About a million years ago (okay, in 2002) RLG held a forum called “Sharing the Wealth.” We used the event to poke and prod — why don’t special collections lend materials? Of course, some institutions do lend from special collections, but most do not. Could we use those that do lend as exemplars and learn from their experience? Could we use the SHARES partnership to pilot some good practice in this area? Could we use digitization on demand to share (“too expensive!” said most participants). We raised more than a few hackles, and started some good conversations, but the idea didn’t exactly catch fire.
In a Shifting Gears world, with a greater emphasis on giving broader access to collections in the care of special collections, we’re raising this scary issue again. My colleagues Jennifer Schaffner and Dennis Massie are putting on a Webinar along with practitioners from the RLG Partnership: Emory University will speak from the perspective of an institution that’s been doing this successfully for years; University of Miami is new to the discussion and just starting to consider the issues involved before coming to any decision to make their treasures more widely available.
If you are a member of the RLG Partnership, I hope you will join us for this discussion (May 28th, 8 am Pacific / 11 am Eastern, etc.).
Contact Dennis, Jennifer, or me for more information. Also, consider signing up for one of our many Partner lists to receive information of this type more directly.
Merrilee Proffitt is Senior Manager. She provides community development skills and expert support to institutions within the OCLC Research Library Partnership.