Academic journal article The Hymn

Those Special Collections

Academic journal article The Hymn

Those Special Collections

Article excerpt

This fall I have been serving on a search committee for three associate directors for Ohio State University Libraries - yes, we're searching for all three at the same time. University Libraries is completely renovating its organizational structure; we have a new director of university libraries, and a generation of librarians is voluntarily retiring, so the timing was right.

This is not another column about committees, I promise. But what has been so interesting about being on the search committee is that we get to hear so many different viewpoints from all of the candidates. These are charming, well-informed people, and I have learned much from them.

What has struck me in particular is how the candidates for the Associate Director of Special Collections and Area Studies have addressed the topic of what makes something "special," or what is an "area." In the past few columns, I have casually referred to rare books and the care they require. But I didn't talk about what makes them special in the first place, and whether that is enough to warrant them being separated and cared for any differently from other materials; frankly, I hadn't thought about it that much. They are old. They are sometimes fragile. But does that make them special? Or rare?

One of my colleagues asked a candidate, "Why do you think the [X] studies collection is an 'area study'? The only differences from the rest of the library's collection are the languages that the collection uses. There's nothing unique about it, really." The candidate acknowledged his point, and then talked about the difference between unique and rare materials, suggesting that either category could support the implementation of special care. Not only that, but what constitutes "rare" is dependent on the place and population using the collection. If it is rare for the place and population, then special care should be taken for that collection. The definition of "unique" does not vary: unique is unique. It is yes or no, and if no, then perhaps it can still be rare. I had never thought about these terms this way, and I started to puzzle over the nature of the DNAH hymnal collection as the candidate continued to talk.

This same candidate went on to discuss how she had sold one of the special collections at her library to another library. …

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