The OCLC Research Library Partnership

Collection Building and Operational Impacts Working Group


Archives and special collections are charged both with collecting records that document our society and its institutions and with the ongoing, responsible stewardship of these records. Yet many archives and special collection units struggle to manage the volume of material under their care with significant backlogs of poorly described and preserved materials, creating a fundamental breach of the trust we hold with our donors and our users.

The profession has made remarkable strides in the last two decades to develop thoughtful, rigorous methodologies to carry out cataloging and processing work in a more efficient manner, but this work alone has only made a dent in backlogs. In addition to such methodologies, the 2017 Research and Learning Agenda for Archives, Special and Distinctive Collection in Research Libraries called for a renewed energy around appraisal as part of comprehensive strategies to fulfill our stewardship obligations.

A key to making informed collection development, appraisal, and processing decisions is a strong understanding of the necessary institutional resources and capacity for the work to preserve, describe, store, and make accessible collection material. But in many institutions, those tasked with building collections are separate from those tasked with the ongoing stewardship work of collections, and institutions may lack clear, timely, and actionable information on the institution’s capacity to care for its collections, making a holistic approach to acquisition, appraisal, and stewardship decisions especially challenging. 


This working group will explore the intersections between current collecting and collection management practices, seek ways to better integrate collection management considerations into the collection development process, and bring together colleagues across these important, interdependent functions. Taking into consideration the cost to acquire, care for, and manage an acquisition, the labor and specialized skills required to do that work, and institutional capacity to take on caring for and storing a particular collection, and borrowing from the Digital Curation Centre’s digital curation lifecycle model, the group aims to develop a lifecycle framework for thinking about the full range of resources necessary to responsibly acquire and steward archives, special, and rare book collections, and the impact that collection acquisitions have on operational capacities.

Anticipated Outputs

The major deliverables will be a white paper that lays out the ethical imperatives around collection stewardship, as well as practical strategies for enacting responsible collecting and a toolkit to help institutions implement these strategies. The toolkit may include resources such as calculators for assessing the total cost of ownership of a collection, sample documentation to help determine the overall operational impact of a potential collection, or other documentation to facilitate better communication amongst peers, decision-making for collection building, and advocacy for the necessary resources for their ongoing stewardship of those collections.


Working Group Membership

Matthew Beacom
Yale University

Heather Briston
University of California, Los Angeles

Martha Conway
University of Michigan

Gordon Daines
Brigham Young University

Andra Darlington
Getty Research Institute

Audra Eagle Yun
University of California Irvine

Ed Galloway
University of Pittsburgh

Carrie Hintz
Emory University

Jasmine Jones
University of California, Los Angeles

Brigette Kamsler
George Washington University

Mary Kidd
New York Public Library  

Sue Luftschein
University of Southern California

Nicholas Martin
New York University

Erik Moore
University of Minnesota

Susan Pyzynski
Harvard University

Andrea Riley
National Archives and Records Administration

Gioia Stevens
New York University