For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Dean’s Update: Redefining the scope of library collections to ensure access to authoritative information

March 8, 2021

Two critical components of successfully ensuring access to authoritative information are the discovery and the availability of information resources. Historically, as part of their long-standing mission, libraries have built systems to enable these support elements, going back to developing cataloging methods for describing and categorizing resources for discovery and to preserving materials for their future availability.  

Nowadays, similar functions may consist of applying or extracting metadata relating to a collection, a publication or a piece of information, and of archiving data, artifacts, or digital collections. The service engagement libraries provide have expanded from personal reference consultations and instructional guidance to designing automated systems that ensure information seekers can easily access what they need.

However, seldom is anything libraries do fully or quickly replaced or discontinued. Hence as an organization, responsive libraries seem always to be in transition. 

In this issue of In Circulation, two articles illustrate extension of the scope of a library’s collections and the systems applied to their management that redefine ways to meet an essential obligation of ensuring access to authoritative information.  

For many years, the University Archives has utilized Internet Archives to capture snapshots of the University’s websites, preserving and providing access to this unique authoritative record of University activity via two external interfaces. Thanks to recent improvements the Archives staff made to the Libraries’ infrastructure, it is now even easier to discover this unique collection of University information directly through the Libraries’ online discovery search tool. In the article Drexel’s Archived Websites Now Discoverable via DragonSearch, read about these improvements and learn how interested information seekers—across many knowledge domains and with diverse queries—can engage freely and easily with this Drexel collection. 

Another article, University Archives Staff Discover Personal Letters by University Founder Anthony J. Drexel, details the serendipitous discovery of two previously undiscovered letters A. J. Drexel wrote to his son John in 1890. These long-lost letters, newly discovered in a folder of other Drexel family correspondence, have been transcribed and digital reproductions added to the new Drexel Family Digital Archive exhibit for all to access.

Although this month’s newsletter focuses on access venues that are within the Drexel University’s Archival collections, the articles aim to stimulate thinking beyond traditions of a library as a place to house and read books and journals.

Over the years, readers increasingly acknowledge that ensuring access to authoritative information entails managing services and operations to provide access to licensed e-resources, to facilitate access to collections managed by other libraries, and to guide effective navigation of Google and other search engines to discover online resources housed beyond libraries. Readers following Drexel Libraries initiatives are aware of emerging venues that will facilitate discovery and availability of repositories of data and other research output, open access textbooks, and other educational resources.

Among opportunities to ensure access to authoritative information are initiatives that other libraries are undertaking to digitize and facilitate discovery of unique collections they have preserved. The Library of Congress, for example, makes available its Web Archive Collection and other Digital Collections, thus facilitating discovery of preserved content “documenting a variety of U.S. and international organizations representing a broad range of subjects and topic areas,” as well as accessing digitized content from its collections and recorded events. Helping the Drexel community conveniently access these resources may challenge the Drexel Libraries to imagine new ”resource sharing” services to guide and facilitate their discovery.  

Finally, this issue of In Circulation includes an invitation to attend—remotely via Zoom—our annual Drexel authors celebration event. Aside from the pride to toast our creative contributors to scholarship, the event helps us identify, collect, and preserve not only information to discover who are Drexel’s authors, but also to access those physical volumes donated to the Drexel authors collection in the University Archives.    

March is the month we officially welcome spring. Traditionally many do so with taking a “spring break.” With encouragement not to travel to the beach or visit friends and family beyond our “bubble” during this second COVID-19 springtime, the Libraries suggests a different form of “travel”—through the pages of a good book. Turn to any number of venues to access information resources—including asking a librarian for guidance. Pick something that looks interesting, find a comfortable spot, and take a break with reading.

Happy spring! 

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries