RLI 283 Special at the Core 2 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013 be realized through coordinated and effective advocacy, discovery, and creativity by research library staff” and that “the enduring need within the library for deep subject expertise will be increasingly met by teamwork and cross institutional partnerships,” suggesting the collaboration needed to leverage distinctive collections.4 While “stewardship of unique assets associated with an institution/library is an increasing priority,” this prioritization will take place within a more holistic view of research library collections as “components of the academy’s knowledge resources.” A Call for Evidence As the ARL Working Group on Transforming Special Collections in the Digital Age investigates models to advance coordinated efforts related to special collections, the group is compiling evidence of the incorporation of special collections more holistically into library initiatives. In 2012, the working group issued a call for proposals of case studies that demonstrated how special collections were being aligned, integrated, mainstreamed, or centralized into broader library operations. Twenty-six ARL institutions answered the call, offering a wide array of examples. From that group, six cases were selected to document a diverse set of models in this special issue of RLI. Just as special collections are distinctive “trademarks”5 of institutions, the ways libraries are aligning, integrating, and mainstreaming special collections are uniquely suited to each local academic environment and the prevailing library culture. And yet some patterns emerged from the case studies, while other anticipated trends did not. Mission Aligned Alignment of collecting with university strengths and library mission was well represented throughout the proposals. Many of the submissions described how a specific, significant collection or a targeted collecting area was directly aligned with university priorities and the library’s mission to support research strengths and distinguished areas of teaching and learning. For example, Cornell University highlighted its Hip Hop Collection as an initiative that advanced many top institutional priorities and increased academic discourse on campus. The University of Southern California told of the inventive ways it uses special collections as points for engagement with students, faculty, and the community to enrich knowledge building. The case study from York University included in this issue of RLI describes how it responded to significant changes in its academic community by collecting in an area of interest to graduate students and new faculty capturing an untold story of a local community digitizing for wide, international access and enabling cross-university collaboration to expose special collections. The working group also included here Syracuse University’s story of marshaling resources from across the library to drive the acquisition of and access to its plastics collection to support an area of developing research strength at the university. Deeply Engaged A majority of the cases reported on rich engagement in the classroom, in the research process, and with communities of interest. A great deal of evidence surfaced to indicate that many special collections units are involved in reciprocal partnerships that advance learning, inspire dialogue, and draw use. Intense use and curricular development served as markers of success. Given this response and in light of the recent publication of Past or Portal? Enhancing Undergraduate Learning through Special Collections and Archives,6 it
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