Harvard Library is joining hands with Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP) — a consortium encompassing Columbia, Princeton, and the New York Public Library and the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation— a consortium among 13 prominent academic libraries that developed out of the BorrowDirect resource-sharing service initiated in 1999, in a bid to build one collection — and share it. Through the collaboration Harvard is aiming to make 90 million books available to its users— almost three times more than the collection of the Library of Congress which is largest library in the world.
“Each of the libraries can lean on the others for their specific strengths,” said Elizabeth Kirk, associate University librarian for scholarly resources at Harvard. “It’s an intentional way to have separate collections talk to one another, and it frees Harvard to acquire those primary-source gems that would be financially unattainable otherwise. Those are the kinds of materials that have always set Harvard apart.”
As the partnership develops, the partners will be able to access items in the shared collection just like their individual collections, allowing access to additional materials with the least amount of effort on the part of the library users. “Libraries work hard to make things easy for the people that use them,” Kirk added. “If it’s hard, people won’t use it.”
The success of BorrowDirect was a proof that collaborative efforts could produce laurels. This service enabled users to request for a book from any of the partner library’s collection, which encompasses around 90 million scholarly items. More than 270,000 items were shared annually across 13 institutions including Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania, with an average wait time of about a day and a half after the users made request for delivery at their respective library.
Harvard Library Former Vice president Thomas said “Libraries are dedicated to free and democratic access to information. It’s a renewable resource: One person can come in and read a book, and it’s still there for another person to read and bring their own knowledge and ideas to it.”