Evaluate Current Delivery Practices for Archives and Special Collections Project

Note: This project has been completed.

"Delivery is as important, if not more so, than discovery."
—Karen Calhoun

Problem statement: After users discover primary materials in our collections, they often want to use them. While some practices for delivering materials—whether digital or physical—are shared across special collections libraries and archives, local practices can be confusing and may prove difficult for users to understand and navigate. Our complex delivery processes are very costly, not just to the library or archive, but to society, in terms of what may be prevented from entering the scholarly record.

Impact: Streamlining delivery procedures to maximize use of increasingly limited staff and financial resources will improve successful delivery to users. Revisiting the reasons for providing particular services can influence implementation of service improvements and improve visibility of unique collections. Analysis of successful strategies currently practiced by a variety of institutions could help us envision system-wide consistency and efficiency.

The Special Collections Delivery Steering Committee—Cristina Favretto, University of Miami; Susan Hamson, Columbia; Mattie Taormina, Stanford—identified projects likely to encourage system-wide change. The committee articulated the following cooperative projects most beneficial for the RLG Partnership and the wider community:

  • Introduce balance in rights management, especially of digital surrogates, and recommend best practices for both users and libraries. Due to copyright concerns, a conservative approach to digitization of primary sources generally has been adopted. Should we be seeking forgiveness instead of permission? What types of assistance should we give to users seeking copyright clearances? How can we encourage consistent and less time-consuming repository procedures?
  • Streamlining photography and scanning, both by staff and by patrons, can be frustrating, time-consuming and confusing. This project will recommend best practices for scan-on-demand services, for workflow of scans into digital libraries, and for policies about cameras in the reading room.
  • Tapping users' expertise on the open Web can enrich access to special collections (see Sharing and Aggregating Social Metadata) . Strategies to pool images of unique collections in network environments—such as YouTube, Flickr or Wikipedia—make them easily discoverable and freely available for tagging and reuse. How portable is the data and how scalable is the process? What are the pros and cons?
  • Revisit practices for sharing special collections and archival materials, working with institutions that actively engage in lending. This project builds on experience gained sice the 2002 RLG Forum, Sharing the Wealth , such as how to build trust in each others' reading room and exhibition practices, judicious evaluation of requested materials requested, fulfillment rates and the staff time necessary for negotiating loans. Are there factors that inhibit use? Has digitization lessened the demand for lending? Can we recommend system-wide strategies to encourage more active lending?

Steering committee:

  • Cristina Favretto, University of Miami
  • Susan Hamson, Columbia
  • Mattie Taormina, Stanford

This project is lead by OCLC Research Program Officers Dennis Massie and Jennifer Schaffner

For more information

Jennifer Schaffner
Program Officer

Dennis Massie
Program Officer