ReCAP Expands Access to 3.6 Million More Volumes

Columbia University faculty, students, and staff now have access through the Columbia catalog, CLIO, to 3.6 million volumes held by Harvard University. This milestone completes a previously announced expansion of the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP), a partnership between Columbia University, The New York Public Library (NYPL), Princeton University Library, and Harvard. Users of all four libraries are now able to access the shared collection, numbering nearly 17 million volumes, as though those items were in their own library. 

“This extraordinary collaboration redefines the research library beyond imagination,” said Reinhold Martin, Professor of Architecture and Director of the Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia. “Never before have so many scholars and students had such access. What new knowledge lies among these 17 million volumes is for all to discover."

In January 2019, Harvard University joined the consortium with the aim of implementing strategies for collaboration in building, sharing, and preserving physical and digital collections in the coming years. 

ReCAP director Ian Bogus said this collaboration is “an example of the extraordinary things that can be accomplished through a trusting partnership. Scholars are gaining seamless access to millions of additional materials, and it is exciting to see how it improves their research outcomes.”

This innovative discovery-to-delivery program has evolved with longstanding support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, beginning with a strategic planning grant and funding to develop the software that enables seamless discovery and access. ReCAP’s shared collection enables each library to provide its users with efficient discovery and the ability to directly request materials from the offsite locations, providing their users with a broader selection of resources than ever before. The shared collection allows users to discover and request items for delivery back to their home institution, or request a digital scan of an article or portion of a book directly from the local catalogs of each library.

The shared collection, which continues to grow, currently includes five million volumes from NYPL's research collections, 4.7 million from Columbia University, 3.5 million from Princeton University, and nearly 3.6 million items from Harvard. Since its launch in 2017, funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the shared collection grew by one million volumes as all four libraries continue to add items. Pre-pandemic, the partner institutions collectively filled 250,000 requests annually from ReCAP collections. Additionally, use of the shared holdings has risen approximately 30 percent, demonstrating the value of access to locally discoverable and distributed collections. 

The four partner ReCAP institutions own and operate a state-of-the-art storage facility in Princeton, New Jersey, to hold portions of their collections. Harvard is also making available material that is located at the Harvard depository.  

In August 2021, Harvard Library deployed custom software to seamlessly integrate its shared collection records with the partner libraries’ catalogs and theirs with Harvard’s catalog, HOLLIS. NYPL, Columbia, and Princeton all now have Harvard’s additional volumes available to users.

In addition to improved access and increased efficiency achieved through the shared collection, the ReCAP consortium is exploring collaborative collection building and joint digital initiatives to improve the user experience. Librarians at Columbia, Harvard, NYPL, and Princeton continue to develop shared preservation approaches and plans for enhanced electronic document delivery.  

ReCAP Shared Collection
Users of all participating libraries are able to access the shared collection, now numbering nearly 17 million volumes.