A proposal to change the name of the section from Rare Books and Manuscripts to Rare Books and Special Collections was distributed to the membership in advance of the meetings in Lyon.  It was discussed by the Standing Committee in Lyon and adopted unanimously.  The section chair was asked to move it forward, as appropirate. The proposal reviewed by the Standing Committee may be found here.  IFLA’s Professional Committee approved the name change in December 2014.


Beginning in 2010, the section identified a strong need to better define what is meant by “rare books” and “rare materials” as part of our strategic planning process, which pointed to the fact that the definition of “rare” was changing and that the scope of our “rare and valuable” collections had expanded considerably over the last 10-15 years. The group decided that this discussion fell squarely under two of IFLA’s key initiatives:  the Digital Content Programme (initiative 1) and the Outreach Programme for Advocacy and Advancement of the Professions (initiative 3).  This led to an extended 2-hour discussion during our second business meeting in San Juan (2011) about whether to propose a change of name for the section and considerable brain-storming about what the new name should be, weighing the pros and cons of terminology that would have relevance to an international audience and would not overlap with the names and intent of other IFLA sections.


In an effort to educate others about the changing nature of special collections and to highlight the changing competencies needed by staff working with rare books and special collections, the section held an open planning session at the World Congress in Puerto Rico called “What is rare material in libraries, and what are the consequences for actions” (session  96 / http://conference.ifla.org/past-wlic/2011/rare-books-and-manuscripts.htm).  At this session Jan Bos (National Library of the Netherlands) spoke eloquently to the topics at hand in a paper that was subsequently published as “All Books are Equal, but Some Books … Towards a Modern Vision of Special Collections,” which then appeared as the first chapter in the IFLA publication Ambassadors of the Book: Competences and Training for Heritage Librarians, edited by Raphaele Mouren (IFLA Publications 160), Berlin/Munich: De Gruyter Saur, 2012.   


At the Helsinki meeting, the Rare Books and Manuscript Section renewed its commitment to preparing a proposal to change the name to one that would be “oriented toward a more comprehensive vision of special collections.”  The proposal would be endorsed by a vote of all section members.  At the Singapore meeting, the section again “discussed moving forward with a proposal to change the name of the sections, and to bring to a close the discussions that started two years ago.”