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.
Born Digital Special Collections
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Through the Transforming Special Collections in the Digital Age Working Group, ARL is focused on practice and training in managing born-digital special collections and archival materials.
SPEC Kit 329: Managing Born-Digital Special Collections and Archival Materials (2012)
ARL is working with the Society of American Archivists (SAA) to bring its Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Program to ARL libraries.
Digitized Special Collections
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ARL member institutions have made tremendous investments in digitizing their rare and unique special collections materials both for preservation and to promote wider access and exposure to the materials. In 2010, the ARL Board endorsed a set of nine principles to guide vendor/publisher relations in large-scale digitization projects of special collections materials; and in 2012, ARL published a set of articles in Research Library Issues on legal issues in digitizing special collections.
ARL currently has two collaborative research projects with Ithaka S+R on sustainability of digitized special collections: 1) A survey of the ARL membership and 2) An IMLS-funded cooperative agreement to publish case studies of sustainable special collections in the library, museum and cultural heritage community more broadly.
Statements, Principles and Reports of ARL Special Collections Working Groups
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The Transforming Special Collections in the Digital Age Working Group is charged with monitoring and advising on the role of Special Collections in research libraries. The working group identifies the issues distinctive to research libraries, which are most critical for special collections in the digital age, and recommends any policies or actions that the Association is in a unique position to adopt. Work from previous ARL Special Collections Working Groups and Task Forces is also compiled here.