Hanging Together: Cooperation, Collaboration and Collections

By Dave Smallen

Dave Smallen
Dave Smallen

The Burke Library is the first building that prospective students and their families see on the Admission tour. The tour guide proudly indicates that our collection includes a half million books. In a world in which information is readily findable on our mobile devices, and whole works are often available in electronic form, a collection that supports our academic program goes well beyond the books we own.

Our physical collection resides in two buildings. The Burke Library contains: print books (a.k.a. monographs), journals (e.g., Harvard Business Review), DVDs, and materials in Special Collections and Archives.  In McEwen, the Music Library contains CDs, vinyl records, and music scores; and the Jazz Archive contains interviews with famous jazz artists on CDS and DVDs. All together these represent 700,000 items.

In addition to physical materials we have access to over 200,000 ebooks, 200 electronic databases, and thousands of e-journals.  These are available to members of the Hamilton community from anywhere in the world, with most permitting simultaneous access. 

Inter-library loan (ILL) is a service in which colleges and universities agree to cooperate with each other to lend materials for a defined period of time.  Last year Hamilton borrowed 10,000 items from other libraries and lent 8,000 items.  Some of these were actual loans of physical materials and others were copies of journal articles or parts of books.  Through ILL, electronic copies can usually be obtained in 1-2 business days with physical materials taking 3-7 days.  ILL potentially expands our collection to any materials which we can discover through Internet searching.

To speed up the delivery of physical materials, the library joined ConnectNY, a consortium of 18 libraries, expanding our collection by 10 million volumes. ConnectNY recently joined with NExpress, a group of six additional libraries in New England. This cooperative effort extends our shared collection by another five million volumes.  ConnectNY is also leading a collaborative effort to preserve our shared print collections and build joint ebooks resources.

Finally, Hamilton is one of the founding members of an emerging consortium of forty-five libraries in New England called EAST (Eastern Academic Scholars Trust).  EAST will help the libraries address the question of how to collaboratively provide the broadest possible access to collections while avoiding unnecessary duplication of materials and services.

Bennis and Biederman, in Organizing Genius, noted “… most nontrivial problems require collective solutions.” Creating and managing a collection is such a challenge. For our libraries to effectively serve the academic program we would do well to follow the advice of Ben Franklin, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.

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