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Special Interest Group Archive: Archives SIG 5/4/2021

These are the notes from meetings dating back to 2015.

May 4, 2021

The meeting was held on Tuesday, May 4 via Zoom. It was facilitated by Margaret Stanne, Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection, Elting Public Library


Archives SIG 5/4


What was your experience of writing collections policies / procedures? 

  • DHPSNY is a great resource - they have a few webinars available on writing policies / procedures. 

  • As you’re writing a policy, it’s important to have an accession policy in place. This will help people who donate items better understand what will happen to the items. 

  • Including options for donations can be helpful. One library has a way of marking items -- “discard after discussion with owner”. 

  • One archives’ policy is to only accept donations of items that are pertinent to the history of the organization. This makes it easier to decline donations that don’t fit.  

  • An organization’s collection policy and its mission statement should be in line with one another.  

  • One attendee noted that their organization will sometimes take in items and try to find the appropriate repository for it.  

  • New York State Archives has a form which provides a template for creating collection development policies.  

  • It can be very helpful to talk with county historians and historical societies. They are usually willing to share their local policies.  

  • Historical Collection 5 Year Plan provides a good overview of managing collections:


How do you manage those difficult conversations when you can’t accept a donation: :

  • One public library has a policy in place that they won’t take non-fiction books before a certain date. For fiction items, they take items that are in good condition.  

  • Implement limitations on materials based on the size of it. There is not a lot of space for large framed items, and they don’t feel comfortable taking something that has been removed from the frame.  

  • The biggest question is: can we actually store this item and properly take care of it?  

  • One attendee noted that if the person is really making an effort to make sure the item goes to a good home, they will provide some other places where it might be used more frequently.  

  • Try to put a positive spin on saying no. For example -- “This is a great item, but [so and so] might be a better location where it can get more use.”

  • A couple of libraries also have book sales, and are actively trying to build up their local history collections. It doesn’t have to always be a hard no; it can be a no with further options for where an item could go.  

  • Donations can sometimes bring up copyright concerns. It’s important to have the propre rights for an item.  

  • It’s good to have a deed of gift form filled out. This includes a question about what you want done with the item afterwards. 


Is anyone working on any projects they would like to talk about? 

  • Historic Huguenot Street and Haviland Heidgerd are partnering up om a major NEH grant to digitize a historic collection. The project is set to start in June. They are hiring a Digital Librarian and will be interviewing and making decisions soon.  

  • As part of the project, they will be digitizing a variety of materials relevant to early New paltz history. This includes town records, original land patents, agreements with Native Americans, land transactions, town meeting records. All of the collections overlap in a lot of ways and tell a really interesting story about New Paltz history. It’s a big endeavor. 

  • It’s a good idea to think about what organizations you can partner with to enhance your collections and tell a more complete narrative.  


Has anyone here managed a facebook page specifically for their collection?

  • One attendee notes their institution has a facebook page for the local history room. They have been doing oral history videos and sharing those to the facebook page. They also share posts / questions from the “you know you’re from…” FB group. 

  • One library incorporates everything into a single instagram and facebook account. Their history collection is small enough that it doesn’t need it’s own page. 

  • One attendee notes they don’t have a separate page. Rather, they try to integrate posts into current events. They look for images that fit into a specific theme and highlight collection materials from a modern day lens.  

  • If you have the time and resources, go for it. But it could take a while to get a following. 

  • Mixing historical collections in with more general posts could create more exposure and additional educational opportunities. 

  • One college wants to make an instagram just for the archives. The archives has more than enough materials to share and it can help to develop their own voice independent of the library. However, it takes a long time to put together a post -- you need to provide some context.  

  • Facebook can be really helpful when trying to solve mysteries in your collection. For example, one attendee was trying to track down a specific building that doesn’t exist anymore. There was a lot of confusion as to the actual location. It was posted online, and people were able to provide the address. It helped clarify something that would otherwise be hard to figure out. 

  • There are some facebook groups dedicated to professionals who use social media for libraries and museums. 


There is a huge feasibility study in the Finger Lakes Area -- they are looking at several counties and seeing if they can deem them a National Heritage Area. Do you have any insights into the benefits of being deemed a national heritage area? 

  • There is an HRVH email list that can be used to ask questions. Someone in the group might have more information on that. 

  • You can be recognized as a member and be listed on a map. It affords you the opportunity to apply for grants and special things. 

  • There is a little more trust in areas / institutions that have specific credentials.

  • There is a program called pathway through history -- national preservation on a state level. Have two weekends in a year that they promote people who have activities. Some promotional benefits too.


Has anyone been accepting genealogy requests? How are you dealing with that? 

  • Open by appointment only. 

  • One attendee noted that their building is open on a limited basis. The Town Historian has filled a number of requests. The town historian has scheduled zoom office hours to deal with questions. 

  • One library has expanded their hours. Now open six days a week.

  • Have a research request form that gauges the level of service needed. One way to manage requests is to put a time limit on them -- say you can do a brief search (5-10 mins) max for free. After that, indicate that you don’t have the time or the resources to do a more intensive request. 

  • In the past, have charged people if they have a research request that requires a significant amount of time. 

  • One library has the business cards of local researchers on hand. They provide these for intensive research questions. They will do the research for you; if there’s something you are interested in, you can contact them instead. 


One attendee needed to get archival boxes for certain record books. It’s been a challenge because they are large and leather-bound. Everything states you should get a box that is the size of the volume -- but then how do you pull the item out?  

  • Some boxes will come with a split in the corner so you can bend it to pull it out. Boxes from gaylord. Ex

  • There’s a company that will make custom boxes if you give them the exact measurements. They fold around your items -- four flaps and a front flap. You actually unfold the box to access your material. It’s not that much more expensive than a hollinger box. It provides a safe solution since you don’t have to actually remove the material.  


Southeastern NY Library Resources Council
21 South Elting Corners Road | Highland, NY 12528
Phone: (845) 883-9065