Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Is the Eaton Collection, the largest science-fiction public collection in the world, in danger?

blastr - The largest public sci-fi library in the world is under threat from new management

If you’re a sci-fi or fantasy fan who loves to read, there’s no cooler place than the massive Eaton Collection library at UC Riverside — but all that could change soon.

Housed in the UC Riverside Libraries' Special Collections and Archives in the Tomás Rivera Library, the Eaton Collection is touted as the largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror and utopian literature in the world. But a professor who works with the collection claims new management might tear it all apart.

Science fiction author Nalo Hopkinson, a professor at UC Riverside, has posted a public plea claiming that new library management plans to drastically slash the size of the collection, and those decisions have already led to several resignations and problems among the staff.

If this comes to pass, it’ll be a heartbreaking loss for one of the genre’s greatest assets. Check out an excerpt from Hopkinson’s letter below for the firsthand account:


Nalo Hopkinson - Concerned about the Eaton SF/F archive at UCR


Up until recently, the collection was being developed and managed by an extraordinarily capable and visionary staff who made the collection the wonderful resource it is. They are known and trusted in the greater SF/F community, which is a large part of the reason the Eaton has been able to attract such priceless donations of materials. It's been nothing short of a pleasure to work with the staff, and to be at an academic institution which values science fiction and fantasy and the invaluable contributions made to the genre by writers, artists, researchers, and devoted fans. In 2013, UCR approved a cross-disciplinary programme in Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies, supported by the Eaton Collection. The graduate and undergraduate courses I teach in writing science fiction and fantasy are part of the SFTS programme. We in the community know how precious and rare such institutional support is.

So I'm sad to have to report that new library administration doesn't seem to appreciate the value of the Eaton Collection or the expertise that goes into it. Since spring of this year, their accomplishments have included driving out staff members and pushing changes to collection policies that would reduce the Eaton's holdings, its value to researchers and as a repository of our community's history, and its standing as a world-class archive. Meetings with the staff of the Eaton have been productive, collegial gatherings. Meetings to negotiate with the new library administration, not so much. It's putting the faculty of the research cluster in the alarming position of having to protect the very collection we're charged with fostering. We're dealing with the new library admins' efforts to split up the collection and change priorities for what to collect (eg, e-text over print) without consulting scholars in the field, and with what we'd characterize as harassment of staff, who've demonstrated extreme competence over the years. My research cluster colleague Rob Latham has also posted about this on Facebook. (If you're on FB, you should be able to find it here.) It's time to alert the community to what's been going on, because we may need your help very soon. We're not recommending any action on your part at this point, other than spreading the word. For those who aren't on Facebook, I've replicated Rob's post below:


Why is it you never to places that are close to home? I've known about this collection for a bit now, but have yet to make my way there. By the time I build up the "want-to" I hope it's still there and available... :(


Related Past Post XRef:
Want the world's best Science Fiction And Fantasy Library? Come to LA... The Eaton Collection @ UC Riverside

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