Tiers for Fears report offers sensible, streamlined approach for sharing special collections

Tiers for Fears: Sensible, Streamlined Sharing of Special Collections, written by OCLC Research Program Officer Dennis Massie, presents strategies for providing efficient and affordable interlending of actual physical items from special collections for research purposes, as well as advice on determining if a loan is the most appropriate way to fulfill a particular request. 

A working group made up of resource sharing supervisors and special collections curators from OCLC Research Library Partnership institutions created a set of tools that will help institutions reconsider and streamline their processes for handling loan requests for special collections materials.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Lending physical items from special collections is now more common than not, at least within consortia.
  • A sense of good will exists in the ILL community toward institutions that are willing lend special collections.  
  • Sometimes only the loan of physical items from special collections can satisfy a request.
  • The rareness and condition of an item significantly impacts the lending decision.
  • Risk is the most common reason for not sharing returnable special collections.
  • The dominant factor in determining the level of lending effort and overhead is attitude toward risk.
  • A tiered approach to streamlining workflows associated with lending special collections can be invoked based on the material, the request and the risk tolerance of curators and administrators.
  • Trust must exist not only between borrowing and lending institutions but also between ILL and Special Collections.

Also included in the report are a model written sharing policy, a facilities "trust" checklist, and a flexible, tiered framework for getting to a sensible "yes" as often as possible.

For more information:

Dennis Massie
Program Officer
OCLC Research

Melissa Renspie
Senior Communications Officer
OCLC Research


Related resources:

Tiers for Fears: Sensible, Streamlined Sharing of Special Collections

Report overview page

OCLC Research theme:
Mobilizing Unique Materials

Related activity page:
Sharing Special Collections

Dennis Massie's bio page

Suggested citation:
Massie, Dennis. 2013. Tiers for Fears: Sensible, Streamlined Sharing of Special Collections. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research. http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/library/2013/2013-03.pdf.