Linworth Libraries Unlimited

New Directions for Special Collections

An Anthology of Practice

by Lynne M. Thomas and Beth M. Whittaker, Editors


New technologies and innovative practices offer librarians unprecedented opportunities to curate, preserve, transform, and provide access to rare books and special collections.

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Cover image for New Directions for Special Collections

October 2016

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 249
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Archives and Records Management/Special Collections, Rare Books
  Archives and Records Management/Access, Storage, and Retrieval

Addressing the most exciting and challenging areas in the profession, this text will be invaluable to any professional looking ahead to the future of special collections and related cultural heritage work.

Special collections today—from rare books and other specialized book collections to audio recordings and visual images—offer librarians limitless opportunities to showcase their skills in curating, preserving, and offering access to these resources to patrons. Drawing on innovative practices and enduring values to address challenges and opportunities in the broad realm of special collections librarianship, this book updates the notion of special collections to the wide range of materials, institutions, and contexts where they exist today. The contributed essays describe the various kinds of innovative projects and practices that are sought by IMLS and other funding agencies today and serve to illustrate how going beyond a traditionally limited idea of special collections opens doors to far more engaging opportunities.

Spanning the converging worlds of academic and special libraries, rare book collections, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions, this book will be useful to newcomers and seasoned professionals alike. The essays address the recurring themes of managing and welcoming change and the impact of digital technologies throughout the book, whether regarding new approaches to outreach and instruction, the acquisition and curation of non-traditional collections, new structures for discovery and access in a digital world, or the nature of special collections work now. Both experienced professionals and recent graduates from one of the booming archival studies programs will find this text invaluable in creating a successful career in special collections or cultural heritage curation today and in the near future.


  • Covers a broad range of special collections work that shares perspectives from many different practitioners and experts in the field
  • Updates the notion of special collections to the wide range of institutions and contexts where they exist today, illustrating non-traditional opportunities for special collections work
  • Expands job opportunities for readers by providing an overview of the most compelling and exciting trends and challenges in the changing field of special collections
Author Info

Lynne M. Thomas is head of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library and Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book and Manuscript Professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is coauthor of Libraries Unlimited's Special Collections 2.0: New Technologies for Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Archival Collections as well as academic articles about cross-dressing in dime novels, using libraries to survive the zombie apocalypse, and embedded curatorship for documenting particular communities. She periodically teaches a special collections course for San Jose State University's iSchool. In her spare time, she is a three-time Hugo-award winning editor and podcaster.

Beth M. Whittaker is assistant dean of distinctive collections at the University of Kansas Libraries, where she leads special collections, archives, conservation, and international area studies initiatives. She served as the editor of RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage from 2008 to 2014. She is coauthor of Libraries Unlimited's Special Collections 2.0: New Technologies for Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Archival Collections and has published dozens of articles in numerous journals on a variety of topics related to special collections, cataloging, and cultural heritage.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS Introduction Lynne M. Thomas and Beth M. Whittaker Chapter 1: The Rare Book Librarian's Day, Revisited Melanie Griffin Chapter 2: Reading Room and Reference (Re)Vision: The Transformation of Reader Services Mattie Taormina Chapter 3: "Oh, Wow!": Assessment and Affective Learning in Special Collections and Archives Anne Bahde Chapter 4: Developing K–12 Outreach Methods for Special Collections Centers Amy Chen, Lisa Crane, Melanie Meyers, Charlotte Priddle, and Abby Saunders Chapter 5: Teaching with Special Collections: Alliances Between Cultural Heritage Professionals Maureen E. Maryanski Chapter 6: History, Memory, Community, Leadership: Collections-Based Programming in Congressional Archives Audrey McKanna Coleman Chapter 7: Collecting Printed Books in a Digital Age John Overholt Chapter 8: Digital Acquisitions and Appraisal Sarah Barsness and Anjanette Schussler Chapter 9: Documenting Ferguson: Collecting Current Events in Archives Meredith R. Evans Chapter 10: Dance Companies as Living Archives: Protecting the Future by Preserving the Present Supriya Wronkiewicz Chapter 11: Success with Donors: Practical Approaches that Work for All Sherry Williams Chapter 12: You and What Army?: Making the Most of Student and Volunteer Labor in Contemporary Special Collection and Archives Dana M. Miller Chapter 13: A Janus Perspective: Origins and Future of 21st-Century Preservation and Conservation in Library and Archives Special Collections Priscilla Anderson and Whitney Baker Chapter 14: Top Ten Questions and Answers about Digital Preservation for Special Collections and Archives Lynne M. Thomas and Jaime L. Schumacher Chapter 15: Discovery of Special Collections Resources at Web Scale: Opportunities and Challenges for Metadata Librarians Christine DeZelar-Tiedman Chapter 16: Special Files on the Semantic Web: Using Linked Data to Revitalize Special Collections Catalogs Allison Jai O'Dell Chapter 17: Old Challenges, New Solutions: Leveraging Organizational Change to Construct a New Future Jennifer O'Brien Roper and Ivey Glendon Chapter 18: Open Access and Copyright in Archives and Special Collections Heather Briston Chapter 19: Leaving Privacy in the Past?: Exploring a Curatorial Conundrum Judith Weiner Chapter 20: Succession Planning for 21st Century Special Collections Leadership: Initial Steps Athena Jackson Chapter 21: Towards a Culture of Social Media in Special Collections Colleen Theisen Afterword Index About the Editors and Contributors



"Highly recommended for practitioners and students planning on a special collections career path."Library Journal

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Other Titles of Interest

Currents of Archival Thinking, 2nd Edition cover imageRare Book Librarianship cover imageDigital Curation for Libraries and Archives cover image
Open Conversations cover imageMetadata Standards and Web Services in Libraries, Archives, and Museums cover imageSpecial Collections 2.0 cover image

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