flexibility. Competition and protectionist attitudes must give way to institutional
humility and stronger collaborative networks. After all, our users do not care
which institution owns the original or provides the digital surrogate, they just
want unfettered access.
Further, purposeful collaboration takes effort, flexibility, and persistence
to achieve the full potential of cooperative activity. Will Noel noted that data
management is a major challenge for cooperative efforts, while Skinner added
that collaboration demands an organizational structure in order to work.
Discussion emphasized that development of infrastructure for collaboration
is best kept lightweight, distributed, and virtual, keeping in mind that open,
dynamic collaboration is useful for access and exposure, while a closer,
constricted organization is necessary to protect and sustain collections.
Regardless, consensus confirmed that programmatic digital and collaboration
infrastructure are the key investments in effectively connecting researchers with
Conclusion: An Investment
in the Knowledge Economy
In closing, Ian Wilson reminded the audience that the future of special collections
offers opportunities for leadership at the edge of evolving research practice.
Taking advantage of the virtual space is like exploring a new land, where shared
risk and calculated investment can result in significant impact. The way scholars
learn and process knowledge is changing. Users now commit to search strategies
rather than memorization of facts and details. The opportunity to engage the
learning process via the raw materials of knowledge, rare objects, and primary
sources, is greater than ever before. Moving forward, investment in special
collections will require user-centered mission alignment, resource reallocation
towards mainstreaming and sustainability, and the commitment and trust-
intensive work of collaboration; but such an investment offers a rich, rewarding,
and transformative contribution to advancing knowledge.
Special Collections in ARL Libraries: A Discussion Report from the ARL Working Group on Special Collections
(Washington DC: ARL, 2009), http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/scwg-report.pdf.
An Age of Discovery: Distinctive Collections in the Digital Age, Proceedings from the ARL-CNI Fall
Forum, October 14–15, 2009, Washington DC,
The Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, Reinventing
Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities (Boyer Commission, 1998),
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