This year, Big Ten university libraries have begun work on creating a more collective system of books across institutions, including the University of Minnesota.
Earlier this semester, library leaders within the Big Ten Academic Alliance released a statement outlining their intent to create a more coordinated and accessible system of shared library materials. Members of the BTAA are now in the early stages of working on the project.
“Going forward, we will orient our collective actions around the challenges and opportunities that come with interdependence and will implement the necessary systems, policies and services needed to create an integrated user experience of the networked collections, from discovery to delivery,” the statement reads.
University Librarian and Dean of Libraries Wendy Pradt Lougee, who also chairs the BTAA library directors and deans group, emphasized that libraries will continue to expand on their own collections. This effort will simply increase collaboration between the libraries.
“Individual libraries will continue to offer distinctive collections and services focused on local needs, but enabling a networked approach will ensure the collective good, leveraging all of the remarkable libraries’ collections of the Big Ten institutions,” the statement reads.
A report by the Online Computer Library Center in collaboration with the BTAA earlier this year suggested three action areas for the project going forward: policy, content and technology.
The BTAA has formed committees around those three distinct areas to discuss how to move forward with this project, Lougee said.
Lougee also noted that in recent years there has been a growing number of requests from University community members for books from different institutions.
While there are borrowing systems currently in place, the BTAA will work to make them easier to use, Lougee said.
“On the one hand we do a lot with our collections to share them, and then on the other hand we wanted to figure out how to make them more accessible,” she said.
Kristi Jensen, program development lead for the e-learning support initiative at the University, said because institutions often use different platforms to catalogue library materials, it can be difficult to communicate collections between libraries.
"One of the challenges is creating a place where all of that information is available in a way that’s really useful and that it’s … easy for users to go and find,” Jensen said.
One of the tasks of the initiatives will be advancing technological systems to create more cohesion between the libraries, Lougee said.
“It’s just taking the bumps out of the road and making the systems talk to one another,” she said.
Having enough physical space for books within university libraries is often an issue, Jensen said.
With changing spaces in University libraries, such as the collaboration area in Wilson Library, book collections often need to be moved around, Lougee said.
The partnership would allow libraries to depend on other institutions if they do not have room for certain materials.
The project would also include analysis of current collections to see where there are duplicates of certain books, and what the optimal distribution of books between different libraries is, Lougee said.
The process has only just begun, however, she emphasized.
“Hopefully in not too distant time, they’ll begin to see some action and some benefits for everybody,” Lougee said.