Cooperative Collection Management in the Consortial Environment: The VIVA Pilot Projects
Millson-Martula, Christopher, Pathak, Susanna Bartmann, Pfeiffer, Carol, Library Philosophy and Practice
The history of cooperative collection development is a tapestry interwoven with the strong fibers of a shared belief in the theoretical value and promise of cooperation and a rather ragged record of achieving that promise. Dominguez and Swindler open their insightful analysis of cooperative collection development at the Research Libraries Triangle University Libraries with the statement that, "[c]ooperative collection development is the flag, motherhood, and apple pie of librarianship." Using one of these three icons as a metaphor, one might observe that it is easier to salute the flag than to put into practice the beliefs and values that it symbolizes.
Dominguez and Swindler go on to note that despite extensive literature on the topic, there are few "critical analyses based on long-term case studies that document what has worked and why." Others have also observed the scarcity of critical analyses of cooperative collection development ventures (Bennett, Branin, Weber).
This article offers a descriptive account and critical analysis of three cooperative collection development projects undertaken by the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA)--a consortium of the academic libraries in Virginia. We begin with a review of the current state of cooperative collection development efforts among academic libraries and a synopsis of the collective work undertaken by VIVA librarians, who, with the help of a consultant, planned and conducted the pilot projects.
Background on Cooperative Collection Development
Libraries have a long, successful tradition of cooperation in many areas. At least one writer traces the tradition back to "the great library at Alexandria's lending materials to Pergamum in approximately 200 B.C." (Sohn) Cooperation in the functions of acquisitions and collection development is a more recent phenomenon. Most of the extensive literature on its history cites Walter Lichtenstein's South American buying trip in 1913-14 as the first joint acquisitions program and the Farmington Plan of 1948 as the initial cooperative collection development program. (Sohn)
The fifty-year chronicle of cooperative collection development programs is summed up by many authors as filled with only modest successes (Atkinson, Bennett, Hewitt and Shipman, Shreeves, Weber.) Our collective sense of having achieved only limited success may itself constrain our potential. Branin concluded that,"[t]his lack of significant, ongoing achievement is certainly one force blocking more cooperative activity in the field of collection development, for momentum has never been established."
The chronicle is not entirely bleak. Articles abound that describe the promise of cooperative collection development ventures--particularly in the early years of such ventures. (Dannelly, Dowd, Farrell and Reed-Scott, Ferguson, Forcier and Powell, Gwinn and Mosher, Hacken, Pettas and Bates, Sohn) In general, these more optimistic articles describe only one specific project, rather than a cumulative record of success in multiple projects, or describe the onset rather than the culmination of--or several years of experience with--a project. Dismal notes are more often struck usually in the articles that essay to evaluate the cumulative record of cooperative collection development nationwide. In these writings, there is consensus that the greatest successes have been achieved either at the local level (where geographic proximity is a critical success factor) or among libraries with similar missions and of similar size. (Branin, Hewitt and Shipman, Keller, Rutstein)
Most recently, some writers have begun to question the value of cooperative efforts to develop print collections. Shreeves makes a strong case for focusing cooperative ventures on the acquisition or creation of digital collections and for sharing expertise rather than print collections. He states that, "[t]he changes being experienced during the present transition to a largely digital environment offer new opportunities for cooperative collection development efforts but also call into question the value of investing in models based on a predominantly print environment. …