OCLC Research at the 53rd Annual RBMS Preconference

19–22 June 2012
Westin San Diego
San Diego, CA USA

The following OCLC Research staff presented or moderated the sessions listed below at the 53rd Annual RBMS Preconference in San Diego, California, 19-22 June 2012:


Tuesday, 19 June

Time Meeting

2:00–5:00 p.m. 

Technology Petting Zoo
Senior Program Officer Merrilee Proffitt and Research Assistant Ellen Ast will demonstrate ArchiveGrid.

Finding time to experiment with the newest technology can be challenging. Add to that the varying degree of unease that can come with having to learn a new technology in order to keep up with patrons' expectations. Nothing helps more than having an oportunity to spend one-on-one time with someone familiar with smartphones, tablets and more. Attendees had an opportunity to try the latest in electronic tools and software applications. Vendors and colleagues offered hands-on demonstrations of products and services that can benefit special collections libraries and archives. Attendees tested these technological tools to see what they could do for their collections and services.

Wednesday, 20 June

Time Meeting

8:30–10:00 a.m. 

Opening Plenary: Use: Digital Humanities

  • Speakers: Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, University of Maryland; and Bethany Nowviskie, University of Virginia
  • Moderator: Merrilee Proffitt, OCLC Research
Library and archival collections are meant to be used. As the information landscape evolves, the ways in which scholars work are changing rapidly. Our speakers introduced the varied world of digital humanities research and discussed how digital humanists approach (or may wish to approach) library collections.

10:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m. 

Seminar B: Work It, Baby!: The Power of Collections Assessment

Special thanks to Lisa Carter and Martha O'Hara Conway for making their slides available on our SlideShare page.

Resources Archival collections assessment is the systematic, purposeful gathering of quantitative and qualitative information about archival collections. It is undertaken for any of a variety of purposes, including appraisal (and re-appraisal); setting processing, digitization, and other priorities; conservation decision-making; supporting grant writing; and collection management. This seminar will provide food for thought and fuel for activity for those who are considering collections assessment to meet one or several institutional needs. Drawing from the recently-published Taking Stock and Making Hay report, we presented methodologies and tools that have been employed successfully by others and can be modified or used as-is; encouraged participants to consider their own needs and capacities when articulating a rationale for conducting a collections assessment; and demonstrated how collections assessment can provide compelling data that can be used to inform important decisions and secure additional resources.

4:30–6:00 p.m. 

Seminar C: Collaborative Collection Development: The New Imperative

The 2010 report of the OCLC Research survey of special collections archives showed that only 5-6% percent of the responding academic and research libraries have formal collection development collaborations in place. One of the report's recommendations was to define they key characteristics and desired outcomes of effective collaborative collection development, as well as to identify barriers that limit such arrangements. This seminar explored this challenge, which is based on the premise that increased collaboration in collection development would benefit the scholars from whom we acquire special collections. The speakers, in turn, examined current trends in collective collections for general library materials and the implications for special collections; an array of collaborative projects recently funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities; and characteristics of the collaborative Marcel Breuer archive project led by Syracuse University.

Thursday, 21 June

Time Meeting

3:30–5:00 p.m. 

Short Papers Panel 2: Future of Tools

  • Speaker: Ellen Ast, OCLC Research, " The Discovery Channel: Lessons Learned from Rebuilding OCLC's ArchiveGrid" [pptx: 3,308 KB/12 slides]

    As part of the process of rebuilding ArchiveGrid in OCLC Research, we looked back on the findings of past OCLC user studies and evaluated the results of other recent similar efforts, to update and test the validity of answers to our initial questions: Who are researchers that use archival collections? What resources do they use, and how do they search online? What do researchers want to know from the search? Along with a review of research and findings, OCLC Research's Ellen Ast presented a discussion of what changes among users and technology mean for ArchiveGrid and its role in the future of primary source discovery.

  • Speaker: Benjamin Pauley, Eastern Connecticut State University, "Redesigning the English Short Title Catalogue as a 21st Century Research Tool: A Summary of Work to Date"

    The English Short Title Catalog (ESTC), a bibliography and union catalog of everything printed in English before 1800, is in the midst of a Mellon-funded effort to redesign the project to allow for, among other things, user curation of bibliographical data, data linking to other projects, and full text searching of openly-accessible digitized works. This paper summarized our proposals for transforming the ESTC into a 21st century research tool and discuss the challenges and potential benefits we've encountered while rethinking how to make an established online bibliography more interactive and dynamic.

  • Speaker: Juli McLoone, University of Texas at San Antonio, "Outreach in the Blogosphere: A Survey of Special Collections in the U.S. and Canada"

    Blogs are becoming an increasingly important means by which special collections and archives reach potential users. This study, co-authored by Sean Heyliger, Nikki Lynn Thomas, and Ms. McLoone, seeks to provide an overview of how institutions are utilizing blogs for outreach by gathering summary data on publishers, readers, and content through a survey of the U.S. and Canada. The survey includes data on the institutional demographics of special collections departments that publish blogs, their content and goals, and self-reported readership statistics. Survey data is supplemented by an examination of scope, style, format, and topic in a cross-section of representative blogs.

  • Moderator: Melissa Nykanen, Pepperdine University

Friday, 22 June

Time Meeting

8:00–9:30 a.m. 

Seminar I: Researching Artists' Books: The Next Fifty Years

  • Speakers: Anthony Leslie, University of California, Los Angeles; Carolee Campbell, Ninja Press; Michael Davidson, University of California, San Diego
  • Moderator: Jennifer Schaffner, OCLC Research
The 2012 Pre-Conference takes place fifty years after the 1962 publication of Ed Ruscha's Twentysix Gasoline Stations, a landmark event often described as the beginning of the contemporary artist's book as we now know it. For decades after, appreciation of artists' books was for the most part limited to a coterie audience, but in recent years, interest in the field has skyrocketed, and artists' books are known to a broad audience. This seminar asks: what is the role of artists' books in the research mission of special collections, rather than the more commonly discussed exhibits and teaching with these materials? Are these artifacts requested often by researchers? How are the books used? What does the resulting academic work look like? What kinds of scholarly research do artists themselves conduct in order to create the content and context of their books? How can—and should—acquisitions programs take into account the research value of artists books when making acquisitions, especially the extraordinarily expensive offerings that are widely offered to libraries? Overall, how can special collections encourage and increase research in their artists' books collections for the next fifty years and beyond? The speakers shared with seminar participants their in-depth experiences with artists' books and research, with the goal of providing participants with new ideas for promoting research in their artists' books collections.