An accurate census of archival collections enables an institution to act strategically in meeting user needs, allocating available resources and securing additional funding. The systematic gathering of quantitative and qualitative data about collections (including processed, under-processed and unprocessed collections) makes possible the provision of basic and consistent collection-level descriptions; affords a better understanding of unmet preservation needs; and informs important decisions regarding collection management, processing priorities, selection, and other activities associated with digitization and exhibit preparation. Although a number of institutions have undertaken collections assessments, a single, commonly-understood approach does not exist. This report identifies projects and methodologies and suggests areas that need work. The goal of the report is to make it easier for institutions of all types to undertake collections assessments and to encourage a community of practice.
Written by Martha O'Hara Conway, University of Michigan, and Merrilee Proffitt, OCLC Research, this report is the result of a working group convened by OCLC Research that reviewed a number of existing tools and methodologies for collection assessment, hoping to recommend a common approach. In the end this was not deemed practical, as institutional needs (the "why" of doing collections assessment) vary considerably.
This report is the latest in a series of OCLC Research reports about how to increase access to special collections that have resulted from our work under the thematic focus of Mobilizing Unique Materials.
Read the report, Taking Stock and Making Hay: Archival Collections Assessment
Learn more about the OCLC Research project associated with the report, Develop a Holistic Approach to Archival Collections Assessment