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Are you struggling with increasing numbers of users, demand for digital, crumbling collections, unsuitable storage space, intellectual property conundrums, born-digital collections, lack of skills, pressure of public sector cuts and recession …?  You are not alone!

Fragile pamphlet

Poor thing! This is one of the MILLIONS of objects in UK libraries and archives with preservation problems. The cover of this pamphlet is made of acidic paper which has crumbled (actually, since this image was taken, this item was conserved and is now happily living in Special Collections – but most of its friends are still in a bad way).

Two essential new reports reveal the challenges faced by UK special collections and archives and give us the evidence we need to seek improvements, whether in our own organisations or collectively.

Peach, Caroline and Foster, Julia (2013) Knowing the Need: optimising preservation for library and archive collections. BLPAC.
Currently in draft form, report analyses collection care in 86 libraries and archives in the UK, from assessments carried out between 2006 and 2011.  It’s not all good news, as you will see.  I’m taking part in a conference on 1 March to discuss the reports’ findings and explore ways of improving collections care.

Dooley, Jackie M., Rachel Beckett, Alison Cullingford, Katie Sambrook, Chris Shepard, and Sue Worrall (2013) Survey of Special Collections and Archives in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  OCLC Research.
When I was writing the Handbook, I really valued the US version of this survey. So much evidence about the ways Special Collections are managed and how they are changing.  I kept thinking, I wish we had such a survey for the UK!  Now we do.  Enjoy!

I don’t have time today to begin to reflect on the masses of valuable information in both reports –  when I get a moment, I’ll be blogging over on Collections in a Cold Climate.  I’ll look at how the service at Bradford compares to the bigger picture and will be really interested to see what other people make of the findings of the reports.