“User demand for digitized collections [from Special Collections] remains insatiable.”
Actually our reading rooms aren’t empty; they are bursting at the seams. Special collections’ and archives’ use statistics zoom up each year. In fact, we set an all time record for research visits, research hours, and circulation in October at MARBL. And yet . . . I can’t shake the nagging feeling that special collections libraries have been bypassed – left behind – because our access model is obsolete. The age of the internet, mobile devices, social media, e-readers and the insatiable demand for digitized collections has laid bare for all to see that our ‘consulting-manuscripts-and-rare-books-in-a-staid-and-rarified-reading-room’ model is nothing but a late 19th century genteel tradition that is desperately in need of modification. So what now? We have content – lots and lots of rare and unique content relevant to the humanities – but how are special collections going to deliver it? I’d love to hear thoughts, advice or even rants about this because, after all, we have nothing to lose but our 19th century chains.