University of Chicago’s Mapping the Stacks project to survey, identify, and
process African American collections, lending their subject expertise to under-
described collections. Sarah Shreeves described how students participating in
the Ethnography of the University project at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
seed future study by depositing their output into the
institutional repository. These projects show the
added value of engaging students with special
collections in a curricular context and illustrated
Waters’ observation that bringing users efficiently
into processing streams requires solid infrastructure
and scholar-friendly data-entry tools.
Summarizing various speakers’ reflections on
use, Alice Prochaska noted that special collections
are not distinctive just because they are unique but
also because of what their stewards do with them to
promote use. Placing students and scholars at the
center of the value proposition brings strategically
built collections into alignment with the academic
mission. Effective assessment methodologies can then drive advocacy and
ensure allocation of resources in the broader university environment.
Special Collections Are Central
to the Academic Enterprise
Throughout the forum, this call to align special collections with the core mission
and activities of the research enterprise provided a revised perspective for
addressing the challenges of engaging scholars and advocating for resources.
Several speakers explored aligning special collections with the teaching and
learning mission of research institutions. Beginning with the first panel, Steve
Nichols acknowledged that traditionally special collections have been viewed as
“eccentric” and marginal to undergraduate education, but suggested that they
should instead be seen as intimately aligned with the teaching, learning, and
research directive of research universities. This exposure must be more than
show and tell and integrated into “the fabric of the curriculum,” as Barbara
Rockenbach noted. The Boyer Commission report, Reinventing Undergraduate
Education,3 was referenced by both Rockenbach and Shreeves, who argued that
RLI 267
12
Moving Special Collections Forward in an Age of Discovery: Themes from the ARL-CNI Forum
(
C O N T I N U E D
)
DECEMBER 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Listen to Jacqueline Goldsby on the value
of a collective model of humanist inquiry
that breaks down silos and enriches our
understanding of mid-20th-century African
American literary and cultural studies. [ 4 min.]
http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/rli-267-
goldsby.mp3
Photo: David Christopher
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