Networked Libraries

via wetheim on flickr:

The New School is part of a consortium of libraries that includes NYU, Cooper Union, the New York Historical Society, and a few other institutions. The contract forming this consortium is occasionally renegotiated — and when that happens I often wonder how people are talking about divisions of labor. How do they divvy up the responsibilities to build particular collections, to provide services to one another’s faculty and students, and to provide all those essential back-of-house services?

Given the number of great libraries in New York — and the fact that all of them, public and academic alike, are facing serious budgetary issues and demands to continually prove their relevance to the powers that be (whether the taxpaying public, city officials, university administration, etc.) — I’ve occasionally wondered when something like this would come along:

“The New York Public Library and the libraries of Columbia University and New York University—three renowned research institutions all on the island of Manhattan—have launched an initiative to expand collections and better serve their users.

The collaboration, dubbed the Manhattan Research Library Initiative, or MaRLI, will help the institutions increase access to research collections, increase use of specialized collections, and stretch collection dollars for covering research resources.

The institutions will coordinate their research collecting, eliminating overlap of specialized materials and identifying opportunities for shared collecting.  They will be able to do so by making their collections mutually available to researchers.”

via NYPL Press Release, 3/17/2011

As long as, collectively, they continue to offer multiple access points — with diverse services that meet the needs of their different user populations, I think this makes total sense. Together, the three major-partner institutions, and their secondary partners (of which The New School is one), can offer an amazingly extensive collection, with little wasted on unnecessary duplication. They can save their time, money, and effort for providing excellent service, and for doing all the other super-important things that libraries do that go beyond building a collection and providing access to it.

And checking books out of the 42nd Street Library? (I’m sorry, I just can’t bring myself to call it the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building — although I certainly do thank Mr. Schwarzman for his generosity!) Dude, that’s huge!

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