Radical Conversations: Value of a Collection

Defining a Library

Dates: January 5-9, 2015
Where https://davidlankes.org/?page_id=6892
Question: Books, databases, and so on are artifacts from a knowledge creation process. As such, while important, are of secondary importance to true knowledge in our communities. That said, centuries have shown the power of collections to knowledge advancement. This question was not explored deeply in the Atlas because the focus of that work was about people, not institutions. We must challenge the belief that simply buying a book (resource) means you are providing good service to a community.
Why It Matters: How do we evaluate collection strength and the utility of the collection as tools for knowledge development? Is there a way of increasing the value of a collection by making it better reflect the conversations and expertise of the community?


Value of Collections from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

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There are two ways to share your thoughts and join the conversation. Either use the comments at the bottom of this page (including links to video or blogged thoughts), or use the hash tag #NewLibValue to comment via twitter.

6 Replies to “Radical Conversations: Value of a Collection”

  1. This is a really important question that you have stated, and it is worth a lot of thought. One thing I want to point out is that simply collecting is insufficient. We need to develop better mechanisms for making known what we have collected. That is, does the community you serve know what you have? How? Expecting people to come to you is no longer good enough. We need to get more information about what our collections hold out into the wild, where our potential users are found. How do we do this? Likely a number of different ways, that we are still discovering.

  2. There is a difference between hoarding and collecting. we have to make sure that we collect information that is relevant to the needs of users. We also MUST manage those collections to ensure that relevant and useful information is not obscured by drek. Of course, the definition of drek is context-specific, and should be developed in concert with the communities we serve.

  3. I think that we also need to develop creative programming that brings unknown collections “to life.” For example– we have an amazing book arts collection here at Hamilton that was hardly being utilized. Last spring, a visiting faculty member curated a show for the library and provided a lecture/walking tour of the exhibit (allowing audience members to interact with the materials, and even contribute a page to a book that was created during the talk). This was followed up by a hands-on book making workshop in the library, and eventually led to a faculty working group devoted to book arts. Because of this programming, faculty members are starting to incorporate the collection into the curricula. This is just one example– you could take almost any interesting collection and design creative programming around it…

  4. Thanks for unpacking this thought provoking (and apparently existentially challenging!) topic David. As someone who has just recently begun focusing on digital collection development after many years working as an Outreach & Engagement Specialist at an academic Land Grant Library, I see collections more in the context of community developer than archivist. In my case those communities might be of place, practice or inquiry, and they increasingly exist and interact at least partly within a networked environment. I’m particularly interested in finding ways to collaboratively develop our collections in partnership with the communities I serve, providing 1) multiple pathways for discovery, learning and repurposing of content within and across them, and 2) connected platforms or spaces for discussing those collections, and the creation of new knowledge. I’ll admit it’s a steep and challenging learning curve, but I’m finding your work and many others, including those outside the library world useful. Demonstrating or even talking about impact within what I refer to as a knowledge ecosystem using traditional, static metrics can be difficult. Work like “Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks” from Wenger et al is providing some useful frameworks for that. Onward!

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