Mobilizing Unique Materials

Can libraries and archives efficiently deliver on the promise of unique materials? We're working to change both parts of the cost/benefit equation associated with special collections and archives. Libraries need to make these materials cheaper to describe and disclose. They need to invest only what is necessary to make them discoverable effectively. They need to make them more valuable to the institution's teaching and research and be sure the institution's stewardship contributes to its prestige.

For a complete overview of our approach to our work in this area and what we want to accomplish, see the Mobilizing Unique Materials full narrative. A list of current activities for this theme is available below.

Current Activities

Rough and Ready: Typescript Finding Aid Conversion

OCLC Research will undertake a small scale experiment to explore the effectiveness of tools and techniques for bringing offline archival descriptions to the open Web.


ArchiveGrid is a growing collection of over two million archival material descriptions that provides a foundation for OCLC Research collaboration and interactions with the archival community, and also serves as the basis for our experimentation and testing in text mining, data analysis, and discovery system applications and interfaces.

Survey of Special Collections and Archives in the UK and Ireland

OCLC Research and Research Libraries UK (RLUK) will survey library special collections holdings and practices of RLUK members & OCLC Research Library Partnership institutions in the UK and Ireland.

Demystifying Born Digital

This project focuses on enhancing the effective management of born-digital materials as they intersect with special collections and archives practices in research libraries.

Survey of Special Collections and Archives in the US and Canada

A detailed survey of more than 300 special collections and archives in academic and research libraries throughout the United States and Canada identified norms across the community as well as defined needs for community action and further research.

Sharing Special Collections

Streamlining procedures for successful delivery of rare and unique materials to users will maximize use of increasingly limited staff and financial resources.

Terms of Use and Reuse for Finding Aid Metadata

The purpose of this project is to promote a culture of sharing finding aid metadata. The project will provide recommendations on how to state the terms of use and re-use for finding aid metadata, leveraging good precedents.

Past Activities

Synthesize Research on Users Studies

This project surveyed a variety of published and unpublished user studies, and synthesized common findings.