On Sept. 25, 2017, the Princeton University Library announced that 5 million new records have been made accessible to students, faculty, and staff members. The records were added to the University’s catalog as a result of the Shared Collection Service, an effort to integrate the records of the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium. The consortium includes the University and its two partners, Columbia University and the New York Public Library.
Through the Shared Collection Service, ReCAP is able to ensure mutual benefits for all three institutions by enhancing the accessibility of records and making effective use of space by sharing collections that are stored off-site.
David Magier, associate librarian for collection development explained that in the past, books from other libraries like Columbia’s were borrowed through the library loan system. Now, as a result of the Shared Collection Service, 5 million more books show up directly in the University’s catalog. Not only are these books directly accessible to users, but programmers have ensured that users can also search for keywords to facilitate research.
Magier also explained that the “collection collective” is motivated by the attitude that sharing initiatives such as ReCAP are essential for improving research. Sharing records in such a manner is not only cost-effective, but it is also more efficient in that the 55 University subject librarians can now partner with their colleagues in other institutions to decide how to re-deploy available resources to the “collective collection.”
According to Magier, the future looks promising as the general trend suggests that collectives such as ReCAP are emerging and expanding. For example, the Princeton University Library is also a member of the Ivy Plus Libraries, a similarly conceived partnership consisting of thirteen members. Of course, projects like ReCAP have their limitations, due to lack of digital and physical space.
Nevertheless, Magier speculated that it seems as though other universities, that are currently associate members, may become full-fledged members with time.
Magier also discussed the idea that the physical location of a book is still relevant.
“It doesn’t matter [anymore] whose physical collection the book came from," said Magier, adding that what matters is that a book can be found easily and delivered easily.
Funding for the Shared Collection Service was made possible through a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The five million new records will be accessible through the Library’s “New Catalog.” The “Main Catalog” will not include these titles and will be retired in late January 2018. By the start of the 2018 spring semester, the Princeton University Library will offer a single catalog.