CAA News Today

Many journals are sufficiently preserved digitally and housed in print repositories so that some libraries can responsibly withdraw their own print holdings, according to a new report published by Ithaka S+R. Written by Roger Schonfeld and Ross Housewright, “What to Withdraw: Print Collections Management in the Wake of Digitization” takes a system-wide approach to the needs of libraries and their users collectively, rather than focusing on regions, systems, or consortia.

“Libraries are right to push aggressively into the digital future but should do so with an awareness about risk and tradeoffs,” said Housewright, an analyst at Ithaka S+R, the strategy and research arm of the nonprofit organization ITHAKA, which is also the parent company of JSTOR and Portico.

Looking at reasons for retaining and preserving physical copies of scholarly journals, “What to Withdraw” proposes minimum time periods that require libraries to give access to both print and digital versions. It then offers a minimum number of required print copies to retain. Based on this analysis, the report concludes that certain print journal backfile sets are well enough digitized and contain few enough images that it is unlikely there will be future demand for them by users.

Some print materials, the authors warn, may not yet be ready for broad withdrawal without risk. For these materials, several strategies are recommended to give libraries more flexibility. First, organizations responsible for digitization programs should provide more transparency on the quality of their digitization work and participate in ongoing efforts to upgrade the quality of their scans. In addition, libraries should form deeper partnerships with publishers and other digitizers.

“There is an opportunity before us to make a system-wide impact on print collection management,” said Housewright, “but in order to do so libraries and digitizers need to commit to collaboration at a level unseen today.”

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