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Cornell and Columbia Libraries to build a joint technical infrastructure

Press Release: Columbia University [January 16, 2013]

New York, Jan. 16, 2013. The libraries at Columbia University and Cornell University are taking an unprecedented new step in their 2CUL partnership: integrating a major part of their operations.

Thanks to a three-year, $350,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the two libraries will integrate their technical services departments. These departments purchase and license library materials, such as books, e-books, e-journals, databases and more, and they provide data so that users can find and use those materials.

"This is far-reaching action on a grand scale," said Anne R. Kenney, Cornell's Carl A. Kroch University Librarian. "Eventually, both units will operate as part of one whole, which means that new efficiency and combined staff capabilities will enable both institutions to enhance capacity and broaden the range of services offered."

For library users, the 2CUL integration will mean better and faster access to more materials including licensed journal articles, foreign materials and other content. When negotiating with vendors and other third parties for services and content, the technical services operation will exercise bargaining power on behalf of both research libraries.

The integration will also include:

  • Seeking a common library management system that integrates data and workflows;
  • Establishing collaborative collection building and coordinated processing;
  • Reviewing policies, practices, workflows and job responsibilities at each institution, with an eye toward reconciling them as much as possible;
  • Drafting best practices and guidelines; and
  • Adopting a new organizational structure and culture.

Because both of these libraries serve high-level research institutions, their technical services work requires specialized language expertise (the 2CUL libraries collect materials in around 50 languages) as well as a range of unique content. The integration will give both libraries an enhanced pool of expertise and capacity.

Additionally, some workflows will be similar enough to support work-sharing. For example, when one campus faces a bulge or backlog in technical processing, staff at the other campus can pick up some of the work. Approximately 20 percent of library staff at both Columbia and Cornell is devoted to technical services work.

The transformative 2CUL partnership began in 2009, with an initial grant from the Mellon Foundation that allowed Columbia and Cornell to join forces in addressing budgetary challenges posed by the economic recession and improve library efficiencies, promote innovation and meet new and emerging academic needs.

During its "Phase 1" period, the 2CUL partnership made several major advancements, including:

  • Allowing Columbia and Cornell faculty, students and staff to borrow materials from either library on-site and expedite access through intercampus loan delivery;
  • Building joint collections and sharing librarians and language expertise to expand access to more global resources in Asia, Latin America and Russia/Eastern Europe;
  • Uncovering issues for long-term preservation and access to e-journal literature; and
  • Creating programs to give tailored support for Ph.D. students in the humanities.

The new round of funding from the Mellon Foundation supports a critical piece of 2CUL's "Phase 2" period. Beyond the scope of the grant, the two libraries will pursue other goals for advancing the partnership, including more integrated collection building and mainstreaming 2CUL in other areas based on the success of the technical services integration.

"Building ways to manage our two libraries' collections jointly is an essential step in integrating the collections themselves," said Bob Wolven, Associate University Librarian for Bibliographic Services & Collection Development at Columbia. "This partnership goes far beyond avoiding costs. It extends to changing the way we think about staffing, task and expertise distribution and workflow design. Working together means we can use our strengths to the fullest."

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 11 million volumes, over 150,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 500 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources:

Cornell University Library's rich collections, expert librarians, responsive services and welcoming spaces inspire and nourish scholarship and learning throughout the university. In the class of 2012, 85 percent of students reported that the Library contributed to their academic success and efficiency. Its world-class collection nearly 8 million print volumes, nearly a million e-books and 5 million journal article downloads per year covers incredibly diverse fields, such as hip-hop and punk, East and Southeast Asia, labor, agriculture, hospitality and Liberian law. Thanks to a 24/7 chat reference service, helpful librarians are always just a keystroke away. To learn more, visit

View Citation
Publication Year:2013
Type of Material:Press Release
Language English
Issue:January 16, 2013
Publisher:Columbia University
Company: Columbia University
Libraries: Cornell University
Columbia University
Record Number:17578
Last Update:2023-12-06 01:04:16
Date Created:2013-01-16 13:20:18