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How to Have a Conversation: Values, Ethics, and Visibility in Shared Collection Building

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Conference presentation for the 2021 Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) for a panel entitled "Making the Invisible Visible: The Operational Impacts of Collection Building." Session description:

In 2018, the OCLC Research Library Partnership (RLP) convened a Collection Building and Operational Impacts Working Group (CBOIWG) and charged it with developing resources for helping repositories make better-informed collection development decisions. Informed collection development requires a strong understanding of available resources and institutional capacity for taking on the work necessary to acquire, describe, store, preserve, and make available collection material. In many repositories, however, those tasked with building collections are siloed from those responsible for ongoing stewardship and other collections-related work. This, coupled with a lack of accurate and practical information regarding resources and capacity, can make applying a holistic approach to acquisition, appraisal, and stewardship decision-making especially challenging.

Released in March, “Total Cost of Stewardship: Responsible Collection Building in Archives and Special Collections” puts forward the concept of Total Cost of Stewardship, which is defined as all of the costs associated with building, managing, and caring for collections so they can be used by and useful to the public. The report is accompanied by an annotated bibliography and a suite of tools, including forms and templates for collecting and sharing information with a variety of stakeholders and an Operational Impact Estimator that uses repository-supplied data to categorize and calculate the costs associated with bringing in and making available a particular collection.

In this session, members of the CBOIWG will share their experience piloting some of the tools, with the goal of providing context for participants to consider the opportunities and challenges associated with implementing, at their own institutions, one or more of the elements of the Total Cost of Stewardship framework. Four presentations, in the form of case studies, will be followed by a structured Q&A in which participants will have an opportunity to reflect on and share -- in small groups and with the larger group -- their thoughts on a variety of implementation implications, especially those having to do with making invisible labor visible, professional and paraprofessional relations, power dynamics, and management, leadership, and empowerment of others.

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Presentation with notes