In an earlier post I reported some impressions from attending the ARL Special Collections Working Group (SCWG) meeting. One of the reasons that I was there is the large role that special collections play in the research institutions served by RLG Programs and the consequent emphasis we are giving them in our work agenda.
At the SCWG I passed around early review copies of a thoughtful and intentionally provocative essay written by my Programs colleagues, Ricky Erway and Jen Schaffner. Their premise is that special collections need to be in the networkflow, that scaling up digitization of these materials requires a change in a whole variety of historical emphases and practices and that as a community we need to completely retool our attitudes and approaches to extending access to special collections in the library, archives and museum world. It’s titled Shifting Gears: Gearing Up to Get Into the Flow and was inspired by the interactions and presentations at our Digitization Matters forum at the recent Society of American Archivists meeting.
They post their theses in clear language
that calls for action. Here’s one:
“Take a page from archivists. Stop obsessing about items…” Their calls for action need to get turned into community activities that build a new infrastructure, new practices and new expectations. Much that needs to be done is appropriate for RLG Programs to undertake and much more needs to be undertaken by individual institutions and the organizations on which they rely for support. We’re interested in a discussion with our Partners to help us focus a program of work and anxious to engage the broad community in discourse that leads to change. The essay (pdf) is now on our website (the contemporary equivalent of those 16th century church doors) and available for comment, debate, copying, translation and ultimately action.