Starting or Joining a Shared Print Program

Five Recommendations when starting a Shared Print Program

  • Determine what type of governance and staffing model works best for your program. There are many models from which to choose. See "Joining an existing shared print program" below.

  • Create a clearly worded MOU that includes program description, vision, goals, scope, pricing, and responsibilities (including method of entry and withdrawal) of member libraries.

  • Work flexibility into your program in the form of membership types, membership criteria, and rules for retention commitments. But be aware that too much flexibility is usually accompanied by complexity.

  • Engage in shared print education and promote awareness by creating downloadable written documents that are informative (and show your progress) and serve as marketing, as well as multi-media files.

  • Assess your program annually by getting member feedback via meetings, surveys, and focus groups, and report this assessment via annual reports and strategic plans.

Joining an existing shared print program

The following are examples of questions for libraries or programs to ask when considering joining a shared print program.

  • Cost benefit - Does the program make it easier for member libraries to achieve things that they would not be able to do individually, or can the program make it possible for libraries to do things more quickly or in a more cost effective manner?

  • DEI - Does this partnership align with our diversity, equity and inclusion values?

  • Staffing considerations - What level of staff involvement will this require? What staffing changes might we need in order to meet those needs?

  • Risk - What risks does a library face by joining this program? Does it outweigh the risk of not participating? What should a program consider to best protect its members from risk?

  • Organizational culture/orientation - Does the program’s mission align with your library’s? How does the program approach problems, services, opportunities from a similar perspective? (Example: Do they emphasize cost-containment over pursuit of opportunity, e.g., conservative or risk-taker. How do I approach those?)

  • Governance - Are the program’s decision making processes clear and sound? Will you be heard?

  • Consider the Program Governance and Staffing model.

  • Track record - Is the program reliable? Does it have a record of delivering on promises?

  • Impact - Can this program offer benefits beyond their members, to the wider library community?

  • Sustainability - Is the business model of the program consistent with long-term sustainability?

  • Communication - Is information about the program easily accessible? Are program resources regularly allocated to ongoing communication with members?

In addition to single libraries joining a shared print program, a recent trend in shared print has been for smaller regional programs such as the University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions (USMAI) Library Consortium to become members of larger programs like EAST that have dedicated program staffing, established workflows, and more distributed and coordinated governance. In addition to sharing their retention commitments with the larger EAST membership, the USMAI libraries had borrowing access to millions of additional items not currently held by any of their libraries.

For more information see: