Monday, January 17, 2011

Taking Our Pulse

Jackie Dooley, Katherine Luce. Taking Our Pulse: The OCLC Research Survey of Special Collections and Archives. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research, 2010.

Issued as a followup to the Association of Research Libraries 1998 survey which resulted in the emphasis on exposing hidden collection, Taking our Pulse reminds us that “much rare and unique material remains undiscoverable, and monetary resources are shrinking at the same time that user demand is growing.” (p.9) I was particularly struck by the finding that two thirds of the respondents reported that they have special collections materials in secondary storage – so bring those collections back home and put that expresso bar somewhere other than in the library’s “empty” stacks.

Also sobering is the finding that while nearly all respondents have completed at least one special collections digitization project, many of these projects were specially funded one-offs and production levels achieved were not sustainable or scalable. This echoes the concerns about "boutique digital collections" raised by Paul Conway for at least the last 10 years. While it was not surprising that the data reveals a “widespread lack of basic infrastructure for collecting and managing born-digital materials” (p. 13), there is also some ambiguity as to who should manage these digitized collections as that responsibility does not necessarily return to the originating special collections department.

Overall, a useful state of the art review, which poses questions that we could begin to answer in our courses.

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