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The Scarlet & Black

Libraries join forces

Last spring, Grinnell College entered into the Central Iowa Collaborative Collections Initiative (CI-CCI) with Drake University, Central College, Simpson College and Grand View University. The program intends to reduce the size of current library collections by examining the overlap of print material across the various institutions to organize a more efficient overall collection.

“[Through the program], we formally agree that Grinnell will retain X books and Drake will retain Y books. Then in agreement, we will give each other preferential treatment, or prioritized treatment, when it comes to interlibrary loan sharing,” said Richard Fyffe, Librarian of the College.

Many other liberal arts colleges have already adopted similar programs, such as Bowdoin College, Colby College and Bates College in Maine.

The Grinnell College libraries, which include Burling Library, Kistle Science Library, Curriculum Library and an off-site storage facility, have a collection of more than a million books; in addition to this, they have about 8,000 e-books and 25,000 serials and purchase 10,000 books a year.

“This kind of a network is emerging among libraries all over the country, in which groups of libraries in a small geographic region look at the amount of overlap they have in their collections and ask the question, ‘Do we all need to have copies of the same books?’” Fyffe said. “This is essentially the agreement we have entered into.”

Books in Burling Library. Photo by Aaron Juarez.
Books in Burling Library. Photo by Aaron Juarez.

Throughout the country, libraries are struggling with the issue of space. By joining the initiative, Burling and Kistle may be able to better organize newly opened space in the future for student use.

“There are many things we want to do with our space, like student services or special kinds of study areas and so on. We are trying to think ahead because the building isn’t getting bigger and the collections are,” Fyffe said.

Recently, more and more of the College’s print collection has been made available online. As a result, the print volumes are not seeing as much usage as the online versions.

“We have a lot of government documents, about 900 shelves worth of that kind of material,” said Cecilia Knight, Acquisitions and Discovery Librarian. “[The online service] is a much better service that allows you to search all those government records with keywords, rather than trying to find them in the books.”

The College is only in the beginning stages of the initiative. No books have yet to be removed. The librarians have only begun to negotiate the parameters according to which the collections will be examined, in order to determine potential retention or removal. A key factor in determining retention will be the amount of usage for the specific print volume.

“If there is no recorded use since 2005 and the book was published before 1991 and there will be at least one copy within the group of five and there is another copy some place else in Iowa, then one of us will retain one copy and the others can consider whether they want to withdraw it from their collection,” Fyffe said.

Under the current model, Grinnell plans to commit to retaining about 45,000 print titles of the total overlapping volumes. Media and books from the special collections or ones that are special to Grinnell, such as volumes written by faculty or alumni are not considered in the program for possible removal.

“Our first focus is going to be the books we are going to retain rather than the books we decide to withdraw. This fall and the spring we will be settling on the titles that [each of the five institutions] will agree to retain,” Fyffe said. “We want to increase the match between what we buy and what gets used.”

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