Shared Collections

The shared collection project involves the development of a software package (the “middleware”) to facilitate discovery and delivery of materials in the collection, hand in hand with new policies and procedures to ensure the persistence and accessibility of the collection. This development work is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and builds on a planning grant that the Mellon Foundation awarded to the ReCAP partners in 2012 to developed a strategy for introducing a shared collection from among the materials they hold at ReCAP.

The ReCAP Shared Collections project is part of a larger effort that is taking place in research libraries to ensure preservation of the printed record and to make research collections more accessible. The terms "shared collections" or "shared print archive" can have a variety of meanings in the context of the many cooperative efforts that take place among libraries. The ReCAP Shared Collections project has three principle aims:

  • Provide readers with expanded access to the materials at ReCAP
  • Ensure that those collections are preserved in perpetuity, and 
  • Acquire and preserve the printed record in the future

ReCAP uses a middleware called the Shared Collection Service Bus (SCSB) to manage its shared collection.

This page provides an overview of the work to date on ReCAP Shared Collections. For further information and questions, please contact ReCAP's Executive Director

Project Background

Ever since the inception of ReCAP in 2000, the partner institutions, Columbia University, the New York Public Library and Princeton University, recognized the potential of a shared collection from among their collective holdings.  From 2012-2013, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the partners undertook a planning project to formalize the principles and operational steps that would allow materials to be shared. Their overarching goal was to transform the nature of the partnership from management of a shared space at the ReCAP facility to cooperative stewardship of a shared collection.  The ReCAP Shared Collection, consisting of selected materials already held at the facility and additional materials partners deposit in the future, will be managed, retained and shared according to policies developed and agreed to during the planning process. 

Direct benefits of the Shared Collection will include vastly expanded resources available to the patrons of each institution – we’ve estimated that each partner will have access to an additional 5-6 million new items, even after accounting for duplication; new opportunities for collaborative collection development activities; and demonstrated new technology and policy models for the national network of shared-print repositories.  Partners will realize the first and second benefits by creating a single-copy archive, managed jointly, to which patrons of all three libraries will have unmediated access.  This new unmediated access model will also reduce reliance on expensive interlibrary loan between partner institutions.

Shared Collection Definitions and Policies

One of three categories of materials held at the ReCAP facility, will consist of materials that the owning libraries commit to manage according to agreed shared collection policies including retention in perpetuity; these materials are general collections, consisting primarily of print monographs and serials. The other two categories of materials held in the ReCAP facility will be the open collection (general collection materials eligible to be used by all partners but not subject to retention requirements, such as duplicates) and the private collection (special collection materials with access restricted to the owning institution). Each institution is responsible for the costs associated with maintaining its open and private collections.

Key policy considerations for the Shared Collection include:

  • Ownership: Items in the ReCAP Shared Collection will remain the property of the original owning library.
  • Retention: The owning library agrees to maintain Shared Collection materials in ReCAP for the duration of the ReCAP Consortium Agreement (i.e., indefinitely).
  • Duplication: Duplicate items will not be added to the Shared Collection, but may be added to a ReCAP partner’s open or private collections.
  • Disclosure: ReCAP libraries will report Shared Collection holdings (including retention commitments) to OCLC and other registries and will monitor and adopt, as appropriate, emerging national standards and guidelines related to shared print collections.

Current Work: Software Integration

The second phase of the project, now underway and funded in part by the Mellon Foundation, with significant financial contributions from the partners, is focused on building and implementing a new technology platform with a system architecture that will address every use case required by the partners to support collections management and discovery to delivery functions for the ReCAP Shared Collection.  Partner libraries declare which materials are eligible for sharing and assign a circulation rule – circulating, onsite/one-day reserve, or supervised use – to each item. Discovery and request will be handled through each library’s existing web-based discovery layer, circulation systems, and loan policies. The end goal is for patrons from each institution to seamlessly discover and request shared collection materials without mediation from the owning institution.

The Shared Collection Service Bus (SCSB: code on Github; documentation on Confluence) will connect the partners’ Integrated Library Systems (ILS) with ReCAP’s Inventory Management System (IMS).  HTC Global, Inc. was selected through a competitive RFP process to create the system, and Marshall Breeding is serving as technology consultant to the project. The development and implementation of the SCSB and related APIs is estimated to take 26 months, with the initial full build of the Shared Collection database by fall 2016, user acceptance and testing in spring 2017, and full production rollout in fall 2017. All of the products developed in this project are being released under a no-cost, open source or Creative Commons license.