that permanent funding, along with requirements for collaboration, efficiency,
and policy development must come from the top. Archivists and special
collections librarians must constantly demonstrate alignment with the
organizational mission, engage institutional colleagues and provide evidence
of how less-compelling topics contribute to research, teaching, and learning.
Ken Hamma specifically noted the slow, iterative nature of incorporating
special collections into the enterprise, requiring persistent reframing of
special collections in the context of institutional goals. The current financial
environment precipitates the need to share models for integrating special
collections into the main information-management and discovery workflows
in the research library.
Digital and Collaboration Are Necessary
Special collections present opportunities for research libraries to enrich
transformations affecting research and research-intensive institutions. Libraries
and their special collections have a strong record of embracing the digital
information environment and collaboration to support changing modes of
research. Yet presenters urged that more attention be given to developing and
ensuring sustainability and building solid infrastructure in both areas.
Speakers promoted the digitization of collections as key to connecting
special collections with users, but quickly moved beyond the advantages of
digital surrogates to the expanded options presented by the digital world.
Collections can be transformed online; for example, providing access to details
that cannot be seen with the naked eye and reuniting pieces of disparate
collections virtually. Will Noel shared astonishing examples of digital
transformation and rediscovery of unique items based on his work with the
Archimedes Palimpsest and other projects at the Walters Art Gallery. Richard
Saloman highlighted the emerging capability to create globally interacting,
digital, special collections in his description of the Early Buddhist Manuscripts
Project. These and other presentations demonstrated that real transformation
occurs when digital collections are turned over to the users for unexpected
interpretation and reuse.
In order to facilitate original and creative knowledge building such as non-
consumptive research, mash-ups, and “citizen science,” libraries must do more
to establish a stable foundation on which users can work. Large-scale
digitization; open access; flexible, minimal, automated metadata; user-friendly
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