Undue Diligence: Seeking Low-risk Strategies for Making Collections of Unpublished Materials More Accessible

11 March 2010
10 a.m – 4 p.m. Pacific Time
OCLC San Mateo Office—Auditorium
777 Mariners Island Boulevard
San Mateo, California 94404

Librarians and archivists often make excessively conservative assumptions about the risk involved in copying collections of unpublished materials. The digital age has induced still more caution: many institutions have time-consuming, overly-cautious procedures, while others avoid it all together. Either way, they are unnecessarily impeding their mission to improve access. Users are not getting the improved access to the raw materials of scholarship that the networked world seems to promise—and the result constrains research and limits knowledge production.

In this event, experts and practitioners provided provocative views on getting from where we are to where we could be. We pushed outside the comfort zone, were realistic about possible perils, and suggested a way forward. As tangible outcomes, we helped to arrive at streamlined procedures that will establish a community of practice, cut costs and boost confidence in our ability to increase visibility of, and access to, unpublished materials.

All staff from RLG Partnership institutions were invited to attend this free event in person or remotely online.

The seminar concluded with a discussion of what was termed "well-intentioned practice." OCLC staff, with input from speakers and advisors, had drafted a reasonable approach to balancing risk and access when making collections of unpublished materials accessible online. The participants in the seminar discussed and improved the document. Following the meeting, the revised document was shared with the speakers, advisors, participants and a few other experts. More improvements were made. The one-page document offers a practical approach to selecting collections, making decisions, seeking permissions, recording outcomes, establishing policy and working with future donors.

A community of practice is forming around the "Well-intentioned practice for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online." Organizations and individuals are proclaiming their support to encourage others to adopt the practice.

Links to slides, audio and webinar recordings of this meeting are available in the agenda below.

This event is an output of our efforts to introduce balance in rights management.

Contact Merrilee Proffitt or Ricky Erway with questions.


Time Event
10:00 a.m.

Welcome and Introduction
Merrilee Proffitt, OCLC Research

  • Audio (.mp3: 11.9MB/13min.)

Where we are now
Moderated by Jennifer Schaffner, OCLC Research

A webinar recording of the entire morning session is available as a .wmv (182MB/2:11min.) and an m4v (53MB/2:11min.). Slides (.pdf: 4.5MB/138pp.) for the entire meeting are also available.

Rights and unpublished works—the basics
Aprille Cooke McKay, University of Michigan

  • Audio (.mp3: 32.9MB/36min.)

What it takes to be thorough: dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's
Maggie Dickson, North Carolina State University

  • Audio (.mp3: 26.9MB/29min.)

Walking the tightrope: balancing precaution and production
Rebekah Irwin, Yale University

  • Audio (.mp3: 39.8MB/43min.)
Noon Lunch
Afternoon Where can we go from here?
Moderated by Sharon Farb, University of California, Los Angeles

A webinar recording of the entire afternoon session is available as a .wmv (76.2MB/1:01min.) and an m4v (24MB/1:01min.). Slides (.pdf: 4.5MB/138pp.) for the entire meeting are also available.
1:00 p.m.

Factoring the case for fair use, and anything else in our favor
Georgia Harper, University of Texas

  • Audio (.mp3: 27.8MB/30min.)

Coloring outside the lines: assessing risk
Peter Hirtle, Cornell University

  • Audio (.mp3: 21.0MB/23min.)
2:30 Break
2:45 Discussion of community of practice
Facilitated by Ricky Erway, OCLC Research

A webinar recording of the discussion is available as a .wmv (93.7MB/1:17min.) and an m4v (30MB/1:17min.). Audio is available as an .mp3 (71.8MB/1:18min.). Slides (.pdf: 4.5MB/138pp.) for the entire meeting are also available.