The Declining Importance of Library Books and the Rising Importance of Special Collections

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on September 9, 2013

Can’t Buy Us Love: The Declining Importance of Library Books and the Rising Importance of Special Collections [Ithaka S+R]. Rick Anderson, Interim Dean & University Librarian, University of Utah.

“Research libraries throughout North America are experiencing a massive decline in the use of their general collections—their large and comprehensive collections of printed books and journal volumes purchased in the commercial marketplace. This decline is the inevitable outcome of a massive shift in scholarly publishing from an analog and print-based model to a digital and networked one. In this environment, it is no longer obvious that it makes sense for research libraries to continue their traditional practice of creating, housing, and maintaining such collections. In this paper, I will propose that we shift our focus from the collection of what we might call “commodity” documents (especially in physical formats) to another activity in which we have also been engaging for many centuries: the gathering and curating of rare and unique documents, including primary-source materials.”

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