Appalachian Collection Development Initiatives at the University of Kentucky

This article appeared in the Volume 4, Issue 1 Spring/Summer Winter 2023 issue of the Appalachian Curator. Click here to view a PDF of the full issue.

By Matthew Strandmark, Appalachian Studies Academic Liaison, Margaret I. King Library, University of Kentucky

For over a century, Appalachian archivists, librarians, and cultural heritage professionals have actively curated and collected some of the most valuable archival and primary source materials in the world. As Appalachian archivists, our day-to-day responsibilities and professional interests often focus on these valuable archival resources. Yet many of us are also responsible for collecting Appalachian materials in general or circulating collections at our institutions. Secondary sources on Appalachia go hand in hand with outstanding archival collections, as they often provide students with access to scholarship and knowledge essential to their research. What’s more, they can act as powerful examples of what students can achieve by engaging with unique archival collections and act as guideposts for what students can achieve, and how they can achieve it. The role of both primary and secondary materials in an Appalachian research collection was described in 1976, when Cratis Williams called on Appalachian regional colleges and universities to build research collections containing both primary and secondary materials about the region.

With this in mind, the University of Kentucky is embarking on a new initiative focused on expanding Appalachian holdings in our circulating collections. The goal of this initiative is to collect comprehensively in the central Appalachian region, and to create a research collection that contributes to the work of students, scholars, faculty, and community members who may turn to the University in order to create new Appalachian scholarship. This involves an increase in funding for purchasing both print and digital resources related to Appalachian Studies, as well as close collaboration with the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center and Appalachian Studies Department.

In addition to ramping up collecting in this area, the University of Kentucky is also interested in building a more cohesive regional network of Appalachian subject liaisons or collecting librarians with responsibilities in this area. Are there cooperative collecting strategies for different areas or topics that could contribute to a well-rounded network of library holdings in the region? Are there steps we could take toward building a consortium of central Appalachian libraries in order to more effectively build a cohesive regional collection?

To this end, we continue to seek and build a group of librarians with interest in this initiative and whose institutions share these goals. We seek to foster more communication and collaboration between institutions, while also exploring new avenues for collection development. Inherent in this initiative is a focus on supporting the work of Appalachian authors and regional publishers. We also want to make this work more visible to librarians responsible for collecting in this area, whether in outreach for new projects, or coaxing major vendors to call out works created in Appalachia.

If you or your institution are interested in being involved in these conversations, please contact Matthew Strandmark ( We are excited to partner with institutions across Appalachia to make these goals a reality and to better serve our students, patrons, and researchers.

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