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Employ Sound Human Resources Practices

Because staff, interns, and volunteers account for nearly half of all historical records thefts, it is important to exercise care in selecting your workforce.

Policies and Procedures

Safe hiring and recruitment rely on consistent adherence to sound written policies, which should cover the entire process from position announcement through appointment. Be sure to consult with your organization’s counsel and human resources department, if available and to review any existing labor contracts during the development and implementation of your recruiting and hiring practices.

Hiring Staff

Applications and Résumés

Requiring a standardized application in addition to a résumé will ensure that you obtain information that might remain undisclosed if left to the candidate’s discretion. Consider requiring or requesting the following information:

  • Legal name and contact information.
  • Legal addresses for last 7-10 years.
  • Educational background.
  • Employment experience for previous 5-10 years, with explanations of gaps and contact information of supervisors.
  • Consent for current employer to serve as a reference (with contact information).
  • References (with contact information) from previous supervisors and/or colleagues or co-workers.
  • Whether applicant has ever been dismissed from employment or convicted of a crime, with explanations. (Include notice that neither circumstance represents an automatic bar to employment; each case is evaluated on individual merits in relation to the duties and responsibilities of the position for which candidate has applied.)
  • Signed statement confirming accuracy of the information provided, authorizing investigation of said information, and noting possible disqualification from employment if omitted or inaccurate information is discovered.


Interviews are an important opportunity to assess the candidate and how they will work as a part of your team. Consider incorporating a series of integrity questions. Here are some examples:

  • If you saw a co-worker doing something dishonest, what would you do about it?
  • Have you ever experienced a loss for doing what is right?
  • In what business/work-related situation do you feel honesty would be inappropriate?
  • What would you do if someone asked you to do something unethical?

In the interview, consider offering the candidate an opportunity to modify their application and clarify any problem areas that may arise in subsequent background and reference checks.

Reference Checks

Reference checks and verification of information provided in the application are part of the due diligence necessary to protect your organization and demonstrate that you are responsible stewards of the public trust. Reference checks also provide insight into the candidate’s character, experience, and ability to thrive at your organization. Be sure to document your attempts to contact references and verify the candidate’s information. Consider Internet research to confirm and expand on reference information. Sources such as, college and university alumni associations, local news media, search engines, and other web-based services may help verify information about the candidate.

Background Checks

If a candidate has passed the application, interview, and reference evaluations, you may also wish to conduct a background check. Background checks are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and have specific legal requirements and boundaries. Under the law you must notify and obtain permission from each candidate who will undergo the check.

Before implementing a background check program, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney and, if possible, engage a firm to conduct the checks. Basic background checks are becoming increasingly affordable, with some firms offering reduced rates for nonprofit and government entities. You may choose to use background checks for positions that entail regular access to historical records and/or to the repository’s organizational records related to collections.

At a minimum, background checks should include Social Security Number Verification and searches of the National Criminal File and County Felony/Misdemeanor files.

Volunteers and Interns

The selection of potential volunteers and interns requires careful evaluation of candidates’ experience, interests, skills, and character. The tools of safe hiring can be adapted for use with interns and volunteers.  If the individual will be working regularly with historical records, records-related data, or researchers, the application and assessment process needs to be particularly rigorous.

Require all volunteers and interns to:

This process can lay a strong foundation for a safe, rewarding, and productive experience for the organization and its volunteers and interns. It also helps educate prospective professionals about the issue of security and the dangers of theft. Documenting this process assures that the organization maintains information about its workforce should an incident occur.

Personal Collecting

It is inappropriate for staff and interns/volunteers to collect in the areas that overlap with the holdings they steward.  Personal collecting is one of several characteristics of the historical records thief. At the point of hiring, in consultation with your legal council, consider requiring the following:

  • Disclosure form that indicates areas of personal research interest, collects information on personal collections of historical records, and provides the individual’s username or business name for eBay and other historical record trade forums.
  • Acknowledgement of a code of ethics that stipulates permitted types of personal collecting or selling

ACRL Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians