Special Collections and Digital Scholarship



As they have for centuries, libraries can remain standing at the nexus of scholarly communication if they can pursue traditional services in modern ways. Winston Tabb of Johns Hopkins University recently made the point that “data centers are the new library stacks.” As more published information is available electronically from cloud-based providers, local libraries can become the stewards of unique scholarly data (and by scholarly data we mean all the resources used to create scholarship and new knowledge) created by faculty, and students, that contribute to the growth of knowledge. Libraries have the organizational structure and ability to potentially support long term preservation of not only the digital content, but the permanence of access that is required for scholarship. Additionally, libraries, with their understanding of copyright and ethical values of information exchange, can support Open Access publishing in its own right by leading the movement in both thought and action by becoming not only the stewards of scholarly content, but the distributors of that content as well.

It seems to me that this approach to thinking about the library, and increasing the visibility and prominence of its special and unique collections, will help libraries, especially Special Collections libraries, not only avoid the fate of Blockbuster Video, but remain relevant and important in the world of scholarship.

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