I hope you’re not unaware of the fact that the first four books in the Innovative Practices in Archives and Special Collections series are now available from Rowman & Littlefield. The publisher has done a rather good job of promoting them, I think, but there’s not a whole lot of information about each title available on their site. So in this post and the four that follow I’ll be sharing some of the text from the introductions for the books to give you some insight into what you can expect from each title. In addition, as you may have seen if you got the publisher’s flier in the mail, there’s a discount code which will save you 20% off the cover price if you order from the R&L site: 7S14ARCH.
In each of the introductions there’s a section in common that addresses what I mean by “innovative practices.” I know that “innovative” is one of those buzzwords that’s used a lot lately, but I think it’s a useful way to describe the content of the books. Besides, the publisher probably wouldn’t have been comfortable with Some Cool Stuff People in Archives and Special Collections are Doing. Here’s what I wrote about the series as a whole:
I debated with myself for some time over the title of this series, “Innovative Practices for Archives and Special Collections.” After all, what is innovative and new to one person is often standard procedure to another. Another option was to call them best practices and follow the model of a series of similar books from the same publisher featuring case studies from libraries. But this seemed equally problematic. In a field that seems to embrace the phrase it depends as a mantra, putting forward the experience of any one archives as best practice seemed ill advised.
It is the very diversity of our field, though, that caused me to stick with my innovative label rather than shying away from it. There are new ideas in these books, or at least ideas that are new to many readers. My philosophy in selecting case studies for the books in this series has been to keep in mind a broad spectrum of readers and to position the series so that it is as valuable as possible for a diverse audience. In each book are case studies from both big organizations and small ones. Some of the creative ideas presented are being implemented with costly tools and robust infrastructures, and others are being done on a shoestring. In determining what to include, I wanted to ensure that every case study incorporates ideas that are transferrable, even if the specific implementation might not be.
This commitment to making the series broadly valuable and practical has meant striving for a balance that favors more approachable innovations over implementations that are aggressively on the cutting edge. The ideas presented here are within the reach of most archives and special collections, if not right away, then in the near future. They represent the creativity and commitment to serving and expanding our audiences that I think are the defining characteristics of the archival profession in the early twenty-first century.
Because archival functions and processes are interrelated and don’t always fit neatly into compartments and because most archivists perform several of them in the course of their daily work, the contents of each of the volumes in this series has both its own clear focus and overlapping relationships with the others. Case studies in reference and access touch inevitably on description and outreach. Because the overarching purpose of description is to facilitate use, issues relating to reference, access, and outreach are components of the case studies in that volume. The overlap of the management volume with all of the others should not be surprising, though the focus of the case studies there are more explicitly on management issues. These interrelationships are inevitable given the nature of archival work, and most practitioners and students will find all of the volumes useful.