Opening Access to Special Collections and Archives…02.11.09

11 02 2009

Here is a short excerpt from a lengthy but significantly important/relevant post from Lisa Carter titled It’s the Collections that are Special on In The Library With the Lead Pipe blog today:

I’m beginning to think that what’s wrong with special collections and archives today is that they are considered special.  They are set aside, revered and left as the last great mystery the Library holds.  The collections themselves are special in that they are rare, unique, fantastic and archaic and they do need special handling and care.  However, our regard for these materials has enabled us to treat them so differently that they are not accessible. We have locked these materials up in our processes and our delivery services, which has kept them out of the mainstream of information available to knowledge seekers.  They are only rarely seen as part of the knowledge building conversation and it is because of how we (as librarians and archivists) treat them and present them.  We treat them as special in the sense of  ‘separate,’ ‘extra,’ ‘having special needs’ instead of special in that they are what make our library special as ‘distinctive signifiers,’ ‘our enduring core’ and ‘our unique contribution to the world of knowledge.’

As librarians and archivists redefine ourselves and better articulate how we add value, as we break down long established barriers in our processes, spaces and services, we need to include our most unique collections.  We regularly leverage quickly evolving trends in the information environment by refocusing on the needs and preferences of our users in the context of very real competition and economic difficulty.  In this framework, libraries can embrace their special collections and archives as a locus of distinction, experimentation and core value.  The time has come for libraries to integrate special collections into the flow in every aspect of our work

For libraries to contribute effectively to knowledge-building in their communities, the constructed partition that has set special collections aside as ‘special’ must be dismantled.  It is time to integrate the selection, description, research service and technological activities in every library with those needed to connect users to our most distinctive, unique collections.  Libraries must recognize that while the collections are special and even have special needs, the talents and skills needed to expose them are found library-wide.  Additionally, many special collection materials are now born digital and do not require physical segregation in our traditional Special Collections units.  Further, enterprise-wide effort is even more critical to born-digital collections’ exposure and survival.  Users just want the best information for their task and they want it to be available all in the same place.

…Special Collections and Archives may sense a loss of their unique identity during such a transformation.  Partners in other library units may resist activity previously outside their purview. Yet sharing responsibility for our distinctive, valued and unique collections will raise the profile of the whole library and, most importantly, benefit our users...”


Video Archive Cataloging at a Stand Still…08.21.08

21 08 2008

I have noted here before that I have been trying unsuccessfully to resume shipment of materials to me from our off-site and out-of-state video archives for cataloging.  Thousands of video masters in various formats are awaiting cataloging and proper storage.  I will persist in requesting the shipments until it happens and wait patiently (OK–relatively patiently) until then. 

As a cataloging update, I have cataloged 16,457 physical items using the Atriuum ILS software since August of 2006.  Cataloging our video archive materials was halted at the end of 2007 although other non-archive items are regularly added to our collections.

Video Archive Dilemma Continues…07.11.08

11 07 2008

This solo librarian experiences daily frustration trying to get definitive answers regarding the status of our off-site and out-of-state video archives containing thousands of items that need cataloging, conservation, and preservation.  The situation has been touched upon in various past posts.  The saga continues with a meeting tentatively scheduled (that means a “coin-toss” possibility) for the beginning of August to discuss the matter of an on-site visit in early September.  The uncertainty and vastness of this project can set my nerves on edge if I dwell upon it.  There is plenty of other work to do daily in both facets of my position.  However, it would be overwhelmingly calming to know something concrete as to the future of this area of our library resources.  Considering the amount of the organization’s resources that have been spent to create and store these materials over the years, it seems that it would be important enough to make them a priority.  I will continue to be proactive and provide reminders to management as opportunities arise.