Something New for Something Old: Innovative Approaches to Managing Archives and Special Collections

December 4-5, 2008 at the Union League of Philadelphia



Overview and Updates

Schedule and Speakers


Information for Attendees


Valerie Hotchkiss
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Biographical Statement

Valerie Hotchkiss is the Head of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Over the past 20 years, she has led three libraries and has extensive experience managing large projects, from implementation of an integrated online library system to renovating facilities to raising over $16 million for endowments. At the University of Illinois she has focused on making the collections more accessible through archival processing and cataloging projects. Thanks to a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, they have begun to tackle the job of cataloging their "hidden" treasures at Illinois. Over the past 2 years, over 30,000 books have been cataloged in their "Quick & Clean Rare Book Cataloging Project."

Hotchkiss is also deeply committed to furthering the profession and training new special collections librarians. To this end, she is the founding director of the Midwest Book & Manuscript Studies Program, a certificate program within the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois. She is also passionate about public programming in special collections libraries and has organized lecture series, workshops, international exhibitions, friends groups, book collecting contests, and other cultural events to attract visitors, students, and researchers to special collections libraries.

In addition to leading The Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Hotchkiss serves as Professor of Medieval Studies, Religious Studies, and Library Science. She has a B.A. in Classics, the M.L.S. from Southern Connecticut State University, and a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies from Yale University. She is the author of numerous books and articles on medieval cultural history and topics in the history of books and printing. Her most recent book, published in 2008, is English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton.

member of Cataloging and Description panel

Project Description

The Illinois Quick & Clean Rare Book Cataloging Project

With generous support from the Mellon Foundation, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has undertaken a large retrospective conversion and cataloging project that has dramatically improved access to its extraordinary rare book and manuscript collections. At the start of the project in the summer of 2006, we had 70,000 uncataloged rare and even unique items in our collections. In less than two years we have cataloged well over 28,000 titles.

We are bringing the "Hidden Collections" at the University of Illinois to light, making previously inaccessible books available to students and scholars around the world.

Best of all, we have found a way to provide excellent cataloging records for rare books, doing the work in-house and at a reasonable cost. Our catalogers adhere to very high standards, yet also process the books expeditiously, making the project incredibly economical. Based on our statistics, we have determined that the cost of making these previously "hidden" items accessible through our "Quick and Clean" cataloging procedure is less than $12 per title. Few libraries can claim to catalog even new acquisitions—much less rare books—at such a low overhead.

Through presentations like this and a project website, we hope to share the knowledge and expertise we have gained from this project so that other institutions might also begin to uncover and make accessible their own hidden treasures.



Last updated October 31, 2008 Questions may be directed to Laura Blanchard,