CBB Mellon Collaborative Collection Development Implementation Grant

Colby, Bates and Bowdoin (CBB) Libraries Collaborative Collection Development Project
Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 2006-2009
January 12, 2010 Grant Summary

From 2006 to 2010, the Colby, Bates and Bowdoin Libraries (CBB), through a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, undertook the development of a joint collection development plan. The project goals were to:

  1. Expand the collection of materials available to the CBB academic communities;
  2. Build a faculty culture at each of the three colleges that embraces a shared collection model based on a greatly expanded and diverse collection of print and digital materials relevant to the curriculum and faculty interests; and
  3. Facilitate the sharing of budgetary and space resources, so that all three libraries operate more cost-effectively.

Project Overview

1. Shared Approval Plan

The CBB shared approval plan is the centerpiece of the collaborative work accomplished during the grant period. The libraries originally planned to assess collections and curriculum across the three libraries in four pilot areas (Asian Studies, Economics, Environmental Studies and Medieval Studies), to develop a collaborative approval plan in those areas and to expand this model to all subject areas. Using several collection analysis tools, including Spectra CRC and OCLC WorldCat Collection Analysis, the librarians analyzed collection size, overlap and uniqueness in these areas, hoping to find a workable approach to distributing the purchase of monographs among the libraries. CBB subject liaisons in the four areas reviewed this data and discussed their curricula and collection building with their faculties. During the course of this assessment, librarians discovered that the similarities in the curricula, and therefore CBB’s desired areas of collection building, far outweighed the differences. While each college curriculum reflected unique strengths, the librarians perceived similar core curricula for which collections must be built. CBB librarians were aware that a model based on allocating specific purchasing areas within a discipline to specific libraries in a consortium had proved to be a stumbling block for others trying to accomplish similar goals.

With this knowledge in hand, the CBB libraries decided to adopt a very different model for building a shared approval plan, a model that was more radical, but that offered a greater opportunity for success. Instead of developing a shared approval plan, one subject area at a time, CBB decided to merge their existing three individual approval plans, expanding plan coverage where appropriate. After discarding the idea of adopting a publisher-based distribution plan, the libraries implemented a plan based on rotating weekly book shipment deliveries among the libraries. This random distribution of both publishers and subjects ensures that each library will own monographs in all areas and from all publishers. CBB’s central monograph vendor Yankee Book Peddler (YBP) was willing to make modifications to their technical processes to meet CBB demands.  The shared approval plan went live in May 2008, allowing the consortium to experience a full year of implementation and gather needed statistics during the grant extension period.

Developing strong subject liaison ties and a culture of collaboration among subject liaisons was seen as key to the long-term success of the CBB collaborative collection development plan. In October 2008, CBB held a liaison summit at which subject liaisons met with their counterparts to investigate additional ways to collaborate to build a shared collection. Throughout the final year of the grant, subject specialists refined the combined approval plan, looking for additions or deletions in either publisher or subject coverage, reviewed and standing order to identify possible CBB duplicate cancellations. Latin American Studies liaisons recently met with another book supplier to discuss the development of a small shared approval plan. Liaison relationships will continue to be nurtured in the future.

2. CBBcat

The development of a shared CBB library catalog has been an important, yet unexpected outcome of CBB collaboration on this Mellon grant. As CBB librarians worked to create one shared collection, they felt even more acutely the lack of a shared library catalog through which faculty and students at each college would simultaneously view the combined holdings of the three libraries.  In summer 2008, CBB librarians began to implement a new front end to our library catalogs that enhanced searching options using Library 2.0 technology and also combined our holdings into a single shared catalog. CBBcat, based on Aquabrowser software, will be launched in January 2010.

3. Other CBB Collaborative Collection Initiatives

The CBB E-Resources group held several conversations on the role of e-books in library collections and investigated collaborative approaches to leasing or purchasing this content. CBB librarians collaboratively purchased several e-book collections from publishers who agreed to treat CBB as one entity. The libraries also entered into a contractual agreement with one e-book content provider that ensures that when one library purchases an e-book from this collection, all three libraries own the book. CBB libraries hope to replicate this collaborative purchase model with other e-content publishers. Librarians are beginning to evaluate e-book usage statistics and to discuss when e-books provide sufficient or improved access and can replace print purchases. Other related conversations concern patron generated purchase of e-books (PDA), a system in which CBB libraries would lease e-book content that would convert to a purchase after a predetermined number of uses.

The CBB E-Resources group experimented with several models for working collaboratively to expand access to journal content, while holding down subscription costs. These included contracting with several publishers to provide consortia access to journal titles subscribed to by the individual libraries and negotiating consortia prices. Most recently, CBB librarians have analyzed the option of moving to pay-for-view article access for some e-journal content, rather than subscribing to content and owning back files, and are meeting with three publishers in the next two months to discuss this option.

4. Ensuring Successful Future Collaboration

To facilitate communication, CBB librarians developed a new staff communication tool and interactive web site using Drupal software. The tools will provide a repository for shared documentation and policy documents, including the CBB Collection Management document, and will allow liaisons and other affinity groups across the libraries to have threaded discussions, share documents, etc. The web site, along with a revised public page, will be launched soon.

A newly developed governance structure was among the unexpected outcomes of this project. To ensure the successful continuation of work accomplished in the past three years as well as to foster future collaboration, the CBB libraries are enacting a more formal structure which includes a governing board, standing committees and affinity or working groups. The new Collection Development standing committee will continue to oversee the efforts initiated through this grant and will be responsible for developing a CBB Collection Management document including new policies for weeding and replacement of missing monographs in light of our shared purchasing. Like other ongoing collaborative work that has been the result of this project, the cost of this effort, however negligible in direct costs, has been borne by the libraries.

Liaisons and library administrators will continue to work closely with faculty to gain their continued support for a shared collection model. Economic realities have increased the imperative to expand CBB collaborative initiatives.


The CBB Mellon grant has enabled the three libraries to build a cycle of innovation and assessment that has become the cornerstone of current and future collection development and management efforts. In 2006, at the outset of the grant period and then again in May 2008, at the time of the implementation of the shared approval plan, the libraries captured benchmark data on collection overlap, title duplication, resource sharing, etc. A six-month extension granted by the Mellon Foundation gave the consortium sufficient time to accumulate one year of data for comparison with benchmarks taken before the shared approval plan implementation. While staff believes that statistics derived for this limited time period are meaningful and represent future trends, they look forward to tracking the outcomes of their work over a longer period of time.

The CBB consortium believes that collaborative efforts, especially the development of the shared approval plan, have allowed the libraries to contain monograph costs while making more materials available. Overall, monographic expenditures by the three libraries increased in FY09. However, the total expenditures for approval plan monographs for the three libraries decreased between FY08 and FY09, while the number of unique titles increased. In June 2009, after one year of experience with the plan, the duplication rate had fallen from 29% in FY07 to 17% of CBB titles purchased. This reflects a 37.5% decrease in duplicated titles and a 29% decrease in expenditures for duplicated materials. The original plan by the libraries does acknowledge that intentional duplication is at times appropriate. Funds historically used to unintentionally purchase titles duplicated across the three libraries are now available for expanding the collections to cover new curricular needs.

Increased borrowing and lending of library materials across the three libraries demonstrates that students and faculty are not limiting their use of resources to those located in their home collections, but rather relying on the resources of the consortium, as well as other consortia and interlibrary loan services, to meet their research and curricular needs. Statistics for combined lending and borrowing for CBB libraries show an average increase of 10% between FY08 (21,047 transactions) and FY09 (23,142 transactions) when the combined approval plan was implemented.

Expected efficiencies in staff time for placing orders to publishers have only been partially realized. Funds saved through decreased duplication are now spent to expand collection coverage which increases the number of orders staff must process. However the speed and ease with which orders are placed and therefore materials received and made available to users has increased since the adoption of the YBP Gobi online order system.

Librarians sense an acceptance of sharing resources on the part of faculty at the three colleges. Through discussions with their library committees and conversations at new faculty orientations and between subject liaisons and individual faculty members on each campus, librarians have worked with faculty to help them to better understand the economic challenges of building collections in the twenty-first century and to gain their interest and confidence in building a joint collection.  Faculty show a high degree of confidence in and comfort with the existing CBB expedited delivery services that are essential to sharing materials in a timely manner.

The moderate rate of intentional title duplication mentioned above is one measure of the acceptance by faculty of the new shared model. While CBB is not able to parse data to identify how many of the total duplicated materials purchases were initiated through faculty requests, anecdotal evidence offered by acquisitions staff suggests that faculty are placing fewer intentionally duplicated orders. They are, for the most part, considering the availability of titles at one of the three colleges as sufficient rather than ordering on the basis of collection holdings of their home institution only.

The CBB collaborative collection development model has sparked a great deal of interest among other libraries, consortia, and organizations. CBB librarians have actively shared our collaborative experience and best practices at several regional and national conferences, as well as in formal and informal discussion with other similar consortia who are interested in this work. Discussions with members of other consortia have provided an opportunity to describe our model and experiences, and to glean new insights into other possible collaborative collection initiatives. CBB librarians met with the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries, the Tri-Colleges of Pennsylvania, the CTW (Connecticut College, Trinity College and Wesleyan University) consortium, The Five College Consortium of Massachusetts and the director of Olin College, who is researching collaborative library models in the United States. CBB librarians also have shared information at other academic meetings with the Maine InfoNet Board and with librarians from Portland State University, Yale, NYU, and Columbia. In some instances, CBB librarians established strong working relationships with colleagues at these consortia, leading to an informal sharing of ideas on many aspects of collection development. These connections are another important, lasting outcome of the grant.

CBB libraries believe that they have developed a viable shared approval plan model which could be adopted by other consortia. CBB laid the ground work by working with YBP (Yankee Book Peddler) to develop the systems necessary to support the shared model. The representative from YBP, when asked if other consortia are moving toward a similar model said “There has been a lot of interest in what you’ve been doing.  But most libraries aren’t as courageous as you are to move everything to one subaccount… You are certainly on the cutting edge in a lot of ways.” CBB librarians hope that the dissemination of findings of the first year results, as outlined in this assessment, will be helpful to other consortia.