The content, scope and purpose of local studies collections in the libraries of further and higher education institutions in the United Kingdom.
Nolan, Marie E.
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This research examines the presence of and reasons for local studies resources in the libraries and learning centres of further and higher education institutions in the United Kingdom. The study’s aims were to investigate the content and scope of local collections in academic libraries, to examine the impact these collections have on teaching, learning and research within the institutions, and to compile an inventory of local resources in college and university libraries. Using an approach combining basic- and applied research, the study represents the most comprehensive investigation of local resources in academic libraries so far. Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected by way of two survey questionnaires, plus observational visits to a small number of libraries, learning centres and Special Collections departments. In addition, interviews were conducted with local studies’ experts, collection managers, educators, and students. Secondary literature focusing principally on both local studies and academic libraries was also consulted. The study found that, while the literature, as well as ‘tradition’ tends to equate local studies and its resources with the public library, local material could be found in a majority of respondents’ collections. It is suggested that the relative neglect afforded local collections outside of the public sector is unwarranted, particularly when considering the potential for wider access to material that a more inclusive approach to local resources might allow for. The research also noted that the term ‘local’, as defined by the geographical scope of the material held in different collections, is open to significantly diverse interpretations, ranging from the college or university campus itself to one or more constituent countries (for instance, England and Wales). While some authors have addressed the complexity of defining ‘local’, the issue remains largely underexamined in the literature, where the term can frequently be based on little more than a tacit understanding of what ‘local’ means in any given context.