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I wasn’t able to get to Library Camp (Birmingham! Saturday! October! Just too complicated).  I regretted this decision as soon as I saw the many pictures of CAKE.  Fortunately these days missing events matters less, so long as kind people write them up.

I found this piece by Katie Birkwood on the Special Collections session, plus informative comments by Mike Mertens (my RLUK colleague), especially useful.   The most interesting and maybe unexpected chunk was concerned with private company collections: these are particularly vulnerable as they are hidden, may not be valued or properly managed.

Once such collections are identified as “special”, “archives”, whatever, then there are ways forward: as suggested in Katie’s piece, find partners and seek advice.  I wrote the Handbook to be useful to people in that situation and there is so much helpful material free online.  The problem lies in making that identification, thinking of such material not as random, scary old stuff, but as cultural heritage, as an asset to the organisation.  I don’t underestimate how difficult that is.  I arrived at Bradford to a similar situation: a vague awareness of old stuff, most of it completely unmapped, made available in random ways if at all, badly stored, hidden … and that was at a university library.

Discussing special collections at events aimed at all librarians, as with Library Camp, is one way to raise awareness.  Worth bearing in mind …

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