Shared Collections

The ReCAP Shared Collections project involved the development of a software package 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 was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and was built on a planning grant that the Mellon Foundation awarded to the ReCAP partners in 2012 to develop a strategy for introducing a shared collection from among the materials they hold at ReCAP.

The project was 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 had 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

This page provides an overview of the work to date on the ReCAP Shared Collections project. 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 Shared Collection Service Bus (SCSB: code on Github; documentation on Confluence) connects the partners’ Integrated Library Systems (ILS) with ReCAP’s Inventory Management System (IMS).  HTC Global Services was selected through a competitive RFP process to create the system, and Marshall Breeding served as technology consultant to the project. The development and implementation of SCSB and related APIs began in 2016 and launched in late 2017. The products developed in this project have been released under a no-cost, open source or Creative Commons license. With the implementation of SCSB, the ReCAP shared collection, consisting of selected materials already held in storage and additional materials partners deposit in the future, could be managed, retained and shared according to policies developed and agreed to during the planning process.

Direct benefits of the shared collection include vastly expanded resources available to the patrons of each institution – we’ve estimated that each partner now has access to an additional 10 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 realized the first and second benefits by creating a single-copy archive, managed jointly, to which patrons of all partner libraries have unmediated access.  This new unmediated access model also reduces reliance on expensive interlibrary loan between partner institutions.

The second phase of the project, also supported by the Mellon Foundation, with significant financial contributions from the partners, was focused on building and implementing a new technology platform with a system architecture to address every use case required by the partners to support collections management and discovery to delivery functions for the ReCAP’s 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 are handled through each library’s existing web-based discovery layer, circulation systems, and loan policies. The outcome is that patrons from each institution can seamlessly discover and request shared collection materials without mediation from the owning institution.

In January 2018, ReCAP, welcomed its fourth partner, Harvard University, a pioneer in the high-density storage field. In 2020, the Mellon Foundation supported another effort to substantially refactor the SCSB code in order to make it extensible, capable of providing basic reporting, and resilient to changes among internal components, and thus, standardized so that it could be adopted by other library consortia. Performing the code cleanup and architecture refactoring also supported the integration of 4.2 million items owned by Harvard University, stored at ReCAP’s facility and the Harvard Depository (HD), located in Southborough Massachusetts, into the Discovery to Delivery program.

Shared Collection Definitions and Policies

One of three categories of materials held at the ReCAP facility consists of materials that the owning libraries commit to manage according to agreed shared collection policies including retention in perpetuity. These shared materials are general collections, consisting primarily of print monographs and serials. The other two categories of materials held in the ReCAP facility are 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 collection materials for the duration of the ReCAP Consortium Agreement (i.e., indefinitely) and seamlessly accessible to the other members of the program.
  • 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.