Skip to main content

Why WEST? Members Discuss the Value and Future of WEST and Shared Print during the WEST Member Meeting at ALA Annual 2019

On Sunday, June 23rd, WEST members, and colleagues from other shared print programs, gathered for WEST’s biannual member meeting. The highlight of the meeting was indisputably a panel discussion by members exploring the value of WEST, shared print in general, and the future of these collaborations. The panel was moderated by WEST Executive Committee chair, Michael Levine-Clark of University of Denver and included an array of perspectives among the panelists. Lorrie McAllister, Associate University Librarian for Collections Services and Analysis at Arizona State University, hailed from one of WEST’s six Archive Builders. Lorrie has also been leading a multi-year, grant project at ASU funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to “reinvent the library’s strategy and practice for open-stack print collections.” Panelist Curt Asher, Dean of Libraries for California State University, Bakersfield, contributed his perspective as the most recent member to join WEST and discussed the reasons for actively participating in a shared print program. Finally, Rick Burke, the Executive Director of the Statewide Electronic Licensing Consortium (SCELC), brought a consortial perspective to bear on the conversation, distinguished by SCELC’s extensive facilitation of shared services and development of a shared print program of their own for monographs.  
Please read on for a summary of the questions and discussion that ensued. If you would like to hear more, a recording of the second half of the discussion is available here.
What role does WEST play in your institution’s (or consortium’s) print management plans and/or strategies? What motivates your institution or consortium to participate in WEST? In Shared Print more broadly? 
Lorrie McAllister from ASU reflected that the WEST collective collection is a strategic investment and trusted access point for patrons. She noted that participation in WEST for ASU is also a service opportunity to contribute to a networked solution for print management, as individual libraries clearly cannot do everything alone. For ASU, WEST’s commitment to a clear organizational structure, explicit standards, and development of the necessary tools to support the work make it an advantageous collaboration to take part in. Lorrie described participation in WEST, and shared print more broadly, as the answer to: “How do we mitigate and manage the risk [of content loss] in a coordinated manner?” 
Curt Asher, Dean of WEST’s newest member, described the decision to join as an insurance policy to maintain the intellectual record. Participation for CSU Bakersfield, at least in some measure, is part of a larger duty to contribute to the preservation of the print record. He also reflected on the ephemeral nature of digital resources and the necessity of ensuring that we, as a community, have a back-up. 
As the Executive Director of SCELC, Rick Burke, comes from a unique community of libraries both within and beyond the state of California — one that is not dominated by research libraries. SCELC was one of the consortia involved in the original planning and implementation of WEST. Rick reflected that in the earlier days of WEST, the cost of membership was so low (due to initial grant funding) that SCELC grew to treat participation as more of a service — akin to providing licensing support — rather than an area of core effort for their consortium. SCELC has expanded its efforts in shared print by establishing a monograph program and Rick reflected that it may be timely to devote similar attention to encouraging increased SCELC participation in the WEST journal shared print efforts. 
What are the different motivations that small and large libraries have for participating in WEST? 
Michael Levine-Clark introduced this question reflecting that the reasons for joining a shared print program may differ for large and small libraries. With that, he asked panelists to consider their own institutions’ motivations and also more broadly how motivations might differ across institutions of varying types and sizes. 
Lorrie described ASU’s motivations to include relationship-building, contributing to the collective good, and leveraging the collective investment by libraries engaging in shared print initiatives — she adds, that at ASU, “our motivation is to think big and think at scale.”
Curt related that, within the CSU consortium, one of the primary aims is to achieve equality of access. Thus, when his institution first began thinking about shared print, the equalizing effect of a collective collection on access was a strong motivator. 
Rick, of SCELC, followed up on Curt’s response to emphasize the importance of resource-sharing in the ideals of shared collections. And for SCELC, they are motivated to expand the picture for shared print, with the necessary resource-sharing mechanisms, in the western region. 
What are the most compelling opportunities that you see in the shared print landscape — how can we maximize these collaborations? 
Lorrie (ASU) enthusiastically described the opportunities that networked solutions have for sharing data; opportunities to understand the size, shape, content, and how to use information about the scholarly record in ways that are beneficial to scholars. These collaborations also afford the opportunity to standardize and align our data. 
Lorrie also reflected that we may see fewer big high density repositories, but they will be more sustainable, organized repositories of shared print — strategically placed across our regions to mitigate risk. Curt (CSU Bakersfield) described a related vision of Venn diagrams of repositories, overlapping, but still distinctly regional. 
An interesting turn to the conversation arose when panelists and attendees turned their attention to the opportunity of connecting shared print for collection management with shared print for collection development (you could also think of this as retrospective and prospective shared print). 
Lorrie (ASU) kicked this thread off by observing that now is the moment to be thinking strategically about the implications for collection development and maintenance budgets if we move into archiving “up to the present.” Rick (SCELC) noted that collaborative collection development continues to be one of the challenges of scaling our efforts in print management due to the diversity of the participating libraries. Dean Elizabeth Titus (attending WEST member from New Mexico State University) joined the conversation and noted that academic libraries near the U.S. / Mexico border including New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona are increasingly working collaboratively to assure collections focusing on U.S./Mexico border related issues are acquired and preserved. She remarked that the lack of funding is encouraging libraries to collaborate and not duplicate material; and, that collaborative collection development (with the obligation for those materials to serve so many) increases the urgency of preserving it. 
Michael (moderator) voiced the mood of the room, observing that even with the acknowledged challenges of realizing collaborative collection development, “..doing retrospective shared print planning is useless, if we don’t take on prospective shared print planning.” Are we going to continue reacting to the ongoing duplication of collection development efforts with retrospective shared print solutions? 
Finally, Rick raised the opportunity for shared print programs and consortia to serve as facilitators for related scholarly collaborations. Rick (SCELC) noted that libraries are now coming to SCELC with proposals for collaborations. For example, a library proposed a series of meetings to connect faculty and librarians across the consortium to discuss open educational resources. This kind of idea — networked solutions — is where collaborations like SCELC and WEST can make a difference not only to print management, but to the larger service of the academic community, as existing infrastructure of collaboration provides a home for related cooperative endeavors. 
The panel closed by reflecting on the question, Where does WEST go next? What is the future of Shared Print?
Lorrie (ASU) emphasized the importance of quality assurance for WEST collections. Shared Print is the complement for resource-sharing — it is what makes resource sharing possible over time. She observed, “WEST is poised to do a lot more. To look more closely at metadata and resource-sharing over time.” 
Curt (CSU Bakersfield) reiterated the essential nature of shared print’s role in supporting the equality of access and the potential for enhanced sharing capabilities to emerge around these shared collections.
Rick (SCELC) raised the potential for WEST to serve as a model for other shared print programs. This incited a lively exchange in the room around the benefits of shared print programs talking to one another, sharing standards and information, and engaging across the country and North America to maximize the benefits of shared print.
Check out the recording for more from the panel discussion!
WEST Program Updates Presented during ALA Annual 2019
In addition to the panel discussion, attendees to the WEST Member meeting heard program updates on archiving progress, systems development, collaboration in the Rosemont Shared Print Alliance, and more. For a full outline of program updates, please see the WEST Member Meeting Updates.
WEST Shared Print Analyst
We are excited to announce the successful recruitment of WEST’s next Shared Print Operations and Collections Analyst, Anna Striker! Anna’s first day is August 1, 2019. Anna comes to WEST from her position as Stacks Services Supervisor at Georgetown University Libraries where she demonstrated a talent for initiating, planning, and coordinating large-scale, complex, cross-departmental projects including a full inventory of her library’s circulating collection. She brings a unique perspective of stacks management and data-driven collection maintenance to the position, as well as experience supporting Georgetown’s participation in the Scholars Trust shared print program. Anna received her BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Virginia and anticipates completing her MLIS at San José State University later this year. We could not be more excited to bring her on board!