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Research Collections

Research collections are at the heart of the research library, but in the digital age the nature of information resources and library collections are undergoing profound transformations. New kinds of content, new formats and reformatting, new publishing models and access arrangements are rapidly reshaping research collections. As digital information resources increasingly predominate collecting, bringing new kinds of content within the research library’s sphere of responsibility, value propositions of traditional collections are altering apace.  The 2012 ARL Issue Brief, 21st-Century Collections: Calibration of Investment and Collaborative Action, forecasts these developments.

 Special Collections 

Special collections are a priority for ARL attention. In particular, ARL seeks to:

  • Identify opportunities and recommend actions for ARL and other organizations that will encourage concerted action and coordinated planning for collecting and exposing 19th- and 20th-century materials in all formats (rare books, archives and manuscripts, audio, and video, and digital, etc).
  • Identify criteria and strategies for collecting digital and other new media material that currently lack a recognized and responsible structure for stewardship.

These two issues are closely linked. An enormous amount of valuable material in all formats remains uncollected and risks being permanently lost. Coordinated strategies are needed for identifying, collecting, preserving, and exposing more of these materials to increase their use in teaching and research.

Currently, ARL is working with the Society of American Archivists (SAA) to bring its Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Program to ARL libraries.

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A research library collection is a key asset of the parent institution and research libraries have a responsibility to preserve the scholarly record. Through individual and cooperative efforts, members of the research library community are developing ways to provide an efficient means to maintain and sustain multiple formats and to manage the complexities of developing processes and services that ensure the information and resources scholars need is available now and in the future.

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 21st-Century Collections: Calibration of Investment and Collaborative Action

In 2012, the ARL Task Force on 21st-Century Research Library Collections published an Issue Brief entitled: 21st-Century Collections: Calibration of Investment and Collaborative Action. The collaborative future envisioned by this report focuses on the following features and strategic discussion areas in the landscape of 21st-century research collections:

Scholars and Researchers

Liaisons and managers of research collections need to be attuned to the behaviors, roles, and communication vehicles of scholars and researchers.

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Research library collections are changing in scope, complexity and priorities. Collecting is expanding in at least two critical dimensions: new formats of scholarly products, and resources that represent scholarly processes.

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Research libraries are engaged in many aspects of publishing, including advocacy, consulting and production.

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Ensuring access, preservation, and collaborative collection management depends on investments in infrastructure including facilities and space, shared print agreements, changes in discovery servcies, and more.

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