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SCA Session: Taking Our Pulse: The OCLC Research Survey of Special Collections and Archives

April 29, 2011

Next up: Taking Our Pulse: The OCLC Research Survey of Special Collections and Archives. Allons-y!

Talks by David Zeidberg (Huntington Library), Tom Hyry (UCLA) and Mary Morganti (California Historical Society)

Overview of Survey Results (You can check out the report here: PDF of report.

  • Collections size is growing
  • Use is increasing
  • Backlogs continue to grow
  • Staffing is stable
  • 75% of library have had budget cuts

275 Libraries surveyed, 61% response rate
Wanted diversity of special collections and archives represented, but academic archives were most heavily represented in respondents.

ARL collection growth since 1998: Archives/manuscripts: 50% growth (average)
Special collections in remote storage: 67% of respondents use remote storage

Access/Use
Use of archival materials is increasing, which is cool. Many archives provide access to uncataloged/unprocessed materials (we do or we wouldn’t be able to let people see anything!). In 87% of the special collections reading rooms, you can use digital cameras.

So access is increasing and archivists and special collections librarians are getting better about being flexible for giving access to collections.

Cataloging/metadata
50% of archival materials are available via online catalogs
Backlog is decreasing with implementation of “More product, less process”
Need cataloging and metadata processes that are scalable

Archival management
40% of archival finding aids are online
34% of respondents are using Archivists’ Toolkit

Digitization
One of the great challenges for archives-we can never do enough.
52% of an active program of digitization
38% have completed large-scale digitization of special collections (systematic reproduction of entire collections using streamlined production methods that account for special needs)

Born-digital Materials
Undercollected, undercounted, undermanaged, unpreserved, and inaccessible.
Need to do more with the born-digital materials; most people need more training
Funding named as biggest challenge of managing born-digital materials

Mary Morganti (CHS)
Small staff and lots of different materials (museum materials and archival materials)
Can solve everything with creativity, time and money! (very true)
Space is a huge issue for many organizations. Talking about lack of space for storing collections (also environmentally controlled storage)
CHS are looking at “right sizing” the collection storage in the correct boxes. (We’re doing this with our collections, too! It’s amazing the kind of shelf space you can regain)
Uses Archivists’ Toolkit (very cool) and contributes to the OAC (Online Archive of California)
Her concerns: metadata discovery, access, decreasing backlogs, funding

David Zeidberg (Huntington Library)
Thinking about the issues philosophically. We all continue to collect faster than we can catalog. Collection development and access to collections (decreasing the backlogs) should be the top priorities (they are at the Huntington). Two schools of thought of collection development: take everything lest it be lost; take only those collections that can be processed in a reasonable period of time to put in hands of researchers. Need to remember ethical responsibility to donor to process the collection. Take material that can be used= need to be more selective in acquisition. Need to do field appraisal before saying you will take the collection.

Reaction to low level of formalized collection development reported in OCLC survey: haven’t seemed to work or be sustainable. Practical alternative: update and share collection development policies with one another. Then we can see who is collecting in particular areas. Need to behave ethically, always.

Tom Hyry (UCLA Special Collections)
Despair over increasing A/V materials, ’cause we weren’t that good at these before, backlogs are growing, and budgets have been cut.
Hope over using streamlined processes and getting more materials online.
At UCLC, reading room is too small as usage has gone up. UCLA is collecting aggressively.

Trends in research libraries: selection is changing, budgets have shrunken, approval processes for purchasing, cataloging departments have changed, and how to support emerging fields (e.g. digital humanities).

Growth areas in research libraries: digital libraries; teaching and outreach; growth of special collections and prominence of special collections. Opportunities for special collections to capitalize on interest in special collections: example, using catalogers with language skills and training them in archival cataloging.

See born-digital materials as an opportunity as they be able to serve our users better. Can serve the materials over networks (don’t have to digitize them). Argues that appraisal is more important now than ever.

Take Home Message
Interesting data and results. Tip for presenters: if you are going to go over a lot of statistics, either go slower so people can take notes and process the information (and give less of it) or make sure to tell people (up front) where you will make your slides available online. Acquisitions and backlogs are important issues facing the profession. Always behave ethically= motto to archive by and if you remember this point, you’ll do well in your archival work.

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