RLI 283 Special at the Core 4 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013 Agents of Change The working group also looked for evidence of special collections as change agent, where special collections has driven changes or provided solutions that lead to innovation across the whole library program. In some organizations, special collections leads movement towards a prevailing current of activity. This was evident at Vanderbilt University, where special collections curators trained bibliographers to curate exhibits and developed new workflows to digitize, describe, and present resources. The New York University case study told of special collections leading instructional librarians in re-envisioning engagement in the classroom and assessing impact on learning outcomes. Representing special collections as catalyst in this issue of RLI, University of Massachusetts Amherst documents how Special Collections and University Archives worked with the Digital Strategies Group to develop digital competencies, collaborative skills, teamwork, and workplace adaptability in colleagues across the libraries. Areas for Further Investigation In the responses to the working group’s call, the cases did not provide enough evidence that special collections are aligned, integrated, or mainstreamed in several critical areas. Few submissions addressed assessment, although Rutgers University shared how its technical services unit worked with special collections to develop a metadata tool to document use events in the digital environment in order to measure impact. Unified discovery, which Hickerson describes as essential, did not surface meaningfully, although University of Utah indicated that digitized primary sources are included in their main discovery platform and presented on equal footing with books, journal articles, and other resources. Special collections’ role in evolving “policies and functional support for acquiring, managing, and supporting use of society’s born digital record”7 did not manifest, although Purdue University did reference the development of PURR (Purdue University Research Repository), which explores the issues involved in born-digital asset management. Bringing this last topic to the fore, ARL has partnered with the Society of American Archivists (SAA) to offer courses from SAA’s Digital Archives Specialist Curriculum and Certificate Program to ARL communities in 2013–14, which should uncover concrete examples of where special collections are central to addressing the born-digital challenge on a campus. This is not to say that stories on these matters do not exist. But the makeup of the submissions as a group suggests that, when asked about aligning, integrating, and mainstreaming special collections, libraries think about mission alignment and engagement first, integrating and mainstreaming workflows for efficiency second, and centralizing at an operational level third. Areas of greatest challenge for both libraries and special collections—assessment, unified discovery, and managing born-digital materials— remain as opportunities for further initiative, innovation, and articulation. With the case studies included in this issue of Research Libraries Issues, the working group hopes that libraries will hear echoes of their own efforts to incorporate special collections into broader operations and initiatives. As research libraries envision how their distinctive collections might be better leveraged and promoted, the strategies described here might resonate with opportunities on the horizon. Further, with examples like these, research libraries may find that efforts to align, integrate, and centralize special collections can drive transformative change that enables the whole library to meet its teaching, learning, and research mission and become an effective partner in advancing the scholarly record.
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