Please note: This experimental research project has concluded.
The research prototype application is no longer supported or maintained by OCLC services, and information on this page is provided for historical purposes only. Some portion of this content may be out-of-date and include broken links. Please visit the OCLC Research website to learn more about our current research.

Missing Materials Beta Procedure

The working group developed "proof-of-concept" policies and procedures to experiment using network effects of to broadcast centralized information about missing and stolen unique and rare materials.


The loss of materials held in libraries and archives worldwide is a concern not only for owning institutions, but also for the international antiquarian book trade and global law enforcement. Centralized, highly visible exposure of "missing materials" is needed to help identify stolen materials, recover missing items and deter future crimes.


Rare book and special collections communities--including both institutions and the trade--enthusiastically endorse complete transparency concerning loss and theft of valuable rare books and special collections. The Missing Materials project has evolved to develop a "beta" procedure for cultural heritage institutions to demonstrate their commitment to transparency about stolen and missing materials.

In order to deter thieves, prevent inadvertent purchases and recover valuable stolen cultural materials, OCLC Research, the RLG Partnership, the RBMS Security Committee and the ABAA convened members of the cultural heritage collecting community to explore strategies for sharing reliable information about missing rare books and other materials. The goal was to surface current policies and procedures and discuss what's lacking in current practice for dissemination of information about missing materials.

The WorldCat bibliographic database was suggested as the center for collecting and broadcasting this information. The group quickly agreed that widespread support and community participation will be essential to the success of such a program.

We explored the following questions as first steps toward defining functional components for attaching information about missing materials to WorldCat records:

1. What are the necessary elements of a process that would be implemented by trusted special collections booksellers and librarians and could also be made available to a network of interested parties?

2. How should information about stolen materials be broadcast and accessed?

3. What metrics should be gathered (i.e., how many items have been listed, how many inquiries have been made, how many stolen materials have been recovered)?

4. How can we minimize overhead, reduce obstacles, eliminate bottlenecks and ensure that only minimal costs are associated with participation?

What types of materials should be included? Should this procedure be used only for rare books?


The blog is available as read-only through the end of 2012.


A webinar was held twice on Tuesday, 11 May 2010, at 10 am and 4 pm EDT, to accommodate attendees in different time zones.

Presenters included:

  • Katharine Kyes Leab, Editor-in-Chief, American Book Prices Current
  • Richard Oram, Associate Director, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin
  • Maria Holden, Prudence Backman and Brittany Turner, New York State Archives
  • Merrilee Proffitt, Senior Program Officer, OCLC Research
  • Jennifer Schaffner, Program Officer, OCLC Research

... and members of the RLG Partnership's Working Group on Missing Materials (listed below).


  • Schaffner, Jennifer. 2010. "Commit to Transparency: Blog Your Thefts." Archival Outlook, March/April: 6-7. 

Audio Recording

Jennifer Schaffner's presentation on on ALA panel "To Catch a Thief: Cataloging and the Security of Special Collections."


Use of our prototypes is subject to OCLC's terms and conditions. By continuing past this point, you agree to abide by these terms.

Try the online demo


This beta procedure "tags" records in that automatically feed to the blog. Simultaneously, holdings are set in WorldCat to provide centralized, highly visible exposure of "missing materials" to help identify stolen materials, alert prospective buyers and sellers, recover missing items and deter future crimes. 




Jennifer Schaffner

Eric Childress