For example, New York Public Library, because of its historically significant Baltic collections, collects most monographs originating in the Baltic republics. Two libraries have also cooperated on some subject areas of interest to both (e.g., archaeology shared between Princeton and Cornell).
There has also been SEEES cooperation within MaRLI (Manhattan Research Library Initiative), which is a project of the New York Public Library, Columbia University Libraries, and New York University Libraries, that seeks to expand collections.
A major challenge in all collaborative ventures is to produce an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) that can satisfy all institutions – a handshake is not sufficient – the administrations and general counsels. Despite the larger size of the Borrow Direct group, it offers a shared discovery and delivery mechanism that does not obtain for ReCap and the MRL initiative. For the moment cooperation with Borrow Direct partners will be conducted informally, and there is consideration of bringing in Yale and Brown on discussions with Columbia, Cornell and Princeton.
Darwin Scott (Princeton) described the Borrow Direct Music Librarians Group, which pioneered the model for subsequent Borrow Direct collaborations. There was a strong foundation for the project in the Music Library Association, which includes regional groups. Scott also sees a predilection for collaboration among music librarians that comes out of the experience of musical performance. Borrow Direct librarians began meeting at the MLA as early as 2004-2005, and later decided to focus on contemporary (post 1975) music, with particular emphasis on second-tier composers, whose work had been duplicated in many cases, or not collected at all. They had found that nearly every library was buying the same works by a second-tier composer, but none acquired the composer’s other works. Thus, it was decided that each library would collect specific composers comprehensively.
Between 2009 and early 2012 the group put together a list of ca. 1500 composers, most active after 1975, and used approvals with Theodore Front and Harrassowitz to implement the collecting strategy. Scott emphasized that this cannot work without a cooperative vendor. In 2011 the group accommodated Harvard and MIT as they joined Borrow Direct, and in 2013 the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins (with Peabody and its extraordinary scores holdings) joined and, later, Duke.
The Memorandum of Understanding of 2012 specified the collecting of scores by 20th and 21st century composers. There have been some tweaks since. Some libraries had to cut back their collecting, some composers are collected comprehensively by 3-4 libraries, and younger composers have been added to the list.
In 2013 the group saw the launch of CCWA (Contemporary Composers Web Archive) hosted at Columbia and with Mellon support. The idea for CCWA came from a presentation of Columbia’s Human Rights Web Archive. The composer archiving project fit into the infrastructure already developed at Columbia. Fifty-six sites are already in the archive, which Columbia catalogs in OCLC – and are loaded into the Princeton catalog in turn. A mechanism is in place to fast-track the archiving of websites when composers die. The group is facing how to continue funding, which may involve every member contributing to Columbia’s housing and management.
Scott added a recommendation to the group to let OCLC know how important WorldCat is to collection development work, which would be threatened by OCLC’s new discovery system, a potential disaster for collection development.
Denise Hibay (New York Public Library) praises the reports and reassures Thomas Keegan that the development of the discovery layer for the ReCap collection is proceeding and hopes to have it running in three years. There are new grant proposals in motion that, if successful, can help provide the infrastructure to create a consistent approach to these kinds of agreements. She also has a question for the Brazil project about its stated position that it does not aim to reduce duplication and about the need to preserve unique titles. Jill Baron noted that some are including tags in the catalog records that flag the Borrow Direct items to keep their relative scarcity in mind when making preservation and deaccession decisions. Acosta-Rodríguez added that there is no requirement to add cataloging notes and the language of the agreement is unspecific, but there is an assumption that each institution will be responsible to the group for the materials it acquires. Lynn Shirey pointed out that, if the group sought to radically reduce duplication, it could damage our vendors’ viability.
Miguel Valladares (University of Virginia) said that he was fairly familiar with all the projects except the SEEES agreements described by Thomas Keegan. He asked that, if reaching a 100% collecting level is the objective of collaborative acquisitions programs, how can a small program, such as ReCAP, be adequate. Keegan responded that there was no expectation that the four institutions in ReCAP would approach 100%. It is viewed as a first step, but one part of the plan specifies that no participant is reducing its collecting. In fact, participants are expanding their collections. Working within BorrowDirect can improve coverage further, although Keenan reiterated his belief that BorrowDirect is too large for a single-copy model. Valladares also asked if ASEES (Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies) is similar to SALALM. Keenan responded in the affirmative and added that there is also AATSEEL (American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages), as well as regional organizations.
David Magier (Princeton) added that he does not encourage speaking of a goal of acquiring 100% -- or “everything” -- of all research relevant publications. He prefers to ask what we can do to expand our collections. We should think of expanding collections, rather than comprehensiveness, as success. There is a question, too, of finding a balance between duplication and diversifying holdings. Any collaborative program must also take into account political issues, e.g., faculty might not accept reducing the collection of duplicates if it means not getting works by one or another author or a specific subject. He also points out that we have to be concerned about overspending in the quest to expand collections. As for preservation, he thinks we should not worry too much: we need to trust in the responsibility of research libraries when making decisions about old, fragile items. He trusts that these institutions will take care of unique items.
Pedro Huayhua (Ventara – Librería García Cambeiro) reminded everyone that the booksellers are participants in the collaborative process. His company is the supplier for a number of the institutions signatory to the Brazil project. He pointed out how the changing book trade environment has affected the vendors’ ability to work within the parameters established by the new agreements. In the past the vendor could sell 30-40 of any one title. In the past ten years 5-7 copies are more typical. He sees BorrowDirect’s goals to be preservation and the expansion of coverage. He suggested that 60,000 books are published in Brazil annually, but only ten percent are useful to academic libraries. The consortium should have those 6,000 books, but the largest library in the group is only acquiring 2500 titles and the group about 4000. It is difficult to acquire the remaining 2000.