Standards Development and Review

Responsibilities of the Standards Committee

A primary responsibility of the Standards Committee is to oversee the process of initiating, developing, reviewing, and approving all standards developed by the Society of American Archivists through its subgroups, as well as reviewing standards submitted by external groups to SAA for its endorsement.

The Standards Committee works with groups on standards and standards-related projects from the initiation of the proposal, through development or review, to submission of the standard to the SAA Council for final approval.

For additional information about Standards Committee procedures:


The SAA Standards Committee defines a “standard” to be an industry agreement that establishes qualities or practices that make possible sharing of information, development of common vocabularies and practices, and more effective interaction among archivists, librarians, records managers, information managers, preservation administrators, historians, and other allied professionals. SAA standards must be approved by the SAA Council and they are maintained and periodically reviewed by professionals in the community.

Standards of many types are now central to archival practice. This document will generally use the term “standards” to refer to all of these types, including standards used in automated information systems, in preservation management, and in other technical areas, as well as standards and guidelines relating to professional practice.

Standards can take many forms:

  • The most exacting are technical standards (e.g., Z39.50, the standard for intersystem data searching and retrieval) which, if applied correctly, can be expected to produce uniform and consistent results.
  • Conventions or rules are more flexible and can accommodate more variation in local practice (e.g., Describing Archives: A Content Standard [DACS]). They will produce similar, but not necessarily identical, results when applied consistently.
  • Guidelines provide models of preferred practices and/or serve as criteria against which to measure products or programs (e.g., Archival and Special Collections Facilities Guidelines for Archivists, Librarians, Architects, and Engineers).
  • Best practices are procedures and guidelines based on experience and research that demonstrate that they are optimal and efficient means to produce a desired result.¹ Best practices represent consensus on archival practice.

The Standards Committee will not be concerned with the creation and maintenance of thesauri.

Developing Standards within SAA

The Society of American Archivists recognizes the central importance of consensus to the development of standards. However, consensus on a specific standard may not always equate with unanimous and unqualified approval by all concerned, for in most cases this will be difficult to achieve.

The Standards Committee procedures for standards development within SAA mandate broad review of any proposed standard by all groups, both inside and outside of SAA, that have an interest in the standard. Important features of the review process are:

  • Establishment of the need for the standard through a formal "request for initiation of a standards project";
  • Publication of notices in appropriate SAA media about initiation and ongoing progress in standards development projects;
  • Publication and/or distribution of full texts of proposed standards by the SAA office; and
  • Formal invitations to representatives from outside organizations to participate in the development and/or review of drafts of proposed standards.

The Standards Committee is concerned both with the development of new standards and with the process of standards maintenance and review.

The best possible effort will be made to ensure that all reasonable opinions are considered in the development process and that most disputes are resolved before a document is deemed ready for the Council's consideration as an SAA standard.

Final adoption of a document as an SAA standard rests with the Council of the Society of American Archivists.

Once a standard is adopted, an ongoing technical subcommittee of the Standards Committee is assigned maintenance responsibilities to ensure that the document is promulgated widely, monitored in its application, and reviewed (and, if necessary, revised) on a regular schedule.

The Standards Committee has prepared detailed procedures for standards development and review.

SAA also plays an important role as a participant in work undertaken by other organizations that develop technical standards, such as the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) and the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM).

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Requirements for SAA Standards

One of SAA’s core values is ensuring the diversity of its membership and leaders, the profession, and the archival record. We expect SAA-endorsed standards to reflect this commitment to a diverse and inclusive profession. Groups working on standards revisions or development are expected to articulate how the standard/revision addresses individual, institutional, or geographic diversity, or supports the development, inclusion, and stewardship of a diverse profession or cultural record.

For Information or Assistance

The Standards Committee is ready to assist any SAA subgroup or outside organization to devise a strategy for developing a new standard or for reviewing and/or revising an existing document so that it can be considered for formal adoption as an SAA standard. Please contact the co-chairs of the Standards Committee for further information. [Member Roster]

Approved by SAA Council: June 1995
Revised: February 2010, January 2012, October 2023, June 2024


¹ The Standards Committee has modified the best practice definition from: A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology. Retrieved May 26, 2009, from:

SAAStandardsWorkflow_20231012.pdf71.38 KB
Standards Committee_ Standard Creation_Revision_Outline_20231012.docx.pdf70.16 KB