What benefits or constraints can you imagine in a joint expanded facility for archival and special collections? What opportunities do you see for enhanced access, conservation, display and technology?

One thought on “What benefits or constraints can you imagine in a joint expanded facility for archival and special collections? What opportunities do you see for enhanced access, conservation, display and technology?

  1. I’ve been corresponding with a grad student about the role of digital collections in the library and also (especially) the archives. Here is what she has to say:

    “I am concerned about the emphasis on digital technology that we saw [in some stakeholder consultations]. I think there’s an underlying assumption that students have access to the newest and best technologies and are eager for more ebooks, but looking at ebooks on a laptop or desktop is not ideal, and many of us are reluctant to invest in new technology such as tablets or ereaders. Even on an ereader or tablet, reading can be a pain with regards to using the index, flipping through chapter headings, etc. I know the committee are working with a 15-20 year outlook and perhaps ereaders and tablets will become the norm by then and ebook technology will become a lot better, but I am still uncomfortable with the downloading of costs onto students – an ereader becomes one more piece of technology to have to buy and replace every couple of years and on a grad student budget most of us are trying to hold onto our tech for as long as we can.

    My second point is about microfilm. The architects seemed shocked that anyone is still using it and I think it really needs to be stressed that in many disciplines microfilm is an integral research tool. Most of the material historians use is not digitized and will not be digitized any time soon and I don’t know if we were clear enough about this. The material that I use has already been moved from near the readers in the basement to compact shelving on the fifth floor and I wonder how much longer before it is moved offsite altogether. Digitization would be great but the time and costs associated with it mean it is very unlikely. I’m sure the library and archives reps on the committee have also spoken to this issue but I really wanted to reiterate it as the shortage of readers with printing capacities and their poor location is probably the biggest concern people in the history department have with the library. I’m sure this is an issue in other departments as well.

    [...T]hese are very real concerns that have to do with how we use the library space and services, and it would be a shame to see the research tools that work for many students cut back on out of a belief that they are obsolete. I think digitization can work in some instances but there are a lot of caveats to it depending on the type of reading/research being done and I am wary of how it [is] being touted as a great problem solver.

    [...] I think ebook/ereader technology would have to get a lot better before I would be on board with full digitization. Just thinking with regards to using an index or looking at endnotes – I am yet to see an e format that makes it easy to quickly flip back and forth between sections or look at notes. Also thinking of preparing fields – the prospect of having to read 100+ scholarly books using current ebook technology is painful. Flipping back and forth between windows, having to sit at the computer to read… buying an ereader might solve this, but as I said [...] I’m a bit wary of the possibility we will all be expected to buy ereaders in a few years time. Another thing to potentially be wary of is the proprietary nature of ebook technology – what happens when a bunch of books are bought in one format and a few years down the line there is no longer technology available to open the files? Data migration could be a real headache. For me digitization depends a lot on the type of item – I am totally on board with digitized journals and edited collections of articles but the longer the item I’m reading is, the more I prefer a hard copy.

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