The future of the printed book in libraries will be the subject of a new grant awarded to Arizona State University (ASU) Libraries. A $50,000 planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will support a one-year planning process, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), that will explore and define the future of print in academic libraries.
As research libraries across the country move increasingly toward digital collections and services, many libraries aim to significantly reduce their print collections. ASU and MIT Libraries believe that print has an important place in the library spaces of the present and future and so propose to collaborate on a planning and research effort that takes a fresh look at the design of open-stack academic print collections.
“In the age of digital information, the print book has a long and glorious future ahead of it,” said ASU University Librarian Jim O’Donnell, the principal investigator. “With this generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, we hope to find new ways of curating print collections that reflect the cultural and social diversity of our communities; honor the print tradition; and inspire, engage, and enrich the knowledge of our universities.”
Titled “The Future of the Academic Library Print Collection,” the grant will enable research, data collection, a two-day workshop, and the production of a whitepaper on the sustainable and meaningful future of local print curation in academic libraries. O’Donnell aims to lay out new strategies that may serve as a model for other academic libraries facing the same challenges.
“We anticipate that the acquisition and management of physically present and open-stack collections will become increasingly ‘special,’ with implications for the organizational design of libraries and the confluence of general and special collections,” said Lorrie McAllister, Senior Administrative Librarian for ASU Libraries.
O’Donnell added: “What we have, cherish, display and promote will increasingly be the collections that, in one way or another, are distinctive to our institutions, if only distinctive for the fact of our choosing to privilege those books by physical presence in our campus buildings.”
Greg Eow, Associate Director for Collections at the MIT Libraries, said, “Print collections have enduring, and perhaps even new, affordances in the digital age – but identifying what exactly the benefits of print are and incorporating them into library spaces and operations demands attention and careful thought. We are delighted to have a chance to explore these important questions with our colleagues at ASU.”
Together, ASU Libraries and MIT Libraries encompass approximately 7.5 million volumes and have found they share similar interests and concerns in the future of print. Using the two university libraries as real-world case studies will aid the project team in exploring larger questions around the enduring value of print; creating inclusive, engaging, and useful print collections; and developing a new book-collecting philosophy for the 21st century.