markup and error correction treatments required to make non-consumptive
research, as opposed to simple search and discovery, truly useful to scholars
puts the online collections of books and serials into a category that is far from
common and more like the incarnation at the network level of the physical
special collections that we know and love. Special collection skills and
expertise are not unnecessary at the network level, they are simply operating
in a different context.
The final trap I would mention lies in the suggestion that special collections
are what give libraries and their home institutions their distinctiveness. Surely,
special collections can be a source of pride, expertise, and excellence, and these
qualities can motivate deep and useful
investments. However, taken to an extreme, the
argument about institutional distinctiveness can
also limit scholarly productivity by provoking the
impulse to protect silo-like boundaries around
collections, thereby hindering the natural
scholarly impulse to create and explore links
among related special collections across various holding institutions. Many
have called for more openness within and connections across special
collections,19
but many barriers remain. I particularly invite library directors to
take a close look at the rights and permission
statements that they have readers sign to use
their special collections. Perhaps they will be as
surprised as I was at the general, blanket, and
highly restrictive claims their institutions make
to usage rights over this material.20
I conclude from this brief critique of the
conventional wisdom about the commonness of
book and serial collections and the distinctiveness
of special collections that we need to refine our value proposition. The common
versus distinctive opposition is simply too crude to get us very far. What is
important about books and serials is that moving digital surrogates and newly
produced works to the network level generates aggregations operating at a scale
that advances existing lines of inquiry and opens new ones and makes scholars
and students more productive, even when using individual works. These same
criteria must form the heart of the value proposition for special collections.
RLI 267
35
The Changing Role of Special Collections in Scholarly Communications
(
C O N T I N U E D
)
DECEMBER 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
…taken to an extreme, the argument about
institutional distinctiveness can also limit scholarly
productivity by provoking the impulse to protect
silo-like boundaries around collections….
I particularly invite library directors to take a close
look at the rights and permission statements that
they have readers sign to use their special
collections. Perhaps they will be as surprised as
I was at the general, blanket, and highly restrictive
claims their institutions make to usage rights over
this material.
Previous Page Next Page