The UConn Libraries is joining other academic libraries and cultural institutions world-wide in championing responsible and sustainable collections management and preservation through the ongoing transition of targeted collection items from print to digital. Targeted items include materials that users prefer to consult online, such as reference sources, Connecticut and Federal data, and journal articles.
Not too long ago, when online access was less prevalent, print journals were considered essential to a research collection and rarely removed. However, as online access has grown to nearly 100,000 online journals available to the UConn community today and users expressed their increasing preference for online access to journal literature, it became clear that we had significant and unnecessary duplication.
To address this situation, we began identifying duplicate items across the thousands of print journal titles currently held in the UConn Libraries. In reviewing the items for potential removal, care is taken to follow specific criteria, which includes ensuring that users have what is called “perpetual access.” Once long-term online stability has been determined, the print volumes are offered to other libraries and regional repositories for inclusion in their collections. After a brief waiting period to see if there are any takers, the items are removed from our catalog and pulled from the shelves. To date we have removed over 155 titles, which equates to the release of over 2,500 linear feet of space on Levels 3 and A in the Homer Babbidge Library. That amounts to about ½ mile of stacks or almost 8 football fields of paper lined up from end to end.
While we believe that those numbers are important, it isn’t just about freeing up valuable library space. The goals of the project also include the savings of some of the significant costs associated with storage and maintenance of physical materials. Funds saved can potentially be repurposed to purchase emerging technologies, create needed contemporary learning spaces, and provide more online content.
We also believe that the answer to long-term sustainability and stewardship of collection materials will involve increased interlibrary collaboration including off-site storage options for low circulating items and regional collection sharing. For example, we have access to print journal collections housed in the Five College‘s storage facility in Massachusetts and are actively engaged with two dozen colleges and universities in the Northeast Regional Library Print Management Project. This project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is working to develop a model for which libraries in the Northeast could successfully coordinate shared storage of print materials. This type of regional collaboration has the potential to benefit the individual institutions involved as well as the larger region as a whole.
Nationally, the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is coordinating the preservation of print materials in limited quantities across regions. UConn’s membership in CRL ensures that the UConn community will always have access to print materials when needed. Future collaborations, such as the Digital Public Library of America, will also work to make sure students, researchers, and scholars will have the collections they need to be successful in their work.