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Book Reviews

RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage reviews books, reports, new periodicals, databases, websites, blogs, and other electronic resources, as well as exhibition, book, and auction catalogs pertaining directly and indirectly to the fields of rare book librarianship, manuscripts curatorship, archives management, and special collections administration. Publishers, librarians, and archivists are asked to send appropriate publications for review or notice to the Reviews Editor.

Due to space limitations, it may not be possible for all books received to be reviewed in RBM. Books or publication announcements should be sent to the Reviews Editor: Amy Cooper Cary, Raynor Memorial Library, Marquette University, 1415 W. Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53233-2221, e-mail: amy.cary@marquette.edu, (414) 288-5901.

Developing Digital Scholarship: Emerging Practices in Academic Libraries. Alison MacKenzie and Lindsey Martin, eds. Chicago, Ill.: Neal-Schuman, 2016. Softcover, 192 pages. $70.00 (ISBN 978-0-8389-1555-4).

Digital Library Programs for Libraries and Archives: Developing, Managing, and Sustaining Unique Digital Collections. Aaron D. Purcell. Chicago, Ill.: Neal-Schuman, 2016. Softcover, 256 pages. $85.00 (ISBN 978-0-8389-1450-2).

Digital scholarship is a growing area of interest in the affiliated library professions. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is trying to better support Special Collections librarians working on digital projects through the Rare Book and Manuscript Section’s Digital Special Collections Discussion Group, and through the newly formed Digital Scholarship Section, which brings together previously separate interest groups for digital curation, digital humanities, and numeric and geospatial data services. A growing number of volumes have also been published in recent years about how libraries and librarians are either supporting digital scholarship or building digital collections.

This review seeks to encourage conversation about points of intersection between digital scholarship and digital collections. They are not exactly two sides of the same coin, but they are related in that digital scholarship often comes out of digital collections. Additionally, it seems to be an ideal time for the rare book and manuscript community to explore involvement in digital scholarship communities because digital programs and digital scholarly practices are still perceived as exploratory spaces, as indicated by the use of the word “developing” in both titles. Digital library program development can be undertaken with at least a partial eye toward the scholarship or other projects that might be produced from digital collections.

The articles in Alison MacKenzie and Lindsey Martin’s book, Developing Digital Scholarship, focus on the dynamic and changing landscape of supporting all matters digital in libraries. This volume is divided into four sections: a review of the landscape, the agile librarian, digital spaces and services, and communication and social networking. Each section focuses on key areas of development for librarians supporting digital scholarship. The writing across the chapters is not entirely even, which resulted in some topics being presented more persuasively than others. I was particularly impressed with Lindsey Martin’s survey of the landscape of digital scholarship (“The University Library and Digital Scholarship: A Review of the Literature”) and David Clay’s discussion of scalable services (“Building Scalable and Sustainable Services for Researchers”). New and emerging digital scholarship librarians might also find Alison Hicks’ chapter on professional development particularly inspiring (“Developing Digital Scholars: From the Ivory Tower to the Twittersphere”). Alongside these high points in this volume, Developing Digital Scholarship excels at making a case encouraging librarians to change their mindsets about what constitutes the scope of the librarian in the information cycle. MacKenzie and Martin sum it up succinctly: “The biggest digital scholarship challenge we face, therefore, is not actually the technology or associated skills. It is to develop a mindset which is collectively comfortable with the dynamism of scholarship in the digital environment and which understands the need for staff to be adaptable, outward looking and forward thinking” (175). Although its intended audience is not necessarily rare book, manuscript, and special collections librarians, this book should make all librarians and archivists feel welcome to the digital scholarship table. I found it helped me to generate new ideas about implementing digital project workflows.

Aaron D. Purcell’s Digital Library Programs for Libraries and Archives seeks to reach archivists, as well as librarians, and provides a nice counterpoint to the larger ecosystem of digital scholarship discussed in Developing Digital Scholarship. This volume is divided into three sections: “The Theory and Reality of Digital Libraries,” “Building Digital Library Programs: A Step-by-Step Process,” and “Digital Library Planning Exercises.” The greatest emphasis is given to the practical matters associated with developing digital collections. The greatest strengths of this volume lie in its practical, step-by-step questions and exercises, which facilitate planning for, building of, and sustaining digital collections. Purcell attempts to be realistic about the state of budgets and constraints of staff time in the exercises. If you are in a library or archive looking to begin curating digital collections or to focus existing digital initiatives, Digital Library Programs for Libraries and Archives offers readers an opportunity to get the juices flowing. Purcell remains eternally hopeful that even a small and underfunded library can create, maintain, and market a digital library program or at the very least create digital collections. The volume’s practical approach complements the essays in the volume by MacKenzie and Martin. One can imagine, for example, that the accomplishments described in Developing Digital Scholarship began at one point with the types of exercises in Digital Library Programs.

Both of these volumes offer something different to librarians and archivists, one focusing on digital scholarship and the other on digital collections. Although work done by digital scholarship librarians may be seen as out of scope for rare book and manuscript librarians, the archival work done by scholars, students, and fellow librarians to produce digital scholarship is a natural point of intersection with digital collections. All of the hard work undertaken to create metadata and prepare special and unique collections for digital access and discovery will see further reach with every new example of digital scholarship using rare materials. Because digital scholarship is still a relatively new area of librarianship and because many libraries are still developing their digital collections, it is an ideal time to take advantage of this mutual growth to benefit both digital collections and digital scholarship. Indeed, the longevity of digital collections is at stake: Aaron D. Purcell’s volume will get you started, but Alison MacKenzie and Lindsey Martin’s volume should be part of your endgame.—Michelle Urberg, ExLibris



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