In The Author’s Hand and the Printer’s Mind Roger Chartier provides a whole section, in Part II, on “What is a Book?”. This multi-facet discussion is not to be confused with the essay “What is a Book?” By Chartier and Stallybrass in the Cambridge Companion to Textual Scholarship. If there is any overlap it would be the use of Shakespeare and Cervantes to reference the ambivalences presented overall.
The ambivalences arise among expositions of contrasting views that books exist in both in material forms and in reading practices of literary content. This ambivalence brews a “tension” that is also in accord with David Kastan who sees the ambiguity in a “pragmatic” and “platonic” state of the book.
Would it take any away from the elegant and logical precepts of these masters of bibliographic scholarship to suggest there is a third response to the question of what is a book? This third thing would be the tension existing between binaries and the ambivalence itself. Here we would encounter the resilience of book transmission. A fabulous resilience is the there, there as Andrew Piper suggests.
report pt 2
There is an expectation that technologies of data mining and systems analysis can manage cross-library metrics and cross-institution communication, agreement and management. SPMR projects are also buffered by shared print journals experience and an underlying assumption that the bridge to screen delivered library services and screen reading has been decisively crossed.
Even with the momentum toward SPMR, some surprises, unintended consequence and additional realizations popped-up. First is reconsidering the journal format transition to screen delivery as a model for screen delivery of monographs. Journals are delivered by article and feature high, short-term circulation. Monographs accumulate long term circulation and have different publisher and delivery constraints.
It also turns out that data scales more easily than communication and decision-making. As a result, a use-driven agenda based on the notorious low use of print cannot, by itself, drive action or compel massive disposal. A more optimal political framing suggests that a retention policy rather than a disposal policy should be the SPMR priority driver. Behind any “last copy” collection assembly is a more fundamental objective to let no print title disappear forever.
Another realization is that consortium member independence is as much accentuated as membership constraint regardless of any over-ride of MOUs. Intensified data collecting, extractions and interpretations may prove interesting but they are not necessarily actionable results. Moreover such data is retrospective and use, thus far, can only be based on print circulation. Haunting the whole SPMR movement is prospective implication of print title equivalent screen circulations and their use objectives and affordances. In this context faculty and student agendas factor-in and these have not yet intruded fully into SPMR planning. A fulfilled functionality of print and screen affordances – working in tandem – have not yet emerged. Faculty influence may again focus attention on retention selection rather than disposal selection.
Finally, an unintended consequence may also be dawning. This is that residual shared monographic collections, once administered as consumable “general” collections, will now be transformed into “special collections”. An associated metric is that rare or lesser held titles grow as a proportion with increasing membership of the cooperating institutions. Redundant “core” collections provide only 3% across the entire CIC, so scale adds to rareness. In this context “secondary works” will become “primary sources” for authentication and augmentation of their own screen titles. Scan on-demand services also factor. The full functionality of the SPMR collections is not yet fully emerged or accommodated.
report pt 3
Collections In Motion
The current continual movement of physical collections can feel like an analogue simulation of digital mobility. Relocation movements churn within the library building, between buildings, within a region and across interlibrary curcuits. If drone delivery is not yet projected, a whole spectrum of distribution channels are in motion. Such animation may not be well accounted within shared print agendas. Local renovation driven relocation can result in interspersed repository shelf vacancy and filling. Simple movement up and down elevators presents lost opportunity costs.
It is apparent that more massive cooperative holdings need reduction. With 112 million in the combined CIC collections only authentic “last copies” can be processed into any massively shared repository. Harvard is out of room with 11 million in storage.
Collections In Demand
Roger Schonfeld extended a quote from Clifford Lynch. Paraphrasing Clifford, he remarked that our current library service challenge is not access across paper and screen but between passive and on-demand services. Amazon and NetFlicks circulation networks also model library services and influence of changing reading behaviors is at work. Student and faculty preference determines everything from new title selection to coffee shop amenities. Delivery options include scan-on-demand from print repository locations and even one-way interlibrary loaning. End user reading devices are multiplying. Print source to screen delivery to print copy options are user driven as well. The high redundancy of “core” collections may prove un-de-duplication prone as materials may prove necessary to meet their higher use; redundancy of comparative local print holdings provides analogue connectivity assuring convenient accessibility.
Service from more tranquil repository setting is also heating up. Relative access for digitized versus un-digitized – washed and unwashed – materials is becoming distinguished. It may become apparent that frustrated demand may derive from unneeded constraints of delivery that are layered with handoffs.