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Control Access

Archival collections should be stored in a secure location. Only authorized individuals should be permitted to enter the collection storage area and only on an as-needed basis. Restricting access narrows the pool of individuals under suspicion should a theft occur.
ACRL/SAA Joint Statement on Access to Research Materials in Archives and Special Collections Libraries

To ensure minimum and appropriate access to archival collections:

  • Separate research and storage areas. Researchers should not have access to storage areas. Keep research and storage areas separate with locking doors and permanent walls whenever possible. Objects of particular historical or monetary value should be stored in a vault.
  • No circulation. Historical records should never circulate or be “checked out” by anyone, including staff, unless associated with authorized exhibit, loan or conservation activities and carefully documented.
  • Access only as needed. Assign access privileges to your facility and collections based on the realistic duties of each individual, including staff, the CEO, and board members, as well as researchers, volunteers, and guests. Limit access to the stacks to authorized staff, or, if necessary, to other staff, volunteers or guests temporarily authorized to enter if accompanied throughout by authorized staff. Consider adopting a buddy system under which no one is permitted to enter the stacks unless accompanied by another person who is also authorized to enter.
    Sample Policy and Procedures-Visitor Access to Collection Areas
  • Eliminate self-service access to original documents. Provide reformatted or duplicate copies whenever possible. Limit the quantity of records retrieved for and used by a researcher at any given time and ensure that records requested match the scope of the stated research topic.
  • Know who is at your facility. Use or adapt the tools provided to gather relevant information about researchers and to keep track of collections usage. 
    Sample Researcher Registration Form, required for individuals using your research room.
    Sample Research Room Log Book Page, used to record each entry to and exit from your research area.
  • Personal identification should be shown each time a researcher enters the research area. Adapt these guidelines and identify your accepted forms of personal ID.
    Sample Identification Verification Guidelines