The Non-ARL Survey Article is Live!

Since this article began as a series of blog posts on here, I thought it would be good to post the results on here. BEHOLD: after five years, several major family health crises, and a pandemic, I’m thrilled to share Special Collections on a Shoestring: A Survey of Non-ARL Libraries Servicing Rare Book Collections. (This is open access!)

Thomas, Lynne M. “Special Collections on a Shoestring: A Survey of Non-ARL Libraries Servicing Rare Book Collections.” RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage [Online], 23.2 (2022): 75. Web. 29 Nov. 2022


This article reports the first national survey that creates a baseline for documenting the experience of working with rare books in libraries without Association of Research Libraries (ARL) membership: a group of libraries that make up about half the field of librarians working with rare books. Scarcely studied despite decades of comparable studies of their ARL library colleagues, librarians working in non-ARL rare book collections have comparable demographics, professional training, and standards for their work as their peers in ARL libraries. Their experiences doing the work in non-ARL libraries demonstrate a significant disparity in resources for acquisitions, security, staffing, and fundraising. These experiences of half of the special collections professionals in the field require further study, reintroducing their narratives into our understanding of “what rare books librarianship looks like.”

Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete the survey, and thanks especially to the following colleagues who were instrumental in guiding me in the preparation of this article: J.J. Pionke, Thomas H. Teper, Karen Hogenboom, Karen Retzer, Laura McCullough, Mary Lee Kennedy, and Richard Saunders.


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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