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Award Report: Developing a Plan to Ensure Preservation of and Access to Historical Materials in NN/LM MAR–New York Academy of Medicine

The purpose of this project, funded under an NN/LM MAR Historical Collections Award to the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM), was to hold a one-day conference for librarians and curators of historical collections and archives in the MAR.  The conference goals were to develop a cooperative plan to ensure preservation and access to historical materials in the MAR and a to form a working group to oversee the implementation of the plan.

The conference was held at NYAM on March 25, 2011.  The original intent was to have the directors and curators of the 27 known historical and/or archival collections in the MAR attend the conference.  Due to various scheduling conflicts, a total of 36 attendees were present, including two representatives each from the NN/LM MAR offices and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), four staff from the New York Academy of Medicine, and a guest speaker.

Naomi Adelman, Associate Director of the Library and Special Collections at NYAM, welcomed the attendees and provided an overview of the conference goals.  Constance Malpas, Program Officer at OCLC, then delivered a talk entitled, “Managing Print in the Mass-Digitized Library Environment: The Role of the Regional Print Repository.”   Her presentation explored the particular challenges of preserving print collections as a regional resource against the backdrop of large-scale library digitization programs and the ongoing reconfiguration of academic print collections.  She described how an emerging evidence base suggests that a progressive realignment of library investment towards cooperative management will be needed to ensure the long-term survival of legacy print collections.  She then raised issues for the attendees to consider, such as what kinds of inter-institutional agreements would be needed to achieve these goals, and how such coordinated approaches to print management can ensure system-wide efficiencies without compromising individual libraries’ fundamental stewardship mandate.

After Malpas’s talk, attendees introduced themselves and talked about the status of their collections in regard to some of the issues raised.   Discussion  ensued about the development of a print-retention plan within the MAR: specifically, who could and should participate in the effort and how to identify materials for retention.   The group agreed that more direction from NLM would be required to progress on these issues.  Martha Fishel, Chief, Public Services Division at NLM, gave a brief summary of print-retention initiatives in two other NN/LM regions.  She then recommended waiting until after the May 2011 MLA conference to proceed with this work.

A working group was established before the closure of the conference:  Naomi Adelman (NYAM), Leslie Czechowski (University of Pittsburgh), Barbara Cavanaugh (University of Pennsylvania), and Linda Lohr (University of Buffalo).  This group will work with the RML to survey libraries in the MAR about their print-retention needs and their willingness to participate in a cooperative plan.   Their work is expected to begin in June 2011.

Naomi Adelman
Associate Director, Library and Special Collections
New York Academy of Medicine

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