SPEC Kit 347: Community-based Collections · 13
respondents speculate that if such a program were im-
plemented, it would center on a crowdsourcing format.
Of the affiliated community members who are already
volunteers, some are indeed engaged in crowdsourc-
ing and metadata activities, but they more commonly
assist with exhibits and interpretation projects.
While it seems that, overall, there are few volun-
teer opportunities within community-based collec-
tions, the responding libraries reported using more
non-community volunteers (13 or 36%) than affiliated-
community volunteers (8 or 22%). In their comments
about volunteer opportunities, respondents noted that
the non-community volunteers tend to be students
or interns, most commonly involved in collections
processing/care activities. This seems to complement
the affiliated-community volunteers’ work on crowd-
sourcing and metadata projects. These various experi-
ments with volunteer engagement represent a desir-
able division of volunteer labor a division that seeks
to balance the deep knowledge of collection content
by affiliated-community members, the availability
and interest of non-community volunteers, and the
expertise of professional library staff.
Milestones of community engagement vary widely
among the responding libraries, but the most common
landmark events include special exhibits, interpre-
tive programs or lectures, the initial acquisition of the
collection, and digitization of all or part of the collec-
tion materials. Several respondents also noted the im-
portance of hiring an assistant curator or connecting
with individual community members as milestones
of engagement.
Most of the libraries report stable or increased in-
person use of the collection following its acquisition
and several respondents specified that visitation fluc-
tuates near anniversaries or significant dates within
the collection and/or community. Comments indicate
that in-person use by the affiliated community may
see a decrease due to members’ age or other factors af-
fecting the size or strength of that community. Despite
multiple comments from library staff whose collec-
tions are not digitized (or are unavailable for digital
viewing), there appears to have been an uptick in
online visitation for about half of the collections (52%)
since their acquisition, with respondents crediting
virtual exhibits and eliminated physical space for the
increase in online engagement.
Outreach and Promotion
Outreach and promotion activities for community-
based collections seem to be on par with other library
collections. Instances of promoting finding aids, con-
tacting faculty, including items in exhibitions, and
registered user communications are similar. The dif-
ference is having certain activities also undertaken
by the community. In general, libraries seem to be
undertaking the bulk of outreach work through en-
gaging in communications, events, exhibitions, and
education activities, which are all part of the general
library endeavors. Yet, the community is also under-
taking significant outreach work, such as by contact-
ing other community members (15 responses or 68%),
hosting events (11 or 50%), and sharing via social me-
dia (9 or 40%).
Rewards and Challenges
Community-based collections present libraries and
archives with an opportunity for dynamism and in-
novation. They defy traditional archival theory not
only because they include a heterogeneous array of
object types, but also because, as several respondents
noted, they can involve negotiating interpersonal rela-
tionships. There are great rewards and complex chal-
lenges associated with preserving and incorporating
these collections into an academic institution. As one
respondent noted, “it is a sacred responsibility that
consumes many.”
Most of the respondents agree that a primary
reward of archiving community-based collections
is preserving a possibly overlooked history. Several
respondents also shared the feeling that the collec-
tion benefits from the context provided by the rest
of the library’s holdings and vice versa. Providing
access and strengthening community relationships
are also shared rewards of managing community-
based collections.
As with many types of collections, there are also
significant challenges. A lack of resources is the main
challenge respondents face with community-based
collections. While not unique to this type of collection,
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