Special collections around the world come in a wide range of formats and sizes. Together they are defined and characterised by their cultural significance, uniqueness, provenance, rarity, financial value, and by the security and storage arrangements that are required to ensure their long-term preservation and accessibility. 

The IFLA Rare Books and Special Collections Section (RBSC) would like to investigate what standards, norms, practices, laws, Return On Investment (ROI) studies, and research exist around the world to measure the different values of Special Collections, and identify the gaps where such information does not exist, with a view to draft and publish a report that can be a guide to cultural heritage institutions to formulate the questions to ask if they want to measure the value of their Special Collections as a tool for advocacy.

The RBSC Section would like to ask IFLA members, associates and volunteers to fill in a brief and anonymous survey to help us gather insights into this area of growing interest to the library community at a time when the role of libraries as knowledge hubs and the perceived values of their collections are being reassessed amid unprecedented change. In addition, we would be grateful if you could disseminate the survey to any professional networks, organisations, and individuals that you think can contribute and help us gain further insights.

We use the term ‘value’ in this survey to refer to the following concepts:

  • Intrinsic value – economic/financial, prestige
  • Value as cultural significance – research and learning, designation status (national/international importance), UNESCO Memory of the World Register
  • Added value – cataloguing, digitisation, data management, exhibitions, research, use and reuse of content, publishing, open access
  • Value as impact and engagement for communities – cultural rights, health and wellbeing, education and learning, the environment, ROI, political and civic value, rights and benefits entitlement, displaced and endangered special collections

The survey will be open until 30 October 2022 and anyone with the link can contribute. Please play your part in this important piece of work!

Take the survey