Common Pitfalls

Below is a list of common pitfalls that have been experienced by shared print programs. This list was created by consulting with many practitioners in the field and is hoped will help programs avoid learning these lessons the hard way.

Being too specific in the MOU

Getting all members to sign off on a Memorandum of Understanding can be an extremely complicated process. Therefore ideally the MOU should be worded in a way that avoids the need for frequent updates which members need to reaffirm in a new agreement. Consider having separate documents for more operational level policies and procedures that can be updated more frequently and don’t require changes to the MOU.


Using old data in collection analyses

Sometimes a program will have data from previous collection analysis, or a vendor may have data from a library that has previously done work with them. While it is very tempting to use this older data to avoid the work and delays of getting newer data, it often proves to be more troublesome in the long run. Issues can be lack of current holdings, inaccurate holdings, and difficulty integrating older and newer data sets.


Rigid retention criteria, especially when multi-type libraries are involved

Some programs include multi type library partners, e.g. State, Public and Academic libraries. Be aware that different types of libraries may have very different goals and types of data. For example, public libraries often have much higher circulation rates than academic libraries, and may wish to retain more copies, though for a shorter period of time, than an academic library. Multi type programs should not try to have a “one size fits all” model.


Underestimating staffing requirements

While it is tempting to think of shared print activities to be “one and done”, there is ongoing work in maintaining a program both at the program level and the local library level. Make sure that there is adequate buy-in at the administrative level to assure that a program can sustain itself over time and appropriate staffing occurs at all levels.


Note that for project staff it can feel like agreeing to retention commitments is the end of the project, the work for libraries really only begins once they’ve made the commitments. They then need to operationalize shared print within their library. To support this and other activities it helps to have point person(s) for the shared print program who libraries know they can reach out to.


Failing to onboard new staff

Staff turnover happens at all libraries and at all levels in shared print programs. A key component of trust between libraries in shared print programs is that retention commitments will be respected over time. It is important to stay in touch with point people at member libraries, and know when key positions have new staff. Onboarding new staff may take time, but assures continuity of the program's goals.


Unclear scope policies, and no process for revoking retentions when necessary

When retention decisions are made at scale it is not uncommon for a library to discover titles that they deem are not retention worthy. It is important to have clear scope documents, and a process for libraries to be able to revoke retentions when they are out of scope, and also be able to refer to those policies when requesting libraries hold on to titles they otherwise may have withdrawn.


Engaging with a library before they are ready to make commitments

While it can seem counterintuitive, to ensure content isn’t lost from the collective collection, libraries that haven’t recently reviewed their print collections to identify material that no longer meet local collection priorities may not be a good fit for a shared print program at that time, as it may result in issues down the road with them wanting to remove commitments.


See also the Shared Print Return on Investment section


Expecting perfection from collection analysis tools

Some types of materials, e.g. multi part monographs, are difficult to compare across libraries as cataloging may vary. The same holds true for older materials that may not have had the same level of cataloging care as newer materials. There will always be some anomalies in collection analysis and it is important to not let perfection be the enemy of the good.


Communicating with only one person or area of member libraries

While making commitments often seems like the end of the work, communication regarding shared print commitments needs to go throughout the library. Many units are involved and impacted by shared print commitments and need to be aware of them. Shared Print programs should assist member libraries in this type of awareness raising at the local level, and remain engaged with member libraries through the lifetime of commitments.