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Society of American Archivists endorses practice recommended by OCLC Research for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online

DUBLIN, Ohio, USA, 3 October 2011—The “Well-intentioned practice (WIP) for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online,” prepared by OCLC Research, has been endorsed as a standard by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Council.

This practice provides the framework for an assertive approach to digitization of unpublished archival materials, such as photographs, letters, or the records of an organization’s work, whose rights holders are often difficult to identify and contact. It promotes a practical approach to identifying and resolving rights issues that is in line with professional and ethical standards and emphasizes a collective approach to the management of the copyright responsibilities involved in large-scale digitization projects.

This approach is the output of a 2010 seminar in which OCLC Research convened a group of experts in archives, special collections and law to develop streamlined, community-accepted procedures for managing copyright in the digital age that would cut costs and boost confidence in libraries’ and archives’ ability to increase access to unpublished materials online.

The group acknowledged that, although there is risk in digitizing materials that may be in copyright, this risk should be balanced with the harm to scholarship and society inherent in not making collections fully accessible. Based on this premise, they identified a practical approach to selecting collections, making decisions, seeking permissions, recording outcomes, establishing policy and working with future donors, which was outlined in the “Well-intentioned practice” document. Since then, a community of practice has been forming around the WIP that will increase and significantly improve access to collections of unpublished materials for the purpose of furthering research and learning.

SAA’s Intellectual Property Working Group (IPWG), which tracks intellectual property issues of concern to archivists and drafts responses or position papers as needed, provided a preface for SAA’s endorsement of this practice. Both the preface and the endorsement are available on SAA’s standards portal. The “Well-intentioned practice for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online” document is available online.

“We’re delighted that SAA and the archival community have embraced the document,” said Merrilee Proffitt, Senior Program Officer with OCLC Research. “The practices described articulate a common-sense approach already resident within the community. The preface SAA has approved to accompany the document includes some excellent information and resources, and that’s a definite plus. I think it will encourage others to take a look at the document and will hopefully lead to more materials being made accessible. That’s what excites me.”

“The IPWG was pleased with the document because it approaches copyright questions collectively and encourages movement away from a work-by-work analysis in some situations. In our preface, we emphasized that to be well-intentioned, archivists and their institutions first must be well-informed about the choices and the risks involved. Ultimately, to be valuable to the profession, the WIP and its preface need to be adopted and used by practitioners. SAA recognition as a standard will help to encourage these steps,” said Heather Briston, Head of Public Services for UCLA Library Special Collections and IPWG Chair.

By endorsing WIP as a standard, SAA joins a distinguished group of organizations and individuals that support the practices outlined in the WIP. Other organizations that have joined the community of practice by endorsing these procedures include the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the American Library Association (ALA), the Joint National Committee on Archives, Libraries and Museums (CALM), and the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA).

About SAA

Founded in 1936, the Society of American Archivists is North America’s oldest and largest national archival professional association. SAA’s mission is to serve the educational and informational needs of more than 6,000 individual and institutional members and to provide leadership to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of records of historical value.

About OCLC

Founded in 1967, OCLC is a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing library costs. More than 72,000 libraries in 170 countries have used OCLC services to locate, acquire, catalog, lend, preserve and manage library materials. Researchers, students, faculty, scholars, professional librarians and other information seekers use OCLC services to obtain bibliographic, abstract and full-text information when and where they need it. OCLC and its member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the world’s largest online database for discovery of library resources. Search WorldCat on the Web at www.worldcat.org.

OCLC Research is one of the world’s leading centers devoted exclusively to the challenges facing libraries in a rapidly changing information technology environment. Its diverse staff of research scientists and program officers investigates trends in technology and library practice to identify technological advances that will enhance the value of library services and improve the productivity of librarians and library users. For more information, visit www.oclc.org.

OCLC, WorldCat and WorldCat.org are trademarks/service marks of OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Third-party product, service and business names are trademarks/service marks of their respective owners.

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