Making Archival and Special Collections More Accessible

An OCLC Research Report

Forward by James Michalko

Making Archival and Special Collections More Accessible represents the efforts of OCLC Research over the last seven years to support change in the end-to-end process that results in archival and special collections materials being delivered to interested users.


  • Institutions should undertake an accurate census of their archival collections as a foundation for acting strategically in meeting user needs, allocating available resources, and securing additional funding.
  • Accurately describing unprocessed and therefore hidden collections is a daunting but important task that is a necessary prerequisite for discovery.
  • Practitioners should go beyond traditional bounded practices in order to satisfy their users who have discovered special collections and archival materials.
  • Interlending of actual physical items from special collections for research purposes should be supported.
  • The unique materials stewarded by our institutions need to release their value to a global audience of researchers in ways that will enhance the reputation of the steward. This will happen only when we devote structured effort to the full range of selection, description, discovery and delivery.

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Revealing hidden assets stewarded by research institutions so they can be made available for research and learning locally and globally is a prime opportunity for libraries to create and deliver new value. Making Archival and Special Collections More Accessible collects important work OCLC Research has done to help achieve the economies and efficiencies that permit these materials to be effectively described, properly disclosed, successfully discovered and appropriately delivered. Achieving control over these collections in an economic fashion will mean that current resources can have a broader impact or be invested elsewhere in other activities.

Much of the work represented in this compilation was done with the specific advice, guidance or participation of the staff at OCLC Research Library Partnership institutions. OCLC is grateful for this relationship, privileged to provide this venue, and committed to listening and leading in this Partnership.

This publication will be beneficial to anyone interested in enhancing the library's value proposition by mobilizing unique materials in the networked environment.

For more information about our work in this area, see our Research Collections and Support theme page.

Suggested citation:

Making Archival and Special Collections More Accessible. 2015. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research.