Jan. 17, 2013
Library to integrate technical services with Columbia
The libraries at Cornell and Columbia universities are taking an unprecedented new step in their 2CUL partnership by integrating their technical services departments.
Thanks to a three-year, $350,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the two libraries will integrate their purchasing and licensing of library materials, such as books, e-books, e-journals and databases. The departments also provide data so that users can find and use those materials.
"This is far-reaching action on a grand scale," said Anne Kenney, Cornell's Carl A. Kroch University Librarian. "Eventually, both units will operate as part of one whole, which means that new efficiency and combined staff capabilities will enable both institutions to enhance capacity and broaden the range of services offered."
For library users, the 2CUL integration will mean better and faster access to more materials including licensed journal articles and foreign materials. When negotiating with vendors and other third parties for services and content, the technical services operation will exercise bargaining power on behalf of both research libraries.
The integration will also include:
- seeking a common library management system that integrates data and workflows;
- establishing collaborative collection building and coordinated processing;
- reviewing policies, practices, workflows and job responsibilities at each institution, with an eye toward reconciling them;
- drafting best practices and guidelines; and
- adopting a new organizational structure and culture.
Because both libraries serve high-level research institutions, their technical services work requires specialized language expertise (the 2CUL libraries collect materials in about 50 languages) as well as a range of unique content. The integration will give both libraries an enhanced pool of expertise and capacity.
Additionally, some workflows will be similar enough to support work-sharing. For example, when one campus faces a bulge or backlog in technical processing, staff at the other campus can pick up some of the work. Approximately 20 percent of library staff at Columbia and Cornell is devoted to technical services work.
The 2CUL partnership began in 2009, with an initial grant from the Mellon Foundation that allowed Cornell and Columbia libraries to join forces to address budgetary challenges and improve library efficiencies, promote innovation and meet new and emerging academic needs.
The initial grant allowed Columbia and Cornell:
- faculty, students and staff to borrow materials from either library on-site and expedite access through intercampus loan delivery;
- to build joint collections and sharing librarians and language expertise to expand access to more global resources in Asia, Latin America and Russia/Eastern Europe; and
- to uncover issues for long-term preservation and access to e-journal literature; and
- to create programs to give tailored support for Ph.D. students in the humanities.
Beyond the scope of the grants, the two libraries will advance their partnership by, for example, further integrating their collection building and mainstreaming 2CUL beyond technical services.
"Building ways to manage our two libraries' collections jointly is an essential step in integrating the collections themselves," said Bob Wolven, associate university librarian for bibliographic services and collection development at Columbia. "This partnership goes far beyond avoiding costs. It extends to changing the way we think about staffing, task and expertise distribution, and workflow design. Working together means we can use our strengths to the fullest."
Gwen Glazer is the staff writer/editor for the Cornell University Library.