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New Articles on Shared Print in Library Literature

In the past month, several articles dedicated to discussing shared print, its history and impacts, and how various library operations can support the goals of shared print have been published. 

Sherri Michaels and Becca Neel (2020) published an article in the journal Collection Management describing an inventory project conducted at Indiana University. The main goal of this project was to determine the rate of error in bibliographic records when compared to the physical collection, and Michaels and Neel stress the implications of their findings on shared print programs: because so many shared print initiatives rely on bibliographic analysis and data-driven decision making to operate at scale, “the success or failure of shared print programs will ultimately rest on the reliability of the data” (1). They note that item-level inventories are considered “ideal” or “encouraged” (11) activities for shared print, a wide-spread compromise that makes large-scale shared print operationally feasible but also tacitly accepts the risks that accompany inaccurate data. WEST also makes this compromise for some of its collections, but takes a nuanced approach to weighing the effort with the impact of such an inventory: Archive Holders are not required to perform any physical validation of Bronze materials that are reliably available electronically (which is its own kind of validation), but the physical validation Archive Builders perform on Silver and Gold materials allows WEST to build highly reliable archives of journals that have a more limited electronic presence. By balancing the effort with the impact WEST is able to leverage its archiving members’ resources in a thoughtful manner to maximize results for all members. Michaels and Neel’s thesis is well-taken, and indicates an area that WEST members may wish to expand on in the future, especially as Bronze archiving reaches completion. The Partnership for Shared Book Collections is currently developing a best practice document for conducting inventories, which will provide guidance on processes and practices. Institutions interested in exploring conducting an item-level inventory of their collections can find potentially useful resources at the bottom of this post. 

The most recent issue of the journal Collaborative Librarianship includes several articles devoted to collaboration, consortia, and shared print, including one co-authored by WEST Program Manager Alison Wohlers and our colleague Susan Stearns, Project Director for the Eastern Academic Scholars’ Trust (EAST). This article discusses the history of shared print, and how that history has led us to our current moment of increasing collaboration and expanding interconnectedness with other programs and other areas of librarianship. Throughout its existence WEST has kept a broad view of shared print as both a regional collaboration to help relieve space pressures and protect the print record as well as a national and continental force for progress in library initiatives and infrastructure. WEST has helped realize major national collaborations, including as a founding member of the Rosemont Shared Print Alliance and now as a major supporter of the collaboration between the California Digital Library (WEST’s administrative host), the Center for Research Libraries, and HathiTrust to build format-agnostic infrastructures to support shared print across the continent and help integrate it into other fundamental workflows in libraries.

In a similar vein, the Journal of Library Administration recently published an article on the Partnership for Shared Book Collections, and federation of North American shared monograph programs formally launched in January 2020. The Partnership seeks to accomplish for shared monograph programs what the Rosemont Shared Print Alliance does for shared journal programs, and provide a structure for coordinating efforts and sharing knowledge and resources. During its short tenure the Partnership has seen significant accomplishments: the Best Practices Working Group has published a number of community-developed best practices (with several more currently being drafted), a glossary of shared print terms has been developed in collaboration with the Rosemont Alliance, and a significant expansion of their membership from eight to 14 shared print programs. The Partnership is a welcome counterpart to the Rosemont Shared Print Alliance: the two federations have overlap in membership, and are deeply committed to partnering to pool their deep expertise to further advocacy for shared print within member programs and in the wider community.


Shared print reading:


Item-level inventory tools:

Two California Digital Library staff members, WEST Collections Analyst Anna Striker and Senior Software Developer Terry Brady, previously worked together at Georgetown University where they collaborated to build a web-based tool to conduct comprehensive, item-level inventories. This tool, first developed for Sierra and then later modified for Alma after a systems migration, returns real-time information about the item in hand, including various metadata and strict shelf order, at the point of scanning. This allows the scanner to make immediate decisions about each item without having to leave the stacks, creates an efficient workflow for a time- and labor-intensive project, and helps ensure that problematic items are pulled and sent for processing immediately, without additional review steps. More information each version of the tool as well as the project can be found on GitHub along with the open source code that may be used to set up this project in your own library: