The academic library of Van Hall Larenstein, University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands.
The academic library of Van Hall Larenstein, University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands.

A collective collection, also known as a shared print program, involves mostly academic or research libraries collaborating to retain, develop, and provide access to their physical collections. Most collective collections comprise monographs and/or serials.[1] Other efforts have addressed acquisition and/or retention of microform,[2] federal government documents,[3] and digital collections.[4]


The goal of collective collections is to preserve and provide access to the scholarly record in its original print form.[5] Each library participating in a collective collection agrees to retain certain titles for a given period of time, usually at least ten years. This practice ensures that the collective collection contains a predetermined number of unique items (such as specific editions of books and complete runs of journals) and that these items will be cared for and made available to all libraries participating in the collective collection. To prevent the loss of a unique title, participating libraries determine an appropriate number of copies that should be retained, so that if one were lost or destroyed, other copies would remain available. Shared print programs base these decisions on the number of libraries involved, the size of the collective collection, availability of the item outside of the collective collection, and other factors.[6]

Secondarily, collective collections enable participating libraries to make informed decisions about weeding locally held volumes that are duplicated in the collective collection.[1] In turn, this practice enables libraries to repurpose shelf space, whether to accommodate other print materials or to create a greater number and variety of spaces for users, especially students, to study, collaborate, teach, consult, and pursue other research and learning activities.[7]


Two basic types of collective collection models exist. A distributed (or decentralized) collective shared print collection is one in which items in the collection are retained at the original library but are accessible to all partnering libraries. Centralized collective collections are those in which books and journals are removed from the original library and stored in a shared shelving facility.[8] In many cases this shared shelving facility is a high-density preservation facility built according to the Harvard model, featuring rigorous temperature and climate controls to facilitate preservation of materials, along with elevated stacks and special shelving methods to maximize storage efficiency.[6]

Library consortia generally coordinate collective collections. A consortium can create and manage a formal agreement (such as a memorandum of understanding), signed by each participating library's director, which ensures that certain books, journals, or other materials are both retained and made available to other libraries, generally through interlibrary loan. The consortium can also manage the analysis of each library's collection to divide the responsibility for retaining items equitably. The consortium can also establish criteria for shelving environments (to ensure long-term preservation), as well as outline the methods for providing access to titles to other participating libraries.[9]

Library catalogs generally include indicators of which materials are part of a collective collection. Many collective collections are additionally tracked at a regional or national level. The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) hosts a Print Archives Preservation Registry (PAPR) to record titles, holdings, and conditions of serials held in major shared print programs across the United States. The Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries offers a similar tool called the Gold Rush Library Content Comparison System.[10] In 2018, CRL and OCLC were awarded a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to enable collective collection retention commitments for serials to be reflected in the global union catalog WorldCat.[11]


Collective collections may be regional or national in scale. As of May 2019, nearly eighty libraries in the United States had committed to retain nearly 18 million books for 25 years under the HathiTrust Shared Print Program.[12] As of December 2018, more than sixty academic libraries participating in the Eastern Academic Scholars' Trust (EAST) had committed to retain more than 6 million monographs for at least 15 years.[13] Collective collections programs outside the United States include Finland's National Repository Library,[14] Australia's CAVAL Archival and Research Materials (CARM) Centre,[15] Canada's Keep@Downsview,[16] and the United Kingdom's U.K. Research Reserve.[17]


Libraries' efforts to collectively manage and provide access to their holdings date back to antiquity[18] and extend through twentieth-century projects such as the Farmington Plan.[19] Funding reductions and escalating storage costs, as well as space constraints, for physical collections in the 2000s created an environment where library directors needed to rely on partnerships with consortia and other libraries. Librarians began to write about shared print collections as one possible method of dealing with these mounting constraints. In 2002 Richard Fyffe argued that librarians needed to start a dialogue with stakeholders and patrons in the scholarly community about the need to rely more on collective collections.[20] In 2004 Bernard F. Reilly (former president of the Center for Research Libraries) envisioned "drawing together the major independent regional and national repository initiatives into a coordinated, community-wide print preservation effort."[21] In 2013 Lorcan Dempsey popularized the term "collective collections" in an OCLC research report.[22] The trend toward collective collections has also received significant coverage in the mainstream press.[23][24]


  1. ^ a b Crist, Rebecca; Stambaugh, Emily (2014). SPEC Kit 345: Shared Print Programs. Washington, D.C.: Association of Research Libraries. p. 15. ISBN 9781594079283. OCLC 899212694.
  2. ^ Dupont, Jerry (1983). "Cooperative Microform Publishing: The Law Library Experience". Microform & Imaging Review. 12 (4). doi:10.1515/mfir.1983.12.4.234. ISSN 0949-5770.
  3. ^ Dinsmore, Chelsea; Glenn, Valerie D. (2012). "Using Targeted Distributed Collections to Enhance Government Depository Collections at a Regional Level: The ASERL Collaborative Federal Depository Program". Collection Management. 37 (3–4): 307–321. doi:10.1080/01462679.2012.685831. ISSN 0146-2679.
  4. ^ Garskof, Jeremy; Morris, Jill; Ballock, Tracie; Anderson, Scott (2016-01-01). "Towards the Collective Collection: Lessons Learned from PALCI's DDA Pilot Projects and Next Steps". Collaborative Librarianship. 8 (2). ISSN 1943-7528.
  5. ^ Demas, S.; Miller, M. (2016). "Curating Collective Collections--What's Your Plan? Writing Collection Management Plans" (PDF). Against the Grain. 24 (1): 65–68.
  6. ^ a b Hale, D., ed. (2016). Shared Collections: Collaborative Stewardship. Chicago: ALA Editions. ISBN 978-0-8389-1405-2. OCLC 1030796851.
  7. ^ Kieft, Robert H.; Payne, Lizanne (2012-07-01). "Collective Collection, Collective Action". Collection Management. 37 (3–4): 137–152. doi:10.1080/01462679.2012.685411. ISSN 0146-2679.
  8. ^ Clement, Susanne K. (2012). "From Collaborative Purchasing Towards Collaborative Discarding: The Evolution of the Shared Print Repository". Collection Management. 37 (3–4): 153–167. doi:10.1080/01462679.2012.685413. ISSN 0146-2679.
  9. ^ Kieft, Robert H.; Payne, Lizanne (2012). "Collective Collection, Collective Action". Collection Management. 37 (3–4): 137–152. doi:10.1080/01462679.2012.685411. ISSN 0146-2679.
  10. ^ Machovec, George (2014). "Shared Print Archiving—Analysis Tools". Journal of Library Administration. 54 (1): 66–76. doi:10.1080/01930826.2014.893118. ISSN 0193-0826.
  11. ^ "OCLC awarded Mellon Foundation grant to register library retention commitments for print serials in WorldCat". OCLC. 2018-06-24. Retrieved 2019-12-13.
  12. ^ "Shared Print Program | | HathiTrust Digital Library". Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  13. ^ Amato, S.; Stearns, S. (2018). "Documenting the Stewardship of Libraries: The Eastern Academic Scholars' Trust Validation Sample Studies". Collaborative Librarianship. 8 (3): 84–98.
  14. ^ Paakkinen, Kari; Vattulainen, Pentti (2011). "The National Repository Library of Finland". Alexandria: The Journal of National and International Library and Information Issues. 22 (2–3): 13–21. doi:10.7227/ALX.22.2.3. ISSN 0955-7490.
  15. ^ Jilovsky, Cathie (2013). "The CARM Centre: The Creation, Revelation and Evolution of a Print Repository". Australian Academic & Research Libraries. 44 (2): 113–124. doi:10.1080/00048623.2013.793590. ISSN 0004-8623.
  16. ^ Horava, Tony; Rykse, Harriet; Smithers, Anne; Tillman, Caitlin; Wyckoff, Wade (2017-01-02). "Making Shared Print Management Happen: A Project of Five Canadian Academic Libraries". Serials Review. 43 (1): 2–8. doi:10.1080/00987913.2016.1274209. hdl:10393/35913. ISSN 0098-7913.
  17. ^ Boyle, Frances; Brown, Chris (2010-08-17). "The UK Research Reserve (UKRR): machinations, mayhem and magic". Interlending & Document Supply. 38 (3): 140–146. doi:10.1108/02641611011072323. hdl:10044/1/5979. ISSN 0264-1615.
  18. ^ Casson, Lionel (2001). Libraries in the Ancient World. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 100. ISBN 0-300-08809-4. OCLC 45123204.
  19. ^ Dempsey, Deon (2004). "Review of A History of the Farmington Plan". Libraries & Culture. 39 (4): 473–475. ISSN 0894-8631. JSTOR 25541874.
  20. ^ Demas, Samuel; Miller, Mary E. (2012). "Rethinking Collection Management Plans: Shaping Collective Collections for the 21st Century". Collection Management. 37 (3–4): 168–187. doi:10.1080/01462679.2012.685415.
  21. ^ Reilly, Bernard F. (2004-04-01). "Preserving America's Print Resources: Toward a National Strategic Effort – Report on the Planning Day Discussions". Library Management. 25 (3): 104–117. doi:10.1108/01435120410699050. ISSN 0143-5124.
  22. ^ Dempsey, L. (2013) "The Emergence of the Collective Collection: Analyzing Aggregate Print Library Holdings," 1-5. In B. Lavoie and C. Malpas, eds. Understanding the Collective Collection: Towards a System-wide Perspective on Library Print Collections. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research, 2013.
  23. ^ Ellis, Lindsay (2019-10-09). "The Future of Campus Libraries? 'Sticky Interdependence'". The Chronicle of Higher Education. ISSN 0009-5982. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  24. ^ Cohen, Dan (2019-05-26). "The Books of College Libraries Are Turning Into Wallpaper". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2019-12-12.