Resource Sharing

Over the years, libraries have sought ways to share resources by avoiding duplicative purchasing, but most of these efforts have failed at the selection stage. Meanwhile, library building programs have slowed down because of competition for space on campuses and in city centers. Large research libraries have opted to identify lesser-used materials so that they can be stored away from prime-use collections in central library facilities.

A significant recent trend is cooperative storage, whereby a group of libraries finances the construction of a high-density facility with advanced climate-control systems. Materials stored in such a facility are considered important for research but are not used often enough to justify space in the prime-use area. Cooperative storage suggests some sharing of titles as there seems little point in storing multiple copies of commonly owned works. Dedicated remote-storage facilities have the potential for superior storage conditions because, in the absence of user interaction, the environment is much easier to control. If this trend continues, the next logical step is for libraries to develop cold-storage facilities and joint reformatting and conservation operations. Librarians, eager to cooperate in this fashion, have often been unable to because of political considerations.

Sharing preservation resources

Cooperative preservation efforts among libraries have been growing over the last few years, especially in the United States and the European community. In the United States, the Commission on Preservation and Access (now the Council on Library and Information Services) pioneered efforts to centralize bibliographic records and share them across international boundaries. The European Commission on Preservation and Access began a similar movement towards sharing bibliographic information. Interactive bibliographic utilities such as OCLC (Online Computer Library Center, Inc.) and RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network) have promoted shared cataloguing, which in turn has led to cooperative microfilming projects and communication about other preservation activities. Both OCLC and RLIN are international in scope. OCLC is gradually adding bibliographic records from libraries in Southeast Asia to its growing database.

In February 2000 with support from the Japan Foundation and the Ford Foundation, representatives from 16 countries, primarily from Southeast Asia, met at Chiang Mai University Library in Thailand. They established the Southeast Asian Consortium for Access and Preservation or SEACAP. Its main goals are to encourage, develop, and support collaboration among libraries, archives and other institutions in the region. SEACAP hopes that member countries will establish at least one center of excellence or model program in preservation that would then educate and train staff.

The cooperative

A center would be staffed by a skilled working group that would assist in the establishment of local facilities by site visits. More important, the group would act as continuing mentors, advising and encouraging former interns as well as supplying technical backup and specialized, capital-intensive services. The interaction of center staff and interns from the nations of the region would inevitably create formal and informal cooperative links, resulting in a solid body of knowledge and generating professional activity.

One of the center's services could be to act as a central storage facility for microfilm and other non-book media. The facility would have environmental control mechanisms including fail-safe systems that would automatically switch to generators if central electrical power failed. Ideally, there would be one central storage facility for film, but if political complications were to arise that prevented the movement of film across national boundaries, then facilities would have to be located within each of the cooperating nations or institutions. Ideally, also, storage facilities would provide more than one temperature zone, ranging from below freezing to 15° centigrade, with 30 percent relative humidity. The freezer portion of the center's facility would be used to kill insects and to freeze wet paper in case of disaster.