This compendium is a sampling of the remarkable abundance of collections available for use in the member libraries of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). It is not a comprehensive view or a directory but instead an array of profiles that exemplify a spectrum of rare and special collections in research libraries. Special collections have been broadly construed to encompass the distinctive, the rare and unique, emerging media, born-digital, digitized materials, uncommon, non-standard, primary, and heritage materials. Each profile tells a story of a single collection, briefly recounting how the resources were acquired and developed and, importantly, how they are being used.
The volume is the result of a collaborative effort among 118 ARL member libraries on the occasion of the Association’s 75th anniversary. Hundreds of people from research libraries across the US and Canada were involved in the identification of potential collections to be profiled and in the writing and photography used in the volume. From these nominations, a single collection was selected from each library by an editorial team comprised of Philip N. Cronenwett, Special Collections Librarian Emeritus, Dartmouth College Library; Kevin Osborn, Research & Design Ltd.; and Samuel A. Streit, Director for Special Collections, Brown University Library. Each expert in their own right, together these three provided experienced leadership and creativity that brought the essays and illustrations together in a way that is appealing both intellectually and aesthetically.
Significant anniversaries present occasions to celebrate past accomplishments and to anticipate the future; ARL’s 75th anniversary volume does both. The essays salute the stewardship of past decades and celebrate the research enabled by these collections. Taken together, the essays also represent a window into the future of research libraries. They illustrate some of the active library collaborations underway with faculty, students, and local and remote communities to encourage use of these materials and to identify new resources of all formats that are important to collect and steward for future users.
Put aside any lingering images of special collections as a domain reserved for specialists and enjoy this tour of how research libraries and their communities of users are engaging rare and special collections in the early 21st century.
Arizona State University
Duane E. Webster
ARL Executive Director