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David Grabitske

David Grabitske is the manager of outreach services at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Wall Street Journal for Friday November 26, 2010 carried an article by Paul Sonne, “Price Hikes Put U.K. Libraries in a Bind.” When it comes to relevance in an age of near universal expectation that people should be able to have electronic access instantly, historical organizations are often said to face many of the same issues as libraries.

Indeed, libraries and historical organizations have a lot in common, and the two can often learn much from one another particularly as both struggle to address public expectation of instant online access. However, sometimes the rush toward this natural comparison fails to make distinctions between the two in sum.

The article cited above offers insight on one difference. Most local historical organizations’ budgets should not be affected by rising cost in scholarly journals, which is a distinct difference with libraries. The story highlights the rising cost of publishing journals, specifically scientific periodicals, at the same time of diminishing government resources.

Of course, the article points out that the United Kingdom’s situation is different than in the United States. And, some historical organizations, particularly larger ones, do purchase scholarly journal subscriptions. Still other local historical organizations purchase subscriptions to certain library services, such as Ancestry.com, but how many subscribe to JSTOR?

Perhaps this story suggests that one pressure libraries may feel is not one that will affect local history research libraries. Agree? Why or why not? Or, is this another case of smaller is more likely to survive? In what other ways do you perceive that local history organizations are distinct from libraries?

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One Response to One difference between local history and libraries

  1. In the broad sense, libraries and museums have a similar mission – to collect aspects of our culture for dissemination to the public.

    The difference is what specific items we collect and to a degree, how we accomplish that sharing.

    I enjoy working with our local library on projects and such, but I also understand that in other communities, that comity has not always been present.

    Reply

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