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September 11, 2000

Mellon grant supports UC experiments in managing digital and print libraries

By Gary Lawrence
UC Office of the President

As access to information in digital form has become widely accepted among scholars, the next challenge for research libraries will be managing and preserving information resources in both print and electronic collections. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and University of California are collaborating to explore new approaches to best manage these dual collections.

To this end, the UC system has received an $80,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will be the first step in an extensive study of the issues involved in managing research library collections of print and digital materials. The planning grant will support design of research goals and methodology of the study, scheduled to begin in January.

Through a variety of channels, including UC's Systemwide Library and Scholarly Information Advisory Committee, university faculty, administrators, and librarians are helping to frame the questions that the study will address. Participants are eager to discover ways that UC can leverage its considerable investment in digital library collections by providing its libraries greater flexibility in managing their print collections.
The study will test the hypothesis that shared digital resources can begin to relieve the pressure on physical facilities and capital budgets to house and manage print materials. 

The proposed experiment is critically important to UC, and the lessons learned are likely to be of considerable interest to academic and research library communities nationally. 

"The University of California is a national leader in creating digital libraries and exploring new forms of scholarly communication," said UC President Richard C. Atkinson. "We are delighted to have the Mellon Foundation as a partner in this exciting initiative, which will help us answer some important questions about making the best use of both our digital and our print collections."

In awarding the grant to UC, Mellon Foundation President William G. Bowen, wrote to Atkinson that, while the grant "is modest in size, it is in support of a very important initiative."

Like other research universities, the University of California has a strong interest in managing its existing library facilities to accommodate continually growing collections. 

Additionally, due to the pressures within California of significant enrollment growth and the need to address urgent seismic safety deficiencies and replace deteriorating campus infrastructure, UC is faced with competing demands for capital funding. One way to meet these demands is to use digital technologies to assist in managing library collections. However, some aspects of the technologies and the methods and costs of ensuring durable digital archives are not well-studied or entirely resolved.

The study planning will include details of an experiment involving the withdrawal from the UC campuses of a group of journal titles that are represented in their library collections in both print and digital formats. During the course of the experiment, faculty and students will rely on the digital versions of these titles to meet their information needs. Persistent access to these materials will be ensured by depositing a print version in the UC's regional library facilities. 

The University of California is well-positioned to undertake this experiment since it has a history of successful collaboration among the UC campus libraries that includes the development of a shared union catalog, a shared collection development and acquisitions program, two regional library facilities, and an intercampus resource sharing program.

Since the mid-1970s, UC has been guided by the principle that the library collections of all the campuses should be considered as a single university collection rather than as separate collections.

"Access to digital materials, which the UC community focuses on through the California Digital Library, is constantly improving in quantity and quality," said Richard E. Lucier, UC's executive director for systemwide planning for libraries and scholarly information.

"The timing is good and the rationale strong for examining the advantages that digital resources will provide in managing print collections, including those of handling fewer copies of print materials when digital counterparts are available."

Additional information about the University of California's systemwide library planning may be found at www.slp.ucop.edu/.

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