Our second meeting of the Journal Club in 2019/20 met on Wednesday 2 October to talk about improving access to Special Collections. Our discussion article was:
Marcella Tam (2017) Improving Access and “Unhiding” the Special Collections, The Serials Librarian, 73:2, 179-185, DOI: 10.1080/0361526X.2017.1329178
We began our discussion by talking about the image and perception of special collections, identified by the author as having a traditional image of being niche and aloof. We talked about the user experience of ‘library anxiety’ and how this might be heightened in the Special Collections context “if you don’t feel that you’re an insider and know the rules”. A user may question if their research interest is legitimate enough to be using Special Collections, and be very apologetic if, for example, they take a pen into the Special Collections reading room without thinking. But we also agreed about the value of Special Collections, both as a research experience and as ‘theatre’ – using Special Collections can be inspiring and memorable on a personal level as well as an academic one. A student experience of Special Collections can be the starting point of a lifetime’s academic journey into research. So how do we make Special Collections less scary?