I had a topic in mind for today’s post, but then I ran across this document and wanted to ask some questions about it. The Library of Congress’s Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control has issued a draft version of its report for public comment (comments due December 15). The report contains findings and recommendations in five areas. One of them is “Enhance Access to Rare and Unique Materials.” The recommendations in this area are:
2.1 Make the Discovery of Rare and Unique Materials a High Priority
2.1.1 LC: Direct resources to support the discovery of rare and unique materials, including resources freed by the institution of economies realized in other areas.
2.1.2 All: Gather and share data on access paths that guide researchers to unique materials as a means to inform best practices for access in a Web environment.
2.1.3 All: Make finding aids accessible via online catalogs, and available on the Internet.
2.2 Streamline Cataloging for Rare and Unique Materials, Emphasizing Greater Coverage and Access to a Greater Number of Items
2.2.1 LC: Adopt as a guiding principle the provision of some level of access to all materials, rather than comprehensive access to some materials and no access at all to other materials.
2.2.2 All: Establish cataloging practices that are practicable and flexible, and that reflect the needs of users and the reality of limited resources.
2.2.3 LC: Encourage adoption of current rules and practices (e.g., DCRM(B) and DACS) for cataloging of unique and rare materials, including options for streamlined cataloging, and shared use of and creation of authority records across collections, as applicable.
2.2.4 All: Consider different levels of cataloging and processing for all types of rare and unique materials, depending on institutional priorities and importance and potential use of materials, while still following national standards and practices.
2.3 Integrate Access to Rare and Unique Materials with Other Library Materials
2.3.1 All: Integrate access tools (finding aids, metadata records, databases, authority files, etc.) for unique and rare materials into the information access structures that serve the institution as a whole.
2.4 Encourage Digitization to Allow Broader Access
2.4.1 LC: Study possibilities for computational access to digital content. Use this information in developing new rules and best practices.
2.4.2 All: Study usage patterns to inform digitization priorities.
2.5 Share Access to Unique Materials
2.5.1 All: Encourage inter-institutional collaboration for sharing metadata records and authority records for rare and unique materials.
2.5.2 All: Encourage libraries and archives to submit records for rare and unique materials to shared databases such as OCLC.
2.5.3 All: Examine financial and other incentives and disincentives to the sharing of records for rare and unique materials. Modify systems, practices, and agreements as necessary to increase incentives and decrease disincentives.
When I read these recommendations, I was unsure what the implications were for the archival community. Certainly there is a lot there that is consistent with our goals, but this is not my area of expertise, and I wondered if there were any potential problems hiding between these lines. I wondered what impact these recommendations will have for those of us not working at the LOC. What are the implications for archives when it says “all” should be doing something?
Have any archivists been consulted about these recommendations? Is any part of SAA reviewing them or providing comments? (Or was that done on a previous version?) Was there some previous discussion on this in the archival (or library) community that I’ve overlooked? Should we be thrilled that LOC is turning more attention to archival materials, or a little concerned about what this 800-pound gorilla has in mind? Or both?