Taking our pulse: the OCLC research survey of special collections and archives

13 Oct 2010

Special collections and archives are increasingly seen as element s of distinction that serve to differentiate a n academic or research library from its peers. In recognition of this, the Association of Research Libraries conducted a survey in 1998 (reported in Panitch 2001) that was transformative and led directly to many high - profile initiatives to "expose hidden collections." As this OCLC Research report reveals, however, much rare and unique material remains undiscoverable, and monetary resource s are shrinking at the same time that user demand is growing.

The balance sheet is both encouraging and sobering:

• The s ize of ARL collections has grown dramatically, up to 300% for some formats

• Use of all types of material has increased across the board • Ha lf of archival collections have no online presence

• While many backlogs have decreased, almost as many continue to grow • User demand for digitized collections remains insatiable

• Management of born - digital archival materials is still in its infancy

• Staffing is generally stable , but has grown for digital services

• 75% of general library budgets have been reduced

• The current tough economy renders “business as usual” impossible.

The top three “most challenging issues” in managing special collections were space, born-digital materials, and digitization.


Collection note: In 2013 at UK version of this survey was conducted by OCLC and Research Libraries UK.

Survey of special collections and archives in the United Kingdom and Ireland

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