Over the past decade, a number of factors have focused attention on special collections and the professional skills, academic credentials, and personal qualities needed for a successful career in special collections librarianship. In 2001 the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) established a Task Force on Special Collections to further an agenda to maximize the full potential of special collections. Its charge included, “Define core competencies among special collection librarians and create training opportunities.” In 2003 the ARL Board of Directors endorsed the statement “Research Libraries and the Commitment to Special Collections,” which described special collections as “one of the critical identifiers of a research library” and affirmed the “critical role” played by special collections in fulfilling the mission of research libraries.
At that time, ARL directors also perceived a significant shortage of candidates ready to take on the responsibilities of administrative positions to be filled in the coming decade. The ARL Task Force consequently identified recruitment, training, and continuing education as high priorities on its agenda. A white paper prepared by the Task Force, entitled “Education and Training for Careers in Special Collections,” surveyed recent changes in professional education for special collections professionals and identified a number of new programs and initiatives emerging to meet recruitment and training needs. The white paper reiterated the importance of articulating competencies required by special collections librarians and acknowledged that education and training opportunities are needed at all career levels.
These developments reflect profound changes in the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of special collections librarians. The changes parallel those in research librarianship generally and are chiefly the result of evolving information technologies. But they affect special collections most especially because special collections professionals work in increasingly diverse environments and carry an unusual variety of responsibilities. Individual career paths differ greatly. There is an expanding range of formats in collections, including three-dimensional artifacts and audio, visual, and digital materials. The audiences for our collections and services have grown to include students at all levels and members of the general public of all ages and backgrounds, both onsite and online. Although special collections have always encompassed both technical and public services work and professional assignments are often of broad scope, the digital environment integrates these areas more fully: instruction and outreach efforts require technical skills, and metadata librarians must have a keen understanding of users’ needs and preferences. Special collections librarians cannot succeed without effective collaboration with faculty and library colleagues. At the same time, expertise is now required in areas such as rights management and fundraising.
Meeting Type: Committee Meeting, Forum/Update/Assembly
Interests: Archives, Career Advice, Continuing Education, Librarianship, Outreach Services, Professional Development, Public Services, Reference Services, Special Collections, Technical Services, Technology
Library Type: Academic
Cost: Included with full conference registration.