Sunday, April 3, 2016

Modern Special Collections: Embracing the Future While Taking Care of the Past

Evans, M. R. (2015). Modern special collections: Embracing the future while taking care of the past. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 21(2), 116-128.

This article was highly informative because it addressed special collections, which I know very little about.  Evans, a librarian at Washington University in St. Louis, provides a very good primer and background on special collections, and in addition, offers a framework to archivists to ensure continued collection development and access for the next generation of users.  This strategy for modern special collections includes: collecting, connecting, collaborating, and community.  The bulk of the article goes in-depth into each concept, but Evans provides an overview, stating: “Collecting content from the past and the present and preparing for the future; Connecting with people through events, exhibits, and use of technology; Collaborating with immediate constituents and external entities such as other cultural institutions; Community: engaging the community that owns, supports, or serves the repository or creating a new community that will advocate for and donate to the repository” (p. 117).  Insofar as collecting, Evans advocates that archivists think in innovative ways, outside the box, that the materials include both physical and digital, and that collecting should be “in the now.”  The author acknowledges that special collections are the least understood and most overlooked part of a library, yet too can be the most valuable due to the rarity or uniqueness of the collection.  Unique entities in their own right, special collections are considered “microcosms of a library.”  If anyone has an interest in special collections, I highly recommend this article, for it articulates a vision of “managing forward,” which is about preserving the past, but also championing the future.

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