S.16 Thoughts on Collection Development

I ended the fall conference with a session on collection development. This session offered a wide range of experiences through lightening talks by university archivists at various sized institutions, as well as experiences from those in special collections.

The moderator of the session began her remarks by encouraging us to think about donors “as intelligent collaborators” with regards to collection development policies and practices.

Dan Linke from Princeton talked about the importance of celebrating the donor’s life with his or her descedents, ad collection development can also be a part of the grieving process once a relative passes.

Christie Peterson talked about her pilot project at Johns Hopkins last year, when she sent out a survey to 300 student groups in an effort to proactively collect student records. She noticed that of the 7 groups she eventually worked with, none of the groups used school website domains. They used google docs to create organizing documents and other platforms to promote their events and garner support. Christie will begin to crawl these sites this year.

Aaron Purcell of Virginia Tech discussed the importance of knowing which other institutions collect what you do and to communicate with them so you avoid being in direct competition when acquiring collections.

Jim Gerencser at Dickson College discussed how he is managing the acquisition of two new collections through a partnership with community groups. The community groups acquire the records from their members, in one case members of the LGBT community, and then the organization transfers those materials to Dickinson.

Overall the panelists emphasized the importance of clear collection development policies that are publicly available. They emphasized the need to development clear expectations and roles with donors and other partners.

I was surprised that no one discussed processing costs during this session. At the University of Rochester, we’ve begun to talk with donors about the costs associated with processing collections. We’re being quite careful when offered a 20th century collection, as those records are often extensive and demand much more space than our 19th collections have typically take up.

I wonder if others are speaking with donors about processing or digitization costs as part of their collection development?

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