TO: Paula Kaufman
FROM: William J. Maher
SUBJECT:Name for Rare Books Unit
DATE: November 2, 2005
In September, I transmitted to you the request from the Special Collections Division to change the name of the Rare Book and Special Collections Library to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. On October 4, you communicated to me some questions that the Executive Committee had raised in its deliberation on the issue. I have subsequently had the chance to share those concerns with the Division, and after a very useful discussion the Division reaffirms its unanimous support of the original request.
We appreciate the thoughtfulness of the Executive Committee in posing some questions that get at some key issues in the management of rare books, manuscripts, archives, and other "special collections." While we realize that the proposed name is not totally free from ambiguities, it unquestionably resolves a serious confusion that exists presently between the name of the RBX unit and the Division's overall name, and resolution of this issue is a primary reason for our original request. After a careful review of the naming conventions used at other institutions, we concluded that the library and archival fields as a whole lack any better terminology and that by changing the unit name to the "Rare Books and Manuscripts Library" we bring ourselves closer to common practice than presently.
We appreciate that there is a potential confusion that could arise internally if one depended solely on the name to determine the proper home for any given future manuscripts collection considered for acquisition by the Library. However, we believe those issues are best addressed not by the simplistic use of a name, but by a more faceted decision based on the established Collection Development Policy statements which exist for units such as Rare Books, University Archives, and Illinois Historical Survey. Any ambiguities which the Collection Development statements do not resolve are readily examined by the Significant Gifts Committee which reviews multiple issues in the acquisition of collections involving special materials, large volumes, and departures from existing collecting areas.
The Division understands the concern evidenced in the Executive Committee's questions about the continuance of the collecting and curation of several categories of special materials, but it was not our intention to have the name change suggest any departure from the existing collecting practices. (Any such changes would need to be done in a deliberative and consultative fashion through the mechanism of reassessing the existing Collection Development statements.) Rather, the primary goal of the name change was to reduce the confusion between the unit and the Division names.
We hope this will address the concerns of the Executive Committee, but if further discussion is needed, Valerie Hotchkiss and I would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Executive Committee to answer their questions.
William J. Maher University Archivist