Shared print landscape

Shared print as a tapestry

Shared print programs are a tapestry of different consortial affiliations with libraries continuing to make retained materials accessible to libraries outside of their shared print program. Some libraries also choose to participate in multiple shared print programs. For example, Colby College as a Maine library participates in the state MSCC program, but also being located in the Northeast participates in EAST, and as a member of HathiTrust also participates in that shared print program.


The HathiTrust Shared Print Program includes member libraries from many different regional shared print programs, but particularly EAST. During Phase 1 of the HathiTrust Shared Print Program EAST members extended their existing eligible EAST commitments to HathiTrust, which significantly reduced the administrative burden on the local libraries. However, in many cases libraries are retaining different material for each program based on the specific retention scope, criteria, and periods.


Make-up of shared print programs


The membership make-up of shared print programs generally reflects the characteristics of the groups that found them, be it geographical for state programs like MSCC or well-funded research institutions that are members of the HathiTrust.


Most shared print programs only include academic institutions, a mixture of small private colleges and middle size universities. HathiTrust and EAST are probably the most diverse in terms of sizes, from small colleges to very large universities. Additionally EAST also includes among its members a state library and a large non-academic library; while HathiTrust is unique in that it has members in the US, Canada, and Australia.


While the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries includes among its members Denver Public Library and ReCap includes New York Public Library, the Maine Shared Collections Cooperative is the only program that includes multi-type libraries and small to medium size public libraries: the state university system, private colleges, public libraries, and the state library. This was possible because of Maine’s long history of trust between libraries and an established state-wide union catalog and delivery system that facilitates both the discovery of MSCC commitments and allows libraries to rely upon one another for access. Including public libraries in a shared print program brings with it challenges in terms of differing perspectives on the role of public libraries as the long-term stewards of print collections and the very different usage patterns seen at public libraries. But there are also opportunities to protect unique content, not held by academic libraries, which could be at risk from being lost from the collective collection.


There is a concentration of shared print programs on the east and west coasts and in the midwest, but there are large areas of the U.S. where academic libraries are not participating in print programs either at the state level or in programs that cross multiple regions like HathiTrust. This is particularly the case with minority serving institutions and such gaps present a risk of loss of representative collectives and voices in shared print efforts.

Membership size and growth

The membership size of share print programs varies dramatically, from three in the Toronto area Tri-University Group (TUG) to over 80 in EAST. The size of membership is dependent on a number of factors, including the program’s membership criteria and programmatic goals. While larger member numbers will expand the safety net of titles being committed, larger groups require more administrative overhead that not all programs may be able to manage. Programs that are considering growing should also be wary of undermining the trust that underpinned the founding of their programs.


Last updated December 2021