JTF-HCM Guidelines 2018: Overarching Approach


Described below are four “fundamental principles” or “overarching themes” that are essential to understanding and using the guidelines. 


Types of Counts and Measures

There are four counts and measures that are appropriate for and relevant to the quantification of holdings information.

  • Intellectual Units Held
  • Physical Units Held
  • Physical Space Occupied
  • Digital Space Occupied

These guidelines provide a rationale and guidance for recommended and optional counts and measures for three of the four above: Intellectual Units Held, Physical Space Occupied, and Digital Space Occupied. Physical units (volumes, sheets, audio cassettes, film reels, etc.) held are not counted, nor are the containers (boxes, cases, drawers, etc.) in which collection material is housed. Although a container count may be useful (and used) for purposes of calculating Physical Space Occupied, it is not a meaningful point of comparison among repositories. Similarly, while a count of a particular type of physical unit held, such as a volume count, may have purpose or value for an individual repository in a given situation, the considerable variation among repositories in terms of how collection material is bound, housed, and stored makes meaningful comparisons of physical units held problematic.


Each of the three counts and measures described in these guidelines is distinct from and independent of the other. Conducting a count of Intellectual Units Held, getting a measurement of Physical Space Occupied, and determining Digital Space Occupied are three separate activities. Some repositories, in some cases, might be able to get two or all three of the counts and measures by, for example, generating a report from an archival collection management system. Most repositories, however, will do one thing to get a count of Intellectual Units Held, something else to get a measure of Physical Space Occupied, and an entirely different activity to determine Digital Space Occupied. 


Categories of Collection Material
The guidelines encourage repositories to categorize collection material, including all physical and digital manifestations, as one of the following:

  • Archival and Manuscript Material
  • Published Language Material
  • Cartographic Material
  • Computer Programs
  • Graphic/Visual Material
  • Moving Image Material
  • Notated Movement
  • Notated Music
  • Objects/Artifacts
  • Sound Recordings

The category definitions and scope statements presented in these guidelines (as Appendix A) are intended to be suggestive as opposed to prescriptive. They have been informed and inspired by a variety of standards governing the description of collection material typically held in archival repositories and special collections libraries, including Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (DCRM), Resource Description and Access (RDA), and others. The actual categorization of collection material for the purposes called for in these guidelines will vary, in some ways significantly, from one repository to another. Each repository will have to determine, based upon a variety of factors including the nature and scope of its collections and the granularity of available information, how collection material is to be categorized for purposes of preparing a count of Intellectual Units held, a measurement of Physical Space Occupied, and a determination of Digital Space Occupied.


Regardless of how a repository chooses to categorize its collection material, internal consistency in understanding and applying the category definitions, coupled with a well-documented approach to undertaking the work, is critical to making the preparation of the counts and measures called for in these guidelines both meaningful for the repository itself and comparable with other repositories. 



For all three of the counts and measures called for in these guidelines, repositories are strongly encouraged to distinguish, whenever possible, collection material that is described online (and is therefore discoverable) from collection material that is not yet described online (and is therefore not discoverable). While explicitly acknowledging the increasingly widely-held perception that “if it isn’t online it doesn’t exist,” the guidelines also propose a definition of “described online and therefore discoverable” that encompasses any description of collection material that can be discovered by way of the web. As such, “described online and therefore discoverable” should be understood to extend well beyond online catalog records and finding aids to include a wide range of web content (blog posts, online exhibits, databases, lists of collections, etc.) as well as web-accessible content (documents, spreadsheets, etc.). 


Here it must be stressed that discoverability should not be conflated with availability or deliverability. Collection material that cannot be made available because of physical, access, use, or other restrictions is not the same as collection material that cannot be discovered. Repositories are encouraged to include collection material that is discoverable but cannot be made available. 


Recommended and Optional Counts

The guidelines describe “recommended” and “optional” counts and measures for Intellectual Units Held, Physical Space Occupied, and Digital Space Occupied. The recommended counts and measures are intended to serve as a baseline for the preparation and sharing of holdings information. The goal for the recommended counts and measures is to identify counts and measures that archival repositories and special collections libraries of any type and size would find useful and practical to obtain and, ideally, to share. All repositories are encouraged to assemble at least the recommended counts and measures for Intellectual Units Held, Physical Space Occupied, and Digital Space Occupied.


The guidelines also describe a variety of optional counts and measures, which repositories may choose to obtain as needs, interest, and/or resources allow. While many repositories will determine that they can conduct only the recommended counts and measures, others may find value in also conducting a few or many of the optional counts and measures. A repository may find it useful to obtain selected optional counts and measures on a regular basis and to conduct other optional counts and measures on an as-needed basis or not at all. In this respect, the optional counts and measures outlined in these guidelines should be regarded as starting points rather than an exhaustive list.


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