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Making Archival and Special Collections More Accessible is a new publication whose name says it all.  The good folk at OCLC Research have pulled together seven years of research and summarised it in this handy document. Some of the content will already be familiar to readers of this blog and the Handbook – but it is all important and re-publishing it will help draw new readers to OCLC Research’s valuable work.

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Let’s share our hidden gems! Illustration from The Cabinet of Gems, by Samuel Batchelor.

The authors outline how managing unique and distinctive collections effectively and efficiently means they can add value to their parent organisations.  There are summaries of the two great OCLC surveys of the US and UK.  Several sections concentrate on metadata, in particular the use of EAD (Encoded Archival Description).

OCLC Research emphasise the need to rethink traditional archival practices in the interests of improved access: two of the reports focus on “controversial” issues: cameras in the search room and interlibrary loans and special collections (hence the allusion to the ILLiad, a kind of interlending software).  How controversial these are in the UK a couple of years on, I wonder … I’ll follow up these questions in a later post.

There is of course a North American focus to the publication, but we share common problems and the slight differences in terminology and practice are actually thought-provoking, helping us to question our own ways of working.

The publication is freely available online on the OCLC Research website.