University libraries in many regions are working together to manage their print collections collectively. Although electronic books and serials play a major role in contemporary library, the need to retain and preserve our physical collections has not diminished. COPPUL libraries are working together to ensure that an optimal number of print copies are retained in our collections. Libraries no longer need to retain their entire physical collection – they can rely on the distributed collection within the SPAN program to meet their students’ and researchers’ needs.

Need a quick overview on SPAN? Check out these infographics: For decision makers infographic & library staff infographic

How does SPAN work?

The Standing Committee and/or a group of subject matter experts from SPAN libraries, working with the SPAN Coordinator, identifies materials for inclusion in the archive. They provide title lists to all SPAN libraries, who then confirm whether they hold the materials. The SPAN Coordinator assigns titles for retention by specific libraries; these are then called the Archive Holders for the materials. In some instances, libraries transfer materials to a designated Archive Holder, in order to complete the Holder’s set of materials.

Only Archive Holders are required to retain materials. Other libraries that hold the materials can choose to retain or withdraw them as they wish.

What does it mean for titles to be archived by SPAN?

Archive Holders commit to retain (i.e. to not withdraw) titles for a specified period of time. The retention period is longer for higher-risk materials than for low-risk ones and has never been shorter than 10 years. The retention period is specified in the documentation for each phase.

What happens after the retention period ends?

The SPAN Standing Committee reviews all retentions in the months prior to their expiration and decides whether to extend the retentions or to cancel them. They then communicate this decision to the relevant Archive Holders. Their decision is based on a review of the state of the archive, the publishing environment, the needs of scholars at participating universities and the preservation requirements of these titles.

If my library is the Archive Holder for one of the titles on the list, does that mean it will be discarded?

Decisions about what to withdraw from collections are made by your library. Participating in the network does not compel a library to withdraw any material. The usual collection management decision-making processes at each institution still apply. Considerations about local electronic holdings, curriculum and research needs, and library space pressures will all be taken into account. Contact your library if you need more information about how this works.

If my library withdraws a title I need, how can I get access to it?

First, check to see if your library provides online access to the title in question. If it does not, or if you require the physical item for some reason, just request the materials you need through your normal interlibrary loan channels. Check with your library for details if you’re not sure how this works. Delivery is usually within a few days because all SPAN materials are held within Western Canada.

If I am an Archive Holder, can I allow SPAN materials to circulate to my patrons?

Circulation decisions for low- and medium-risk titles fall to the individual Archive Holder. They can choose to allow materials to circulate or determine that they are for library use only. We ask that Archive Holders make high-risk materials library use only. The expectations around whether materials may remain circulating or must become library use only are outlined in the documentation for each phase.

How many copies of each archived title do you retain?

For titles that are considered low-risk (e.g. widely held electronic serials with perpetual access backfiles), we generally retain one copy within SPAN. For titles that are considered medium- or high-risk, we try to retain two or more copies. Many materials, however, are only held at one SPAN library. When materials are held at more than one library, we generally choose the library whose run is most extensive to be the Archive Holder.

There is no single mechanism to determine the optimal number of copies to retain within SPAN. For each phase, we try to balance the relative risk to the materials with the number of potential Archive holders.

How are you ensuring that the archiving institution will not dispose of materials they have agreed to archive?

Archive Holders are required to add retention notes to the local catalogue records of the materials they have committed to retain. Library staff will need to consult their local catalogues to determine if a title has been retained under SPAN.

Can my institution join SPAN?

At this time, participation in SPAN is limited to full members of COPPUL.