WEST was formed in response to the recognition that as more academic journals and serials are made available online, the less need there is for redundancy in physical collections, while also acknowledging that libraries cannot rely solely on digital surrogates, both because of the risk of loss or error as well as the gaps in electronic collections as compared to the entire print journal corpus. There is significant overlap among library collections of print serials, and — especially for those that are also available in electronic form — there is significant opportunity for collaborative action and individual space savings. On the other hand, substantial numbers of scholarly journals are available only in print form, and thus may be vulnerable to systemic loss if libraries individually deselect them in response to local space pressures without developing a collaborative plan to preserve these materials for the community at large. The WEST Collections Model balances these needs and articulates two major goals of the collection analysis and archiving process: identify titles which could provide significant opportunities for space reclamation, and secure retention commitments for titles that are at risk for permanent content loss due to a lack of electronic access points.
WEST’s collection analysis and decision support tool, AGUA, supports both of these goals by gathering and synthesizing data from member institutions and outside sources. WEST’s collection model is rooted in data-driven decision making, calculating risk based on a combination of criteria, identifying optimal candidates for archiving through overlap analysis across member holdings, and dictating what actions should be taken during archiving to strengthen the reliability and accuracy of the collections. By automating much of the process WEST is able to perform this analytical work at scale, ingesting holdings from dozens of members and outside sources and making proposals to the member institution with the deepest holdings and optimal storage conditions. WEST is also able to facilitate collaborations between members to fill gaps in archived collections by comparing member holdings and highlighting these connections in reports produced as a result of the AGUA analysis.
WEST is a distributed archive, meaning that members across the region hold portions of the collection in local libraries and storage facilities, diluting the potential impacts of risks posed by natural disaster and other catastrophic events. WEST Archivers commit to retain titles through December 31, 2035, creating a stable and reliable collection against which institutions can compare their own local collections and ensuring that materials will be available to members as needed.