The Association of Research Libraries was established in 1932 to serve and represent the interests of libraries that are distinguished by the breadth and quality of their research-oriented collections as well as the characteristics and magnitude of the multidisciplinary communities they serve. ARL has remained an important and distinctive association because of the nature of the institutions represented. The members of ARL are libraries that are part of comprehensive, research-extensive institutions in the United States and Canada that share the same research mission, aspirations, and achievements. These institutions comprise notable communities of scholars across many disciplines who are actively engaged in research and teaching and who have high levels of need and expectations for library collections and services.
In the 75 years of the Association’s history, much has changed in North American society and within libraries. In the past decade alone, the changes in systems of scholarly communication and in research library roles have been dramatic. Digital technology and ubiquitous networking have transformed scholars’ and students’ access to knowledge and to one another and, as a consequence, have transformed the process of teaching and learning, as well as the conduct of research. Everything seems to change in this highly digital networked environment: the context, methods, objects, and outputs of research change and so too have people’s expectations about access to information and the use of these resources.
In this environment of creative, fast-paced, and unsynchronized change across disciplines, research libraries are responding in many new ways. Longstanding library strategies to support novice and experienced researchers are being adapted to meet new needs. Libraries are assuming such new roles as managing digital repositories for text, images, and data generated by and for research. Importantly, libraries are forceful advocates for change in institutional practices and scholarly and research behavior that will lead to innovations in systems of scholarly communication. At the same time, core library responsibilities are sustained: research libraries continue to collect, preserve, and provide services to enable discovery and use of research knowledge in all formats. Especially as research and higher education subdivides knowledge into disciplines and subdisciplines, comprehensive research library collections and services serve as bridges that facilitate the synthesis of information that advances interdisciplinary understanding and inquiry.
ARL provides a forum for its members and acts as an advocate on behalf of these libraries to shape and influence this changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect their diverse communities. ARL also serves as a venue in which its member libraries come together to identify and articulate strategies for integrating library services into research, teaching, and learning. With 123 libraries as members, ARL is a small association and yet it represents an extraordinary North American community of considerable influence working together to support the current and future needs of local, national, and international scholarship.
Association of Research Libraries
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Washington, DC 20036
(202) 296-2296 (t)
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