Out of Africa
I really enjoyed yesterday’s SCOLMA conference, which looked at how the problem of hidden collections manifests itself in one particular subject area (African studies) and at various attempts to ‘unhide’ these collections (both archival and library). Since I work with materials that are relatively modern – ie post-colonial – it was interesting for me to hear about historical resources in African studies (from Salvation Army archives to sugar plantation records to political pamphlet collections) and to think about the different challenges involved in cataloguing, digitising, preserving and publicising these resources.
My talk on the BLDS Digital Library seemed to generate quite a bit of interest in the project which was great, especially when it came from researchers and other non-librarians (which isn’t to say I don’t love connecting with other librarians, it’s just really useful to talk to the potential end users of our collections, as well as each other!) I generally attend library or repository conferences which are immensely valuable but tend to remain quite firmly within the ‘echo chamber’. So I’m now wondering how to gatecrash some more academic ones and spread the word about our research resources directly to researchers…
In fact one of the recurring themes of the day was how to engage dynamically with researchers, so they can promote the value of our collections and we can get a better sense of how they are used.