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Charles Henry on the Future of the Print Record

Each of the panelists on our roundtable will present a few opening remarks before we turn to discussion. I’ve asked them each for a teaser, which I’ll post over the next several days. Next up, Charles Henry, president of the Council on Library and Information Resources.

In 2013, CLIR founded the Committee on Coherence at Scale. The committee’s work is guided by the following assumptions: 1) the current array of large-scale digital projects offers a rare opportunity to think about the feasibility of a new, robust digital environment for higher education that, if designed as a system, would create a virtual educational ecology that would correlate many aspects of knowledge organization and the cycle of scholarly communication. 2) A well-designed environment that correlates these various facets of scholarly communication should enhance productivity and encourage new discovery. Working within this multifaceted environment will also foster new methodologies and intellectual strategies over time.

While the primary focus of the committee is digital phenomena, it is also keenly interested in the future of print. With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a post-doctoral fellow has been hired to conduct an Analysis of Costs and Return on Investments for a National System of Print Materials Repositories. A key aspect of building a national system for information management in support of higher education must include analog materials. Working with the University of Michigan, Indiana University, the Modern Language Association, and the Center for Research Libraries, the fellow will begin an analysis of the costs to build regional repositories that will be backed up by an audited, trustworthy system of preservation and archiving of the deposited materials. Costs estimated will include construction of the repositories, moving costs, management, delivery, and ongoing storage costs. The return on this investment will include projections of costs saved/avoided by de-accessioning copies of the printed books and materials nationwide.

An impetus for this grant and its execution derives from the decades-long conversations about the future of print which has often not benefited from a rigorous cost analysis of constructing a national system to house and secure less used materials, redundantly held books, and over time an increasing number of print copies of digitized collections.

Geneva Henry on the Future of the Print Record

Each of the panelists on our roundtable will present a few opening remarks before we turn to discussion. I’ve asked them each for a teaser, which I’ll post over the next several days. Next up, Geneva Henry, University Librarian and vice-provost for libraries at George Washington University.

The increased availability of digital scholarly resources coupled with a perception that libraries are throwing away print volumes has led to a belief among some humanities scholars that the print record is no longer a priority for preservation. Not so! The challenge with print is the physical space it requires at a time when there are real constraints on university real estate and budgets. The economics of limited space, ongoing cleaning of the stacks, and accreditation pressures for increased student seating in libraries require well thought-out retention policies. Many libraries have, therefore, established off-site or below-grade efficient storage for materials that have not circulated for many years. As these facilities also reach capacity, decisions must be made about how much to retain. Decisions to deaccession any resource are difficult, time consuming and expensive. The easiest decision is to keep everything. Librarians hold true to their mission to preserve the human record, thus great pains are taken whenever a single library makes a decision to no longer keep its own copy of a resource. It’s not a decision simply about circulation, but also about other factors such as the number of copies held regionally, nationally and globally. For many libraries, the primary decision that is first made is which resources will we commit to retain forever. With more and more shared collections and improved records of holdings, retention decisions are increasingly well-informed, with assurances that the human record will be preserved. A greater challenge that is now arising is tracking lost books and books “retained” by faculty in their offices for the length of their tenure (and beyond). Looking for a book that should be available? You might want to check your colleague’s office.