And here’s the members of the advisory group, which is made up of Special Collections librarians from RLUK libraries. They will be helping with their insight and expertise, suggesting case studies, examples and evidence and helping to make sure the project delivers its benefits to our organisations and our users. Thanks to them, and to the many other people who have offered help and insight so far!
- Rachel Beckett (Manchester)
- Siobhan Convery (Aberdeen)
- Sue Donnelly (LSE)
- Adrian Edwards (British Library)
- Sheila Hingley (Durham)
- Lesley Richmond (Glasgow)
- Katie Sambrook (KCL)
- Chris Sheppard (Leeds)
- Robin Smith (NLS)
- Jill Whitelock (Cambridge)
- Christine Wise (Senate House Libraries)
- Melanie Wood (Newcastle)
- Susan Worrall (Birmingham)
PS March 2012: There is some swapping about of names by organisations deciding who is best suited to represent them, so the list is continuing to change. I’m also still open to including more members, from RLUK libraries or partner groups which aren’t yet involved.
This project is part of a wider discussion: how libraries/librarians demonstrate their value to their parent organisations. Being a nice thing or a good thing is no longer enough in times of spending cuts and “marketisation” of higher education: we need numbers, metrics, proof that we are relevant, communicated in the right way.
Like Special Collections services, subject specialist librarians in universities are under particular pressure now: their role could be seen as obsolete when so much can be found by students and staff just by googling. Actually they are needed more than ever: users need help in making sense of the huge and complex variety of information available online free or paid-for and in continuing print collections too.
All of which introduces a new report from RLUK, Re-skilling for Researchers by Mary Auckland, which maps the changing needs of researchers and the skills and knowledge librarians will need to support them. The report overlaps in many interesting ways with UDC and will be a useful source of evidence and ideas for our piece of work.
Postscript 6 February: There has been a fantastic response to this, and I now have a large group of RLUK librarians ready to act as the formal advisors, including some national library representation. However, I’m really interested in hearing from anyone else who wishes to contribute more informally.
The Unique and Distinctive Collections project will be supported by an advisory group of RLUK special collections librarians. I already have a good number of librarians who have offered and we nicely cover the spectrum of RLUK libraries. However, if anyone else is keen to get involved, please let me know. I would particularly welcome interest from national library staff who are not so far represented.
I’m trying to ensure that this will not be too demanding for those who are kind enough to offer help. We would mostly be in touch by email as I call for case study ideas, bounce suggestions and so on, but meetings will be helpful later in the project. Ideally these would be arranged to coincide with events many of us will be attending.
Input into the project is of course not limited to those in RLUK or on the advisory group: we are looking for insight and examples from as many sources as possible, all of which will inform the project even if it does not get specifically mentioned in the final report. If you are doing something innovative with your collections, or if you have particular queries you want to share, please do get in touch.
Over the last week or two, I’ve been publicising the project to librarians, archivists and other curators via mailing lists such as lis-rarebooks, archives-nra and lis-link, as well as social media.
Two soldiers in an observation balloon's basket, France, during World War I, from the National Library of Scotland flickr commons stream
The response has been very gratifying, lots of enthusiasm, and invitations to write and talk about the project. Mailing lists still seem to be the best way to reach most curators, so will be at the heart of project communication. The lovely WordPress blog statistics mean I can see exactly which mailings are attracting attention – nice!
I’m pleased that people seem to understand what the project is about. It’s also good that the “unique and distinctive” name makes sense (I explained why we use this name in this earlier post).
Clearly curators feel the need for help in making the case for the value of these collections. We know their value and potential, so do our users and friends, but how do we convert this knowledge into evidence that will convince those who don’t yet appreciate these things? This project is going to try to find out …
Anyway, I’d be delighted to hear any suggestions for bringing the project to curators or other audiences. Certainly not limited to the UK … Publications, blogs, conferences, events etc … I’m also looking for great images for the blog and the project webpage, so if your library has a flickr commons presence or other website with lots of engaging out-of -copyright images, please let me know!