Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Need Exceeds Space: A Serials Withdrawal Project at the University of Rhode Island University Libraries

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Need Exceeds Space: A Serials Withdrawal Project at the University of Rhode Island University Libraries

Article excerpt

In 2009, the University of Rhode Island's main library, the Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons in Kingston, initiated a pilot serials withdrawal project when the need for space for new services exceeded the space available in the library. A joint venture between Acquisitions and Access Services, the successful pilot led to a subsequent withdrawal project in summer 2010 to free additional space in the library. The print journals targeted for withdrawal were ones to which the library had online access through licensed journal archives. Considerations on what to withdraw, the process of identifying titles for withdrawal, and the logistics of managing the withdrawal of more than 35,000 volumes are described.


As library collections move online in the digital era, institutions are repurposing space formerly used to house collections for student use and enhanced services in support of teaching and learning. (1) As reported by Payne, "the 'library as place' movement has redefined what space within the library should be used for. As a result, libraries are coming to be seen primarily as centers for independent and collaborative study and learning rather than as housing for physical collections." (2) Schonfeld and Housewright acknowledge that "the information/ learning commons movement to create suitable learning spaces and bring new services into the library has been transforming the physical space of library after library." (3) As a result, "libraries turn to the deaccessioning of print as a key tactic for finding the needed space." (4)

In response to plans to construct a learning commons in the University of Rhode Island's (URI) main library in Kingston and the consequent need to free space for new services, the library initiated a pilot serials-discard project during the summer of 2009. Other options for creating space to accommodate the learning commons, such as constructing an addition to the library or transferring collections to off-site storage, were beyond the library's financial resources. Furthermore, a tight schedule for construction required a timely response.

Successfully completed well before the construction deadline, the serials-discard pilot was continued in summer 2010 as a means to create additional strategic space in the library. The extension of the serials-discard pilot offered the opportunity to refine procedures and reflect on broader considerations surrounding the withdrawal of library collections in the digital era, such as the desirability of collaboration with faculty and other library stakeholders as well as the importance of coordination with other libraries to ensure that unique materials are not lost to the library community. The process followed can inform similar projects in other academic libraries.

Literature Review

As academic libraries face space constraints and budget pressures within the context of the mass migration of serials content to online format, many libraries have made the decision to withdraw print serials from their collections. O'Connor and Jilovsky point out that "the rate of discard of materials from academic libraries in recent years has become a fast growing statistic" driven primarily by lack of space and "new directions for library physical space." (5) Corroborating this view is the Ithaka S+R Library Survey 2010: Insights from U.S. Academic Library Directors, which found that "most libraries have become comfortable with deaccessioning or moving offsite their print journal collections after they have reliable digital access to copies of these materials: 91% have already done so or are planning to do so in the future." (6) Besides space needs, an important factor in decisions to withdraw print journals from library collections are the costs involved in the long-term storage of print format materials. Estimates of these costs vary widely on the basis of research methods, with annual storage costs in open library stacks calculated to range from $4. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.