Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version



Collaborative Librarianship 10(2): 100-122 (2018)




Management of library collections is an inherently collaborative process. Spanning multiple generations, materials are selected that support user communities, as librarians strive to achieve optimization of storage and access at the lowest cost.i While established partnerships are crucial for the survival of libraries, within any cooperative network, there exist opportunities for divergent practices. Alternative initiatives may have progressive intentions, but competing systems and groups have the potential to disrupt recognized standards and infrastructure, some of which can prove detrimental to information organizations.

Abrupt format changes and technological advancements have altered the ways in which materials are currently acquired, accessed, and preserved. Despite advantageous possibilities arising from the evolution of material formats, convoluted access processes have imposed problematic barriers within academic libraries, particularly for humanities disciplines.

The accelerated change of formats has placed materials within a liminal construct: the composite of past, present, and emerging technologies and formats, simultaneously interacting in information organizations. The heterogeneous mixture of content necessitates concurrent navigation of physical and digital environments to conduct research. As a measure of counteracting these obstacles, collaborative initiatives have produced the network connection,ii pooling physical and technological resources to theoretically stabilize and consolidate collections.iii In many instances, however, the network connection fails to meet user expectations and needs of humanities scholars.

A sustainable, collaborative network is critical for continued access of humanities resources. At present, instability increases as provisional products, standards, and proprietary models arise; operating in isolated or capriciously compatible systems, such conventions contradict the supported outcomes of information organizations: to increase access, simplify usability, and sustainably preserve content. Negligent, divergent collaborative models inevitably destabilize the network connection by increasing systemic entropy. Sustainable practices must be facilitated in a concerted effort by authoritative information organizations, effectively aiding the reduction of information entropy. Otherwise, the risk of losing cultural memory in the humanities becomes an alarming possibility.