Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Document Type



Dempsey, Lorcan, Constance Malpas, and Mark Sandler. 2019. Operationalizing the BIG Collective Collection: A Case Study of Consolidation vs Autonomy. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research.


© 2019 OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


This is a discussion paper prepared in collaboration with the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) Library Initiatives. It presents a framework for operationalizing the BTAA collective collection. A collective collection is a collection managed collaboratively across a network of libraries. We have a very specific focus in this paper on the ”purchased” or print collection, acknowledging that other areas of library collections are sometimes managed collectively, digitized collections for example. The BTAA justifiably claims to be the premier academic collaboration in the US. Once described as “the world's greatest common market in education3,” it leverages the combined research and teaching capacity of major research universities to scale innovation, impact, and economies across its 14 members. Together, the BTAA members have a profound social and economic impact throughout a large part of the US. Libraries are a central part of the BTAA research, learning, and teaching endeavor. They collectively mobilize major expertise and resources. In fact, the BTAA collection represents more than a fifth of all titles in the North American print book collection. The BTAA libraries align with BTAA goals by collaborating at scale to increase both impact and efficiency.

The character of library spaces, services, and collections is evolving with changing learning and research behaviors. It is widely recognized that continued autonomous development of large standalone collections does not meet needs and is not efficient. A library cannot collect all that its members would like to see, and much of what it does collect does not get used. At the same time, library space is being configured around engagement rather than around collections, the long-term stewardship costs of print materials are being recognized, and the role of books in research and learning is changing. Libraries are re-evaluating traditional approaches to building, managing, and sharing collections, and are increasingly looking to do this cooperatively. In this paper, we define and explore key attributes of collective collections and present a series of recommendations designed to advance the BTAA libraries toward a more purposeful coordination of their collections. Doing all that we propose would involve an extensive multi-year program. The approach we recommend here is broadly applicable in other consortium settings as well, which is why we characterize the paper as a case study.