Photo: Jonathan Blanc / NYPL.
The addition to the Shared Collection—a partnership between Columbia University, The New York Public Library (NYPL), Princeton University Library, and Harvard—essentially doubles the number of volumes available to NYPL researchers.
Nearly four million volumes held by Harvard University have been added into the shared collection of the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP), a partnership between Columbia University, The New York Public Library (NYPL), Princeton University Library, and Harvard. Users of all four libraries can access the shared collection, now numbering nearly 17 million volumes, as though those items were in their own library.
This means that Harvard Library users can now use the institution’s catalog, HOLLIS, to directly request materials in the shared collection at ReCAP contributed by any of the partner libraries, including the NYPL, its Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and its Library for the Performing Arts.
For NYPL, this means researchers now have access to a total of 22 million research volumes: NYPL’s 11 million, plus the materials from Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton available via ReCAP. In other words, the partnership and addition of Harvard’s 3.6 million volumes essentially doubles NYPL’s research holdings, which are available to the public.
ReCAP director Ian Bogus said this collaboration is “an example of the extraordinary things that can be accomplished through a trusting partnership.”
“Scholars are gaining seamless access to millions of additional materials, and it is exciting to see how it improves their research outcomes,” he added.
This innovative discovery-to-delivery program has evolved with longstanding support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, beginning with a strategic planning grant and funding to develop the software that enables seamless discovery and access. Its most recent grant allowed the partners to refactor the software to make it extensible as a potential resource to other institutions.
ReCAP’s shared collection enables each library to provide its users with efficient discovery and the ability to directly request materials from the offsite locations, providing their users with a broader selection of resources than ever before. The shared collection allows users to discover and request items for delivery back to their home institution, or request a digital scan of an article or portion of a book directly from the local catalogs of each library.
The shared collection, which continues to grow, currently includes 5 million volumes from NYPL’s research collections, 4.7 million from Columbia University, 3.5 million from Princeton University, and nearly 3.6 million items from Harvard. Since its launch in 2017, funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the shared collection grew by 1 million volumes as all four libraries continue to add items, and pre-pandemic, the partner institutions filled collectively 250,000 requests annually from ReCAP. Additionally, use of the shared holdings has risen approximately 30 percent, demonstrating the value of access to locally discoverable and distributed collections.
The four partner ReCAP institutions own and operate a state-of-the-art storage facility in Princeton, NJ to hold portions of their collections. Harvard is also making available material that is located at the Harvard Depository.
In August 2021, Harvard Library deployed custom firmware to seamlessly integrate its shared collection records with the partner libraries’ catalogs, and theirs with Harvard’s catalog, HOLLIS. NYPL has already added the volumes to its catalog; Columbia and Princeton will have Harvard’s additional volumes available to their users by the fall of 2021.
In addition to improved access and increased efficiency achieved through the shared collection, the ReCAP consortium is exploring collaborative collection building and joint digital initiatives to improve the user experience. Librarians at Columbia, Harvard, NYPL, and Princeton continue to develop shared preservation approaches and plans for enhanced electronic document delivery.
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