Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Conceptualising the library collection for the digital world: a case study of social enterprise (by Angharad Roberts)

Collections have historically been central to a library’s purpose. However, the term ‘collection’ seems surprisingly ill-defined in library literature. Collection-focused sub-disciplines of librarianship only emerged relatively recently: the concept of collection development appeared in the 1960s, followed by collection management in the 1980s. In more recent discussions, it has been suggested that concepts such as content management or knowledge management may provide more appropriate frameworks for considering the changing role of library and information services within organisations. New digital formats present new challenges and opportunities for library collections as demonstrated by electronic journals and e-books, projects to assist with data management or open access publishing for research, and by initiatives such as the Library of Congress’s tweet archive. The digital environment also has the potential to improve access to content from traditional printed materials, through digitisation projects or increased information sharing about library collections through online catalogues and collection data mining. New technologies also provide new ways of working, enabling greater customisation or personalisation of information about resources and facilitating greater user interaction and involvement with collection development and management processes through, for example, patron-driven acquisitions or tagging and commenting.

Social enterprise is an emerging interdisciplinary field, focusing on businesses with a social purpose. Information relevant to social enterprise may potentially be found in the collections of a wide range of different types of library. Social enterprise stakeholders include practitioners and academics and come from a wide range of different backgrounds, professions and organisations, potentially having access to a number of different library collections.

A case study of collections for social enterprise should therefore provide a valuable opportunity to explore broader issues relating to the development, management and use of library collections in general. The research will take a mixed-methods approach, using interviews, questionnaires and collection data to explore these issues.

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