February 11, 2013

Cornell Library Partnership Promises ‘Greater Efficiency’

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The 2CUL partnership — which was formed between Cornell and Columbia University Libraries to merge their resources — will advance their partnership by integrating their library technical services, according to library officials.

The partnership represents an attempt to divert resources and expertise to support new areas, such as obtaining more digital collections and web archiving, according to Robert Wolven ’71, co-director of 2CUL at Columbia University.

One of the efforts to merge the two libraries’ technical services involves developing an improved system to search for and access information, according to Dean Krafft, Cornell Library’s director of information technology.

“We are using an open-source software system called Blacklight as part of our solution,” he said. “Columbia has already created a Blacklight-based catalog and we are sharing code and advice with them as we move forward on our own development.”

The library’s IT department is also in the process of capturing and archiving Cornell websites relevant to the needs of the Cornell community, Krafft said.

“2CUL has led the Cornell and Columbia Library IT groups to work more closely together in a number of areas, and to seek out new ways that we can be more efficient and effective by pooling our efforts to create common solutions to challenges that both libraries are facing in a rapidly evolving information and technology environment,” Krafft said.

According to Wolven, the technical services of the library include “units that organize, receive and catalog books and their materials for the collections.” The advancement in the two universities’ partnership will attempt to coordinate the work involved in these operations, allowing for greater efficiency and a larger pool of expertise.

About 20 percent of the total library staff at each university is involved in technical services, according to Jim LeBlanc, co-manager of Technical Services Integration.

“This work is vital, but also labor-intensive, repetitive and requires a wide range of language expertise,” he said.

The library technical services staff at Cornell speaks over 50 different languages, including older tongues such as Khmer, Tibetan and Flemish. With the integration of the two libraries’ technical services, this expertise will grow and many of the staff currently devoted to technical services will be able to turn to other tasks, according to LeBlanc.

The 2CUL partnership began in 2009, following a three-year, $350,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish the program. Since then, Cornell and Columbia libraries have pooled their resources to expand collections in Latin American, Slavic and East European and South Asian studies, building “complementary rather than redundant collections,” according to Wolven. Instead of each university obtaining a copy of a particular text, they both share a single version, resulting in the ability to attain a more diverse collection than if there were no sharing involved.

According to Xin Li, co-director of 2CUL at Cornell, students and faculty now enjoy the privilege of expedited delivery and on-site borrowing privileges to Columbia’s collections, and Columbia students and faculty to Cornell.

The two universities are also beginning to co-license electronic books, which will lead to savings that will allow them to expand their collections further. Additionally, they have developed programs to address the needs of humanities Ph.D. students, who have high dropout rates, according to Li.

According to Li, the advancement in the 2CUL partnership is not solely focused on expansion but also on preserving existing collections.

“We also have been working on making sure that our digital collections are preserved and protected for the future,” Li said.

Original Author: Nikki Lee