Most libraries are not yet fully prepared to manage and provide access to
these dynamic forms of knowledge. But clearly they are here, challenging our
thinking and our technical capacity.
The second information type I would like to address as evoking a holistic
framework is special collections.
Most of our collections funding is devoted to licensing electronic publications,
and most of those publications are academic journals. And most of what we buy
is being bought by everyone. And this often extends far beyond ARL libraries. In
Canada, the Canadian Research Knowledge Network collaborative acquires a
similar selection for every institution of substantive size. State and provincial
cooperatives extend access to core journals even further. Approval plans address
most selection for undergraduate study in most fields, and they do it better and
more economically than we can, and we all achieve similar results. Our archives
and special collections remain our opportunity for playing a distinctive role in
documenting culture, science, industry, government, and the human experience.
Important changes in both curatorial
practice and teaching and research
interest have increased the educational
value of these holdings, and digital
technologies have provided a means to
extend our impact worldwide. ARL has
in recent time endorsed the value of this
component of our collection, and there has been expressed interest in increased
support within our institutions. This may not yet have happened frequently, in
part because traditional managerial autonomy and distinctive practice has
impeded the kind of synergies to which we would aspire.
Special collections can become an increasingly central element of our
libraries—but special collections must first become a central element of our
libraries. A new alignment is necessary, incorporating special collections,
staffing, and expertise into the common asset base of the library. First, mission
alignment both with the broader library and with the university mandate as
well is needed. Procedurally, unified discovery is essential. Regardless of the
description methods or systems employed, we owe our users the capacity to
find related materials within our holdings, whether published, unpublished,
Rebalancing the Investment in Collections
C O N T I N U E D
DECEMBER 2011 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Special collections can become an increasingly
central element of our libraries—but special
collections must first become a central element
of our libraries.