The Changing Role of Special Collections in Scholarly Communications Donald J. Waters, Senior Program Officer, Scholarly Communications, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Presented at the ARL-CNI Fall Forum on “An Age of Discovery: Distinctive Collections in the Digital Age,” Washington DC, October 14, 2009 I n October 1995, I was co-chair of the Task Force on the Archiving of Digital Information. I stood before the assembled membership of ARL and reported dutifully on the progress of the task force.1 I noted in my talk then that William Safire had recently devoted his wonderful “On Language” column in the New York Times Magazine to the topic of kids’ slang. He advised that “if you want to stay on the generational offensive, when your offspring use the clichéd ‘gimme a break,’ you can top that expression of sympathetic disbelief with ‘jump back’ and the ever-popular riposte ‘whatever.’” However, he also noted that some expressions, such as “I’m outta here” or “I’m history,” had become very much dated. Quoting from a study of slang, Safire pointed out that “I’m history,” is “a parting phrase modeled on an underworld expression referring to death, and it has both inspired and been replaced by the more trendy expression, ‘I’m archives.’”2 Today, according to a recent article in the “Sunday Styles” section of the New York Times, the trendy have taken their slang to an even higher level of sophistication. They are now studiously avoiding being associated with mundane activities such as “hosting” or “selecting,” and are instead opting to engage in the more up-to-the-minute and stylish activity of “curating.” The Oxford dictionary defines the standard meaning of “to curate” as “to look after and preserve.” However, this sense of the word has been supplemented with a variety of non-traditional uses. The Times reported that “The Tipping Point, a store in Houston that calls itself a sneaker lifestyle shop, does not just sell a collection of differently colored rubber soles….No, its Web site declares, the store ‘curates’ its merchandise.” Similarly, “Etsy, the shopping Web site devoted to RLI 267 30 DECEMBER 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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