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