Special Collections in a Web 2.0 World: The Master Reading List

I teach a SJSU special collections seminar this spring. It’s time to revise my syllabus! Would you like to help warp  shape the budding professionals of our field?

Tell me in the comments: what am I missing?

Required Textbooks: (i.e.: BUY THESE THEY WILL BE USED)

Gailbraith, S.K. & Smith, G.D. (2012). Rare book librarianship: An introduction and guide. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1591588812

Whittaker, B. & Thomas, L. (2009). Special Collections 2.0: New Technologies for Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Archival Collections . Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1591587204

Recommended Textbooks: (i.e. Know that these exist, there may be some readings from them, generally not required purchase)

Eliot, S., & Rose, J. (2009). A Companion to the History of the Book . West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. Available through Amazon: 140519278X

Steele, V. (2000). Becoming a Fundraiser: The principles and practice of library development (2nd ed.). American Library Association. Available through Amazon: 0838907830

Theimer, K. (2010). Web 2.0 Tools and Strategies for Archives and Local History Collections. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers. Available through Amazon: 1555706797

Carter, John. ABC for Book Collectors. Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2008. Available online: www.ilab.org/eng/documentation/29-abc_for_book_collectors.html

Additional Resources for specialization:

Mitchell, E., Seiden, P & Taraba, S. (2012) Past or Portal? Enhancing Undergraduate Learning through Special Collections and Archives. ACRL publications.

Brown, A. (2013) Practical Digital Preservation: A How-To Guide for Organizations of Any Size. Neal Schuman Publishers.

Week One: Introduction and Overview of Special Collections 

  • Also, take a look at this video from the Folger on the proper handling of rare materials.

·       Captioned Text for Handling Rare Materials Video


Week Two: What “Rare Book People” assume you know: Bibliography, Bibliophily, and History of the Book: a crash course.

  • RBM v.10, no.1 This issue resulted from the 49th RBMS Preconference. Please skim the contents, and pay particular attention to Jackie Dooley’s article “Ten Commandments for Special Collections Librarians in the Digital Age.”
  • Rare Book Librarianship, Chapter 2
  • “Why bibliography matters” by T.H. Howard-Hill in A Companion to the History of the Book, ed. Eliot and Rose. [Available as an Ebook for A Companion to the History of the Book in King Library; there are limited simultaneous users, so you may want to get your own copy] You may also want to skim the other articles about the making of medieval manuscripts and early printing.
  • Bibliography Defined by Terry Belanger

For further reading (not required, but if you want to know more):

  • This is the first in a series of YouTube videos that demonstrates how Medieval manuscripts are made/recreated. They are worth a view. 🙂

·       Captioning for Medieval Manuscript video

Weeks Three & Four: Collection Development (acquisitions, purchases, gifts, records management)


Weeks Five and Six: “Rare book cataloging” & classification and Collection Management

Weeks Seven & Eight: Outreach & Instruction

  • Special Collections 2.0 Chapters 1 & 2
  • Rare Book Librarianship Chapter 10
  • Traister, Dan. “Public Services and Outreach in Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Libraries.” Reprinted from   Library Trends, Volume 52, Issue 1, 2003, pages 87-108.(Link to open-access PDF copy of article)
  • RBM Vol, 13, No. 2 (Fall 2012) Assessment special issue. Be sure to skim the whole thing. Try this link if the one above doesn’t work.

Week Nine: Preservation Week: From Paper to Digital

Week Ten: Special Collections Administration

  • Special Collections 2.0, Chapter 3.
  • Rare Book Librarianship; skim chapter 5; Read Chapter 6 closely!
  • Reese, Jr., Garth D. “An Examination of the Role of Participatory Management in Academic Special Collections Departments.” Library Leadership & Management 23, no. 4 (September 2009): 161-167.Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed August 3, 2011). Link to article in King Library (login required)


Week Eleven: Fundraising: Donor relations & grantwriting


  • Steele, V. (2000). Becoming a Fundraiser: The principles and practice of library development (2nd ed.). American Library Association. Ebook Available through King Library: requires login, maximum simultaneous users limited. Skim this whole book if you can. Pay particular attention to the opening chapters.
  • Doan, T. and Morris. S. L., (2012). Middle managers and major gifts: Fundraising for academic librarians. The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances25(4).

Week Twelve: Copyright in Special Collections

Week Thirteen: Special collections vs. Archives vs. Museums vs. Historical Societies

Week Fourteen: The Future of Special Collections

Week Fifteen: Wrap-up; Final student presentations w/peer commentary

  • no assigned readings due to frantic writing



About Lynne M. Thomas

Lynne M. Thomas is a nine time Hugo Award winning editor and podcaster. In her day job, she is Head of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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