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Building a Large-Scale Print-Journal Repository

Academic libraries in the western part of the United States are one step closer to having a large-scale regional trust for print-journal archives. The University of California libraries announced last week that it has received a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to implement plans for the Western Regional Storage Trust, or West. The grant is about $700,000, according to Brian E.C. Schottlaender, the university librarian at UC-San Diego and a key member of the planning team.

Designed to save participating libraries money and space, the repository has been in the works for several years. According to the UC announcement, 20 libraries and library consortia took part in the planning phase, which was also underwritten by Mellon. The planning partners include Stanford University, Arizona State University, the University of Washington and the University of Oregon as well as other members of the Orbis Cascade Alliance, the Greater Western Library Alliance, and the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium. The UC announcement said that more than 60 other academic libraries have said they will sign on during the implementation phase. The trust’s geographic range includes the vast territory west of the Mississippi River.

Over the next three years, “Archive Builders”—designated librarians from participating libraries—will sort through about 150,000 volumes from 8,000 journal runs, according to the statement. The goal is to consolidate holdings and reduce duplication while making sure that archival copies are available at select campus and regional locations.

To figure out what holdings can be safely deaccessioned, the project has developed “risk profiles” for journals, Mr. Schottlaender said in an interview. He listed some of the criteria that will be used to develop those profiles: how many copies are held throughout the West consortium, how many copies or runs of certain journals are available at individual locations, and whether the journals in question are available electronically from what he called “trusted providers”—publishers who have archiving agreements with Portico, for instance. The physical condition of specific print holdings will also be a factor in deciding what to keep.

The culling will involve working through the “cultural issues” surrounding print copies and what libraries can safely do without, Mr. Schottlaender said. Asked whether the trust might decide to do away with every print copy of some journals, Mr. Schottlaender said that was unlikely. But he also said he expected that the partners would eventually arrive at “a sufficient degree of comfort” to divest themselves of all duplicate copies of some journals.

Such decisions will be made partly based on what’s available outside the West network. One driving question: “Are there other copies around the country, and are they in places that we feel good about?” Mr. Schottlaender said.

He added that talks are under way about setting up similar regional repositories in the Northeast and the Southeast but that those plans are not as far along as West is. The Center for Research Libraries is helping coordinate the various conversations, he said, and is “building a suite of software tools” that West participants will use for such important tasks as aggregating local-holdings data.

“It’s not just talk,” Mr. Schottlaender said in an interview. “We actually know what we’re going to do.”

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