Farmington Plan, Interlibrary Loan, and the Digital Age

I’m working on an article for SOURCE Magazine at UF, on the history of the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) from UF’s perspective, in terms of UF’s long history of Caribbean collection building. This is super fun, and super long! The Libraries at UF have always identified as Caribbean libraries, so there’s a wealth of information on collaboration dating back to the 1920s. I’m excited to write this story, as I know it, and to hopefully hear from folks who can expand my understanding of UF’s and dLOC’s full histories.

I’m posting right now because I don’t think I speak nearly enough about a 1998 report by Jennifer Cobb Adams and Richard F. Phillips that studied the enormity of interlibrary loan requests that UF handled through the Latin American & Caribbean Collections because of the uniqueness of the holdings. As the report abstract explains:

The University of Florida’s (UF) Latin American Collection has long specialized in the collection of Caribbean materials. Beginning in the late 1920s, the university undertook extra effort to acquire and organize Caribbean resources in response to the needs of scholars affiliated with the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) at UF. This emphasis was further strengthened under the Farmington Plan, and continues to this day. The Latin American Collection’s current holdings of Caribbean materials are recognized by many scholars as being the largest nationally and internationally, and generate extensive use via interlibrary loan from researchers in the U.S. and around the world. Because of its long-term emphasis on specialized collection development in the Caribbean, the University of Florida’s Latin American Collection was selected by ARL and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as the site for a case study examining the effects of specialization and whether the UF “model” might be adopted elsewhere. A component of the ARL’s Latin Americanist Research Resources Project, this case study pays particular attention to the challenges facing libraries with regard to specialized monographic collections.

This report is important because it situates UF’s historical and ongoing role for the Caribbean collections, demonstrates the cost and impact of such success for interlibrary loan, as an additional costs alongside acquisitions and collection development and management, and sheds light on the later benefits and savings from digital library sharing, which provides access to all and prevents UF from being a gatekeeper (or a unique service provider with costs for that service provision).