Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology are collaborating on a large-scale project to create a shared library collection.
The collection will “bring the universe of information to people engaged in research and learning,” Georgia Tech Dean of Libraries Catherine L. Murray-Rust wrote in an email to the Wheel. “No one university or library can provide all the materials people need or all of the services from which they would benefit. By pooling our efforts we can support academic work with more breadth and depth.”
Emory University Librarian Yolanda Cooper agrees, writing in an email to the Wheel that she hopes this initiative will allow both institutions to “expand our services, enhance our spaces, and further explore this and other collaborations to evolve and respond to the ever increasing changes in research, teaching and learning in higher education.”
Murray-Rust began this initiative in Aug. 2008, when she became Dean of Libraries at Georgia Tech. She began to discuss plans with Rick Luce, the director of Emory Libraries at the time, focusing on how to bring libraries closer together given the 2008 financial crisis while still emphasizing the need to provide stronger collections and streamline operations.
In 2012, Georgia Tech Library administrators created a proposal titled Library 2020 in which they called for moving a significant amount of the library collections offsite to allow for the renovation of their deteriorating buildings. Murray-Rust suggested to Luce that Emory and Georgia Tech build a specialized high-density storage facility together. She thought this was the best option for both institutions, because it could help “save central campus space for library users, store collections in an optimum preservation environment and most important, begin to build a shared collection, retrospectively and prospectively.”
Murray-Rust soon discovered that Emory and Georgia Tech had previously founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called EmTech, and she decided to re-purpose its building to suit the purposes of a shared library. The facility, now dubbed the Library Service Center, is located on Emory’s Briarcliff property. A 55,000 square foot, climate-controlled facility, it is designed to preserve books under optimal conditions, using facilities similar to those at Harvard University, such as an air filtration system that kills microbes instantly.
“The [setting] should keep books in perfect condition for 250 years,” Jason Wright, Communications Manager for the project, said in a Jan. 13 Inside Higher Ed article.
Murray-Rust believes that the high quality of the new facility is crucial to the success of this project because, “We care about the preservation of scholarly information and we are doing our best to take care of it for future generations of users.”
Emory University Librarian Yolanda Cooper echoes Murray-Rust’s enthusiasm for the caliber of the Library Service Center, writing in an email to the Wheel that the Library Service Center provides Emory the best possible conditions for the long-term preservation of library materials.
“[The Library Service Center] provides cost effective optimal physical conditions in close proximity for easy access and the best possible service,” she wrote. “With only a 17% overlap in our collections, this means our collections complement each other, which allows us to develop a shared collection that would benefit both institutions.”
Since officially launching the project two years ago, both Emory and Georgia Tech have been working to prepare the physical collections by correcting records, picking the best copy if there are duplicates and creating policies and procedures. By March 2016, 95 percent of the Georgia Tech collection will be moved offsite. Later in 2016, Emory will have moved part of its collection into the LSC and the protocol of sharing the paper collections will be complete. According to Cooper, once this process is complete, there will be over two million volumes in the Library Service enter.
In Murray-Rust’s opinion, the beauty of the Tech and Emory collaboration is that the two institutions do not generally compete with each other for students, faculty or money. “Our goal is to make our funding and our expertise stretch to more people, more programs and more initiative so that we add more value to the academic experience,” Murray-Rust said. “We can do that better together than alone.”
Cooper agreed, adding that, “We will all benefit from the collaboration between the instituions because it will allow us to leverage our resources and expand our capacity.”
Cooper and Murray-Rust both hope that this project will be the start of many more collaborations between the two institutions to come.
“We in the libraries see ourselves as pioneers in a new era of Emory and Tech collaboration,” Murray-Rust said. “We hope that other departments and units will take advantage of the framework that has been established to work together closely for mutual benefit.”
This article was updated on Monday, Jan. 25.