New Directions for Special Collections
An Anthology of Practice
by Lynne M. Thomas and Beth M. Whittaker, Editors
October 2016, 249pp, 7 x 10
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-4290-0
$90, £70, 79€, A124
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eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4291-7
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New technologies and innovative practices offer librarians unprecedented opportunities to curate, preserve, transform, and provide access to rare books and special collections.

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
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.


"Highly recommended for practitioners and students planning on a special collections career path."—Library Journal, March 15, 2017
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