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Special collections and area studies librarians face similar challenges in the changing academic library environment, including the need to articulate the value of these specialized collections and to mainstream processes and practices into larger discovery, teaching, learning, and research efforts. For some institutions, these similarities have led to combining these areas of librarianship into a shared administrative structure. This article articulates the concept of “distinctive collections,” identifies the shared challenges of these programs, and enumerates some essential differences, as well as outlines some observations from institutions that have taken this step. It further suggests opportunities for these areas to build strength and significantly impact teaching, learning, and research together. Future research agendas that might propel further investigation of “distinctive collections” are proposed.