SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force to Revise Statement on Access

The SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force to Revise the Statement on Access to Research Materials in Archives and Special Collections Libraries (hereafter “Task Force”) is responsible for reviewing and revising a Joint Statement that was last released by the two organizations in 2009. The Task Force should recommend any and all revisions that would bring the Statement up to date, and should consider two points raised by the SAA Committee on Public Policy:

  • Born-digital materials. The last revision of the Joint Statement (2009) was approved prior to the growth of the use of digital forensics software in cultural heritage institutions. (See, for example, Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections, by Kirschenbaum, Ovenden, and Redwine, 2010, and the development of the revised OAIS reference model, 2012.) Software used by creators often collects additional information about the document without the creator being aware of its collection. This information can be retrieved by the use of digital forensics software. The Committee suggests that input on the Joint Statement be collected from individuals who are familiar with the capture of born-digital documents to ensure that the general tenets of the Joint Statement are revised to adapt to an increasingly digital world.
  • Existence of research materials. Point 2, regarding Intellectual Accessibility, states that a repository “should inform researchers… of the collections in its custody…. The existence of original research materials should be reported, even if they are not fully accessible.” However, Point 1 on Responsibility states that a repository “should not… conceal the existence of any body of materials… unless required to do so by law, institutional access policy, or donor or purchase stipulation.” This last qualifying phrase established a seemingly contradictory standard wherein legal, institutional, or donor restrictions could eclipse a researcher’s right to basic knowledge about the existence of materials as stipulated in Point 2. The Committee suggests that the Joint Statement be revised to clarify this issue.

The Statement will be submitted for approval by the executive bodies of SAA and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and ACRL’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS). The Task Force will recommend a plan for periodic review of the Statement at the time the Statement is submitted to SAA and ACRL/RBMS for approval.