Step One: Policies

When it finally sank in that I had the opportunity to start an archive at our library to handle the handful of collections we had already received I decided to purchase a book to help. Although I have had several courses in archives nothing really has prepared me how to start from the very beginning. I had heard about a new book for lone archivists by Christina Zamon on the Lone Arrangers listserv and decided to see if it would help out.

With my own money and SAA membership discount (always a good reason to join SAA) I made the plunge and purchased The Lone Arranger: Succeeding in a Small Repository. I decided if the manual panned out that it could be a possible purchase for the library itself otherwise this would be my personal copy that I could take anywhere with me. I then began to read and frankly did not get far past the middle of the second chapter before I decided to start applying some of the key suggestions.

On page four Christina lists elements that should be put in place when starting an archive. The first of these elements is “planning and administration.” This is closely followed by a section on creating policies on page six. The concept is to have a foundation of policies to count on and refer to for the archive. An archive is usually comprised of a collection of items that are one of a kind or very rare. These items need to be carefully accounted for and managed at all times.

Zamon breaks down policies into two areas those consisting of policies for staff and for researchers. I like others have brought these two groups together into one policy statement. While my policy is currently a work in progress I have been able to start without reinventing the wheel. My first task was to look on the Internet in order to find a policy that I could build on. My main concern was to find archival policies that reflected the concerns of small repositories especially those contained in a public library.

The original policy I found to work from is that of Gleason Public Library in Carlisle, Massachusetts. It has served as my outline which I have edited to reflect the concerns of Highland City Library and what I have called the Special Collections and Manuscript Archive. I also tapped my fellow colleagues on the Lone Arranger listserv and libraries in my local area for their policies. Several people responded including Steven Law of the Provo Library a contact I made during my library school days.

From the listserv I have received wonderful help from Michelle Ganz of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Tennessee; Renee DesRoberts of the McArthur Public Library in Maine; Amy Vilz of the Buffalo and Erie County Library in New York; and Heather Bilodeau of Camden Public Library in Maine. As I review each policy from other libraries I add relevant elements to flesh out the best policy I can possibly start with.

Zamon notes in the second chapter section on acquisitions that policies should be reviewed and approved by the institution’s governing body (p. 16). When I have completed what I believe to be a good working policy for our library I will first review that with my director and ask if he has anything of concern or suggestions to contribute. After which I will ask him to have our Library Board review and approve our policies adding it to a list of policies our library reviews on a periodic basis.

I think the main idea that I have received from reading Zamon’s book thus far is that there are many steps in starting an archive. One should never be overwhelmed at the big picture and take one step at a time. I know that eventually we will have a strong collection that patrons will be able to access both in our library and via the Internet, but right now I need to work on establishing policies for our collection.

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