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Books without Boundaries: A Brief Tour of the System-wide Print Book Collection

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Abstract

Print book collections are facing significant transformation in response to mass digitization, remote storage, and preservation. These issues should be considered within a system-wide context in which individual print book collections are viewed not as isolated units, but rather as parts of a larger whole. As libraries look beyond the boundaries of their local print book collections to consider system-wide implications, they will need to be equipped with data and analysis about the system-wide print book collection. This paper provides a brief overview of the system-wide print book collection, defined as the combined print book holdings of libraries everywhere, as reflected in the WorldCat bibliographic database. Issues addressed include the size of the collection; holdings patterns; distribution by publication date and language; and the relationship of the system-wide print book collection to overall book production. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of some implications of the analysis, and possible directions for future research.

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