Looking back to Karen Munro’s Seattle session before heading to New Orleans

At last year’s Seattle conference, Karen Munro, Head of Portland Library & Learning Commons from University of Oregon Libraries presented: Not just a room of stuff: Architectural material collections 101.  She discussed her findings from touring six materials libraries across the US.  Her talk was a part of the session: Building New Models: Library as Learning Lab.

Karen’s project culminated in a report available through her University’s digital repository.  I thought this group would be very interested in her results:

from Karen Munro:

In 2014, my small Portland branch of the University of Oregon Libraries accepted a large donation of material samples from a local architecture firm.  With the donation came new responsibilities—to figure out how to curate, store, manage, and grow a material sample collection.  To learn more about what others had already discovered, I visited six material sample collections around the country and compiled a report on their differences, similarities, and lessons learned.  The full report is freely available through the University of Oregon Libraries digital repository, Scholars’ Bank.

From even this small cross-section of the material library community, I learned that there’s no such thing as a “typical” sample library.  But whether a collection is made up of 100 items or 10,000, it was clear that librarians and staff needed to clearly articulate the goals of the collection and connect with faculty, students, and the curriculum.  Having clearly-defined and agreed-upon goals helps to inform a collection policy (essential in a field without approval plans) and to standardize collection methods.  Two of the most time- and cost-intensive aspects of a material sample collection are the classification and digital cataloging, so knowing your users helps to determine where (and whether) you should spend money in those areas.  There’s plenty of room for librarians to grow in this field—consortial cataloging, core materials lists, and a national inventory of collections were all on everyone’s wish list.

My thanks go to all the librarians and library staff who generously gave their time and expertise to help compile the report.  I’d be very pleased to hear about other librarians’ experiences in building and maintaining material samples collections.


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