RLI 283 Research Library Issues: A Report from ARL, CNI, and SPARC 2013 Special at the Core: Aligning, Integrating, and Mainstreaming Special Collections in the Research Library Lisa R. Carter, Associate Director for Special Collections and Area Studies, The Ohio State University Libraries, and Visiting Program Officer, ARL Transforming Special Collections in the Digital Age Working Group A s collections “generally characterized by artifactual or monetary value, physical format, uniqueness or rarity, and/or an institutional commitment to long-term preservation and access,” special collections are typically “housed in a separate unit with specialized security and user services [and] circulation of materials usually is restricted.”1 By virtue of their particular nature, special collections have often been treated separately. And yet, as “distinctive signifiers of excellence,”2 special collections offer abundant opportunity for the whole of a research library to achieve its teaching, learning, and research mission. In “Rebalancing the Investment in Collections,” Tom Hickerson noted that “special collections can become an increasingly central element of our libraries—but special collections must first become a central element of our libraries. A new alignment is necessary, incorporating special collections, staffing, and expertise into the common asset base of the library.”3 He went on to cite the importance of “mission alignment both with the broader library and with the university mandate” and the need for “new organizational structures [to bring] librarians and archivists together to pursue common outcomes.” Finally, he noted that special collections may have “a role as an integral leader in shaping the evolving 21st-century collection—but it will be as a component activity contributing to broad institutional goals.” In its 2012 issue brief on calibrating investment and taking collaborative action, the ARL Task Force on 21st-Century Research Library Collections noted that the “wealth of [library] resources will only In This Issue Patron-Driven Acquisitions and the Development of Research Collections: The Case of the Portuguese Canadian History Project 6 “There’s a Great Future in Plastics”: Mainstreaming a Special Collection 11 Integrating Special Collections into the Composition Classroom: A Case Study of Collaborative Digital Curriculum 16 The Eaton Collection and UC Riverside Libraries: A Study in Driving Alignment 21 The Confluence of Collections at Johns Hopkins’s Sheridan Libraries 26 Metastatic Metadata: Transferring Digital Skills and Digital Comfort at UMass Amherst 31
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