Category Archives: White Paper

Concerted Thought, Collaborative Action, and the Future of the Print Record

The working group on the Future of the Print Record has developed a white paper, a working draft of which is embedded as a PDF below. We now seek comments on this draft in order to continue developing the argument as well as our proposed solution. A discussion of this draft will be held at the MLA Convention in Philadelphia on Friday, 6 January, at 1:45 pm in the Marriott, room 401-403. We look forward to your feedback.


“What is the place of print in the digital age?” That is the fundamental question informing the attached white paper, building upon a thoughtful sequence of publications and conversations conducted over the last twenty years that persuasively articulates two correlate conclusions: 1) the collective cultural heritage embodied in the vast print record held in libraries’ general, circulating collections must be preserved and made accessible for future generations, and 2) that no single institution or existing organization can provide a satisfactory solution for sustaining this cultural legacy. A coherent, collective action is required on the part of the entire higher education community.

In this paper we propose a research agenda for, and suggest a path toward, a national system for print collection management that derives from core values that inform academic research and teaching, and that will provide over time a salient public good. Recognizing the rational imperative of the 20th-century model of large scale acquisition of print collections by single institutions, we recognize as well that contemporary robust networks, sophisticated communication, and infinitely reproducible content offer us an unprecedented means to augment and extend this traditional model of collection and access. Our proposal combines suggestions for a policy and governance structure and the rationalization of existing, high-density book facilities with strategically built and managed new facilities that would be operated as a coherent system. Fundamental to this built environment is the ongoing digitization of print content, creating a commonwealth of analog and digital resources in service to scholarly productivity and new discovery that expands our human capacity in ways that are more efficient, cost effective, and elegant than is possible within the academy today.

The title, “Concerted Thought, Collaborative Action,” refers to the logical consolidation and management of currently diffuse and distributed collections, and also describes the collaborative effort necessary to make such an ambitious and necessary project work. This is a rich amalgam of technical, behavioral, and cultural considerations. Implicit in successfully addressing this grand challenge is an elusive but foundational condition of engagement: mutual trust among institutions, their libraries, scholarly communities, information specialists, and administrators, a trust based on a shared commitment to the highest quality of teaching, learning, and scholarship.

Read or download “Concerted Thought, Collaborative Action, and the Future of the Print Record” below.

Download (PDF, 195KB)