SPEC Kit 347: Community-based Collections · 11
Academic libraries are actively acquiring much more
than individual papers and institutional record col-
lections—they are also acquiring community-based
collections. Community-based collections are those
that have been amassed not by one individual but by a
collective, which may take the form of a museum, eth-
nic or cultural organization, or other diaspora group
active in the documentation of its past. Often these col-
lections have significant emotional dimensions in that
they speak to the community’s heritage and identity.
As such, these broad archives are often extremely per-
sonal to those who collected, and sometimes created,
the materials. In addition to more traditional roles such
as caring for the physical collection, in working with
community-based collections libraries are navigating
new territory with the integration and stewardship
of these active and directly connected communities.
A commitment to ongoing community engagement,
with some level of shared governance or other col-
laborative activity to build, process, or publicize the
collection, is often a key part of acquiring community-
based collections.
The purpose of this survey was two-fold: first to
assess the breadth of collecting practice taking place
at the intersection of research libraries and cultural
communities, and second, to discover what activities
are being conducted by these libraries to support com-
munity groups in the collection, documentation, and
stewardship of their shared heritage, including public
outreach and educational initiatives relating to the
collection. This type of work augments the traditional
service role of libraries by suggesting a greater con-
tinuity between the repository and the originator(s)
of a collection.
Forty-eight of the 125 ARL member libraries sub-
mitted survey responses for 55 community-based col-
lections between March 2 and April 6, 2015, for a 38%
response rate. The data shared suggests that, while
collecting practices are far from uniform, libraries are
acquiring community-based collections with acceler-
ating frequency. Nineteen respondents (35%) report
not having any community-based collections while
36 (65%) report having one or more. Most of those
institutions have one or two collections, though six
(11%) report having more than 15. Several respondents
also indicated that their community-based collection
is composed of several smaller collections.
The majority of respondents (29 or 81%) have ac-
quired these collections within the past 25 years.
Twelve of those who have community-based collec-
tions (23%) are currently discussing acquiring another
collection, while four have no plans to acquire another
one in the future. Twenty-eight respondents (54%)
agree that there is an increasing need for libraries to
acquire such collections, including five who do not
yet have one. Most of the respondents who do not
currently have community-based collections do not
expect to acquire any in the future, though several
said they would be open to the idea if there was a
need or the material fit within their collecting goals.
Collections: Scale, Scope, and Support
The 55 collections reported on in this survey represent
diverse communities, including activist groups, pro-
fessional organizations and societies, music cultures,
ethnic groups, and communities brought together
through shared experiences. Despite this diversity, the
communities are united by a variety of often overlap-
ping characteristics. The majority (23 or 64%) share a
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