Related product Collections Management

Communicating the Value of Preservation - What is the CARLI Last Copy Program?

Susan Howell, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Libraries are increasingly constrained for space as book stacks reach capacity. Even libraries who have been fortunate enough to build off-site storage facilities are rapidly filling them faster than anticipated. Inevitably, they must face the need to evaluate collections and weed in order to free up space. This need is balanced against what we must retain for the support of the teaching and research missions of our institutions. With the pressure to retain resources combined with the burden of space, libraries must decide what to retain and what to de-accession.

One of the factors making a resource valuable is rarity. One of the measures of rarity is checking availability in OCLC WorldCat. Generally, as a rule of thumb, if there are five or more copies available for circulation in Illinois, it is considered readily available. If less than five copies are available, it is somewhat rare. If a resource is the last copy held by an Illinois library, it can be considered rare.

It is important to preserve these last copies because of their value to current or future users for teaching and research purposes. While the content is of primary importance, preserving a book in its original state as much as possible provides the context for the book. It was bound and published in a certain time period. It has historical significance in its own right. It is an example of how books were bound in that time period. It may also have cover art and illustrations. The cover design may also be of interest to researchers. It is for these reasons research libraries have a responsibility to preserve last copies of library resources.

Print copies are additionally valuable to retain because they have proven the test of time. We have print books that have survived centuries. Digitizing books does make them more accessible in today’s media environment, but we do not know what the future holds. To view these digitized copies, we need computers to view them. A book can be viewed without the aid of a device. “Print is a time-tested format that continues to fulfill promises that technology cannot yet deliver.” (Wu, 2005)

Thus, we are left with the problem of keeping these resources or freeing up space. Fortunately, being a CARLI member offers one solution to this dilemma. The CARLI Last Copy Program gives members the option to donate last copy resources to other lending institutions in the state. This keeps the resource available to consortium users. It also creates efficiency as all members do not have to maintain a copy of the same resource.

There are limitations as to what materials are eligible. This ensures quality of the copy retained. The copy must be “bibliographically complete, with no missing volumes.” It must be cataloged to ensure accessibility to other members in the consortium. It must also be “completely free of mold, mildew and insects.” That protects both the item and the integrity of the collection to which it is going to become a part. More information as to what is accepted and where to send the resources can be found on the CARLI web page for the Last Copy Program.


Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI) Last Copy Program

Wu, Michelle. Why Print and Electronic Resources are Essential to the Academic Library. Georgetown University Law Center.

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