MLA 2013

How Many Copies is Enough? Too Many? : Libraries and Shared Monograph Archives

The (re)production and distribution of texts, images, and sounds and of scholarly work based on them have changed substantially in the last fifteen years, not least because of the mass deployment of digital technologies and the sheer number of texts available on the Web. In addition,  demographic, political, and economic forces, especially reductions in government support for education, are altering higher education institutions and their libraries more generally.

As libraries in all sectors of higher education, together with the funders, partnerships, and organizations that support and connect them, adjust to and create new opportunities from these changes, they are redefining the place of print collections among their services by digitizing unusual and rare materials; relying on electronic text for access to “general collections” texts; moving print collections to offsite housing or deaccessioning them in favor of remote access from archival collections; reallocating space in their buildings from housing print on open shelves to creating other kinds of work spaces; and expanding their efforts to support publishing programs, the archiving of born-digital materials, and digital forms of scholarship.

Such changes as these disrupt well-established work practices and preferences as well as assumptions about the roles of libraries in culture, and efforts by libraries to de-emphasize print collections in favor of these other activities are often controversial. As libraries are creating regional and national networks for guaranteeing access to large digital collections that are duplicative of print and, in parallel, creating networks for the archiving of print titles, a vigorous debate has emerged about the adequacy of digitized text for reading and scholarship, with many scholars expressing concern that remote housing or deaccessioning of print materials, especially monographs, in favor of digitized copies or partnered access to archival collections will compromise their work.

This session will bring together scholars and librarians for a national-level conversation  to address the challenges and opportunities of the current environment so that libraries, as they have in the past, can continue to promote the interests of scholarship with respect to printed materials.  In the context of these new times, this session seeks to renew the discussion begun in the 1995 report by an MLA task force, “Significance of Primary Records” (http://www.mla.org/pdf/spr_print.pdf), its successor from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and MLA, “Preserving Research Collections: A Collaboration between Librarians and Scholars” (1999, http://www.arl.org/preserv/presresources/Research_Collections.shtml),  and “The Evidence in Hand” (2001, http://clir.org/pubs/reports/pub103/pub103.pdf), commissioned by the Council on Library and Information Resources.  Panelists and session participants will address such questions as the following:

1. Keeping in mind the several types and institutional locations of academic libraries, what challenges are libraries trying to address with collection management plans that call for offsite housing or deaccessioning of printed 19th- and 20th- century books?

2. What is the current status of efforts among libraries to preserve and give access to print materials?  What are the benefits to libraries and to the future of scholarship of shared print preservation?

3. What are the criteria for preserving and making available print materials; what are the characteristics of publications (esp. books) that should be preserved as a) individual copies or b) as representative copies?

4. What are the optimal relationships among copies retained in campus libraries, housed off campus, or digitized; what are the uses cases or circumstances that define these optimal relationships?

Three well-known, knowledgeable panelists will lead the audience in discussion.

Andrew Stauffer is Associate Professor of English at the University of Virginia. He is also Director of NINES, Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Scholarship (http://www.nines.org/), “…a scholarly organization devoted to forging links between the material archive of the nineteenth century and the digital research environment of the twenty-first.” He appears frequently on MLA panels and in print, and has taught Digitizing the Historical Record” at University of Virginia’s Rare Books School. In 2012, he was named to the Board of newly formed Anvil Academic Publishing, a “…fully digital publishing enterprise focused on publishing new forms of scholarship that cannot be adequately conveyed in the traditional monograph.”

Jay Schafer is Director of Libraries at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he has worked since 2000.  UMass Amherst partners with Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith Colleges in the Five College Library Depository, a nationally prominent example of a joint collections housing facility.  He serves on the Association of Research Libraries’ 21st-Century Research Library Collections Task Force, which is exploring such questions as what collections will look like; how collections will be defined, created, and preserved for scholars; and why libraries must collaborate deeply on the issues of collection access and preservation.

Deanna Marcum is Managing Director of Ithaka S+R, http://www.ithaka.org/ithaka-s-r, the research arm of Ithaka. Ithaka S+R conducts a long-running survey of faculty attitudes toward electronic text, and their other research projects encompass a range of studies on scholarship, publishing, and the use and management of library collections. Prior Ithaka, Marcum was Associate Librarian for Library Services at Library of Congress, President of the Council on Library and Information Resources, and Dean of the Catholic University School of Library and Information Science. At LC and CLIR, she was at the center of national-level policy development and research about collaboration on and preservation of library and scholarly materials.  She is the 2011 recipient of the Melvil Dewey Medal, the American Library Association’s highest award.

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