Libraries partnering on shared-storage project

As of this month, Western Libraries will partner with university libraries at Toronto, Ottawa, McMaster and Queen’s in the Keep@Downsview project, a shared print preservation initiative among the five institutions.

The project aims to preserve the scholarly record in Ontario in a shared high-density storage and preservation facility located at the University of Toronto’s Downsview Campus in north Toronto. According to library officials, the partnership is part of a larger movement in higher education for universities to share resources and costs related to preservation of the scholarly record.

“The intent is to preserve our low-use print material,” explained Harriet Rykse, Western’s Associate Chief Librarian for Content Management, Discovery and Access. “Rather than duplicating the preservation amongst the five schools, we would keep a single copy. If Ottawa has already sent a low-use copy of a journal or monograph to Downsview, and Western is looking at a copy of the same, we would (part with) the copies we have and become a shared owner of the copy at Downsview. It is a shared-ownership model.”

Items libraries will send to Downsview would all be low-demand print materials from the regular collection, she added. Western will not be moving any material already stored or located in Western Archives and will only send monographs and journals when the need comes up to make space in the regular stacks. A small pilot project, including roughly 10 items from the Allyn & Betty Taylor Library, is currently underway.

“It’s really key that it is low-use material being moved. We would look at our circulation statistics and see when the material was last circulated, and we would rely on our professional knowledge to understand if this likely to be needed frequently,” Rykse said.

“It’s up to the individual institution to decide what’s low-use. But it would be less-than-once-a-year kind of things. It is important to note, too, that it is a retrieval facility, a loaning facility. If there is a need to borrow something form Downsview, that is definitely possible.”

At Western, the location of the material being retrieved from storage on our campus is invisible to the end user. Library patrons simply fill out a request for material to be pulled from storage for their use. The process for obtaining any material sent to Downsview will be the same. Turnaround time to receive the item will be the same needed to process an inter-library loan – 48 hours in most cases.

The Keep@Downsview partnership and shared facility will create opportunities for the development of new services and delivery options that will improve access to collections, including on demand digitization and electronic delivery services for journals currently only available in print. Preserving and maintaining this valuable collection ensures these resources will be available for generations to come, Rykse explained.

“These kinds of shared print preservation projects are happening all over North America and Europe – we’re not unique by any stretch. The driver is very much about how do we steward our collections for future scholars while recognizing there’s a lot of competition and stress on space in libraries,” Rykse said.

“It’s a practical way to make sure we are stewards of scholarly information while not duplicating efforts amongst institutions.”

Keep@Downsview was funded, in part, through the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities Productivity and Innovation Fund. Some capital and all operating costs will be shared among the five universities.