ATG Article of the Week: Partnering means more at the library

by | Jul 24, 2019 | 0 comments

According to this post in the Harvard Gazette “by collaborating with other universities and sharing collections, Harvard Library is making 90 million books available to its users…


Views of the the reading room and Library of Dunster House. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer


When Sarah Thomas started as head of Harvard Library in 2013, she was handed a chart showing how the number of books the library held would grow exponentially.

Thomas, who stepped down earlier this year as vice president of the Harvard Library and University Librarian and Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, knew that wasn’t an option — even with the projected growth, the Library would continue to amass an ever-smaller percentage of the explosively growing array of global information sources. Plus, there’s a limit to how many books can fit on a shelf, to how many shelves can fit in a building, and how many buildings can fit on a campus. With space and funds at an ever-growing premium, something had to change.

Other libraries were finding themselves in similar circumstances. The shared problem of library collections called for a shared solution.

So now, for the first time, Harvard Library is joining forces with other institutions to build one collection — and share it. By teaming up with the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP), a consortium made up of Columbia, Princeton, and the New York Public Library, and with the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation — a consortium among 13 leading academic libraries that grew out of the BorrowDirect resource-sharing service started in 1999 — Harvard is making 90 million books available to its users — almost three times the holdings of the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library.

Not just shared books — shared strategy

Located on Princeton’s Forrestal Campus, ReCAP was originally a place for Columbia, Princeton, and the New York Public Library to store the books that couldn’t fit inside their buildings.

As Harvard joins the partnership, the vision for ReCAP is shifting from storage building to shared collection. At the same time, the Ivy Plus libraries are moving beyond BorrowDirect to collective collection-building. That means not just sharing books, but collaborating on strategy. The libraries will need to think several steps ahead for the best way to assess, maintain, and build collections for the future…”

Feel free to click here to read the entire article.

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