At the University of Louisville a merger of archives and special collections had been discussed for decades, but for a variety of reasons, always dismissed. There were practical reasons in favor of it, but there were some significant internal barriers that made it easier to keep things as they were. But in 2012 things changed. Heightened appreciation for the traditional and emerging roles of special collections in university libraries, institutional budget concerns, key retirements and gradual replacement of people resistant to change, and an inclusive approach to planning, all aligned to make the merger seem like a natural progression for the departments. After years of waiting, when we acted, we acted relatively quickly, creating the new unit in less than a year. Knowing our planning period was short, we also tried to put in place mechanisms and procedures for ironing out the kinks that we knew would crop up. Although we still are identifying and addressing those kinks, each member of our staff, our institutional colleagues, and, most importantly, our users, express confidence that the merger is a success. We believe that part of that success was driven by the level of control we, as a group, exerted over the planning and execution of the merger. Our change was internally driven, but we think our experience has value for departments who face a variety of motivations for coming together.
Published in Management: Innovative Practices For Archives and Special Collections, Kate Theimer, ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.