The University of Sussex is proud of its Special Collections housed in the library, but the materials have been available to a limited audience and similar collections in other libraries and archives have been equally difficult to access. In the digital age all that is changing and increasing amounts of material is being digitized and made available to learners across the globe.
Eleanor Craig is the Digital Content Librarian and she explained to RUSTLE how Sussex is contributing to and benefitting from digital resource projects: ‘It usually starts with a publisher, after discussion with academics and feed-in from universities, deciding that they want to digitize a resource or set of resources. They will then approach the holders of materials and ask them to contribute’. This is what happened with the Rock and Roll, Counterculture, Peace and Protest resource to which Sussex contributed digitized editions of Oz magazine. The complete resource is, says Eleanor, ‘the most ideal fit for Sussex. It includes documents, images and video on the May 1968 student protests, hippies, The Beatles, Vietnam and anti-Vietnam, as well as a wealth of other interesting primary sources’. The library was pleased to be involved in this ‘communal creative experience which not only makes our collections better known but gives library users access to something much bigger’. All staff and students can use the resource and members of the public can have access in the library, the other contributing libraries also have access and others can buy the resources, so this sort of project also brings in income.
Rock and Roll… is just one of a range of digital resources which can be found on the Online Resources page of the library website and used in teaching. Students can use the material for their own research or tutors can pick out items of particular interest and upload them to Study Direct (SyD).
Digital resources have changed the face of research and brought primary sources within the reach of students in a way that was impossible not so long ago. Sussex students have access not just to local material but to collections that include rare and fragile documents from around the world. Masses of literature can be accessed 24 hours a day from anywhere with an internet connection (which increasingly means mobile devices such as Smartphones and tablets). Digital resources are easily searched, so instead of wading through heaps of papers or poring over miles of microfiche it is now possible to find just what you are looking for in a matter of moments and unlike the original materials, digital copies can be accessed by many users at the same time. Getting students involved in small research projects using primary sources is now much more feasible and these resources can really bring a lecture to life.
Eleanor loves working with digital resources and says ‘it is a privilege to be able to work in this area … the university buys/subscribes to some content that is phenomenally good and I want our users to know about it more’. The collection is not static and the process of building it is a collaborative one with academics invited to suggest new resources that will be beneficial to them and their students so please let Eleanor know if there is a digital resource on your ‘wish list’ so that it can be considered when spending decisions are being made.
Currently the collection includes a lot of materials that will be of particular interest to historians and literary scholars such as State Papers Online (16th and 17th century), Early English Books Online (EEBO), The Making of the Modern World (1453-1914), Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and Early American Imprints. Other disciplines are catered for with ArtStor which provides ‘more than one million digital images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences’; Ethnographic Video Online, which is great for anthropologists; Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice, which brings the story of slavery up to date and Reaxys, a web-based search and retrieval system for chemical compounds, bibliographic data and chemical reactions. Newspapers can also be a great resource for teaching all sorts of topics and the library has access to current newspapers and archives from a wide range of publications so that it is possible to compare reporting of key events and issues. These resources and more can be found on the Online Resources page of the Electronic Library and links to other external free-access resource collections and examples of their use can be found in the TLDU web links on digital resources.
RUSTLE is going to slow down over the summer and posts will be less frequent in July and August, but normal service will be resumed in September. If there are any topics you would like to see covered in the new academic year, or anything you are involved with that you think RUSTLE readers would be interested to hear about please add a comment below or e-mail email@example.com