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Cambridge Public Library

Policies and Guidelines for the Cambridge Room Collection Development
December 2011

Collection Development Scope
The purpose of the Cambridge Room, which houses the Cambridge Public Library’s Archives and Special Collections, is to preserve materials that document the history of Cambridge and to make these materials available to researchers and the general public.  The major focus of the collection is historical and current information about Cambridge.  Emphasis is also given to the acquisition of materials which contribute to the social, civic, governmental, religious, economic, and cultural life of Cambridge, both past and present.  The Cambridge Room seeks to collect materials on people and groups who are underrepresented in the collection:  slaves, free Blacks, African Americans, Native Americans, indentured servants, itinerants, recent immigrants, the poor, the disabled, the ill, the uneducated, women, and those who are not a part of the official historical record of Cambridge.  Materials on these subjects will not be declined based on language. 

The collection houses materials
in a variety of formats including, but not limited to:  books, pamphlets, newsletters, bulletins, periodicals, reports, diaries, manuscripts, monographs, documents, letters, maps, atlases, photographs, scrapbooks, electronic materials, paintings, and memorabilia, such as commemorative programs and advertisements.The Cambridge Room collects government records only if those records document significant moments in the history of the city and therefore warrant permanent preservation.  Duplicates of existent materials are not collected, except at the discretion of the archivist.  Museum objects are generally not collected, except in limited number for display or interpretation purposes.  Computer disks, DVDs, CDs, video cassettes, and tapes are accepted only at the discretion of the archivist. 

The Cambridge Room accepts donations, if deemed relevant its collection policies.  The donor must submit a written statement to the archivist listing the contents and condition of the donation and confirming that s/he has read and understands the guidelines for donation.  It is up to the discretion of the archivist whether or not the materials will be accepted.  (See Appraisal Guidelines.)  If the donation is refused, the Cambridge Room Archives and Special Collections will help locate an appropriate repository for potential donation.  If the archivist determines that the materials are appropriate for donation, paperwork initiating the transfer of ownership to the Cambridge Room must be completed.  Once a donation has been accepted, the donor must review the donation guidelines (See Donation Guidelines).  Materials will only be accepted if the donation guidelines are followed.

Donations will be accepted provided that (a) there is a signed Deed of Gift form (See Deed of Gift Form) that legally transfers ownership of the materials to the Cambridge Room and (b) the donor allows for full access to the materials being donated.  Items will not be accepted on deposit.  The Cambridge Room does not provide monetary appraisal of materials and will not pay for materials.   All Deeds of Gift are permanently retained with the Cambridge Room’s administrative records.  Once the materials become property of the Library, the Cambridge Room has the right to do whatever it feels necessary to the materials.  Please note the Cambridge Room is not responsible for donations made prior to the January 1, 2012, which is the first day the library began officially documenting and processing donations under the collection development policy. 

Donation Guidelines
1.  Initiate the Donation Process.  If you think you may have historically relevant materials that fit within the collection development policy, please contact the archivist to discuss your potential donation.  Please note that the Cambridge Room has the right to refuse donations if deemed inappropriate to collection policies or if the materials already exist in the collection. 

2.  Describe Contents of Donation.   Please create a list of materials that you wish to donate with the following information:
a.  type of materials  (photographs, books, newsletters, personal papers, etc.)
b.  amount of materials
1.  approximate number of items
2.  number of boxes
                        3.  size of boxes
c.  condition of materials (i.e., clean, moldy, dusty, falling apart, etc.)
d.  description of each item or batch of items (i.e., black and white photograph of Central   
Square, circa 1880, photographer unknown or Area IV Newsletter January 2008 to
March 2011).
e.  Your name, address, phone number, and e-mail.

Send your content list to the archivist for review.

3.  Prepare Boxes for Delivery.  If your donation is accepted, please follow these steps:
a.  Use Proper Boxes.  Use durable record boxes with lids, such as traditional banker’s boxes, with a stacking weight of 450 to 600 lbs.  Any office product store like Staples or Office Depot provides these boxes.  **Please note boxes without lids will not be accepted.**
b.  Arrange and Pack Boxes.  Remove folders from hanging files and transfer label and date information to the folder.  Do not overstuff boxes. 
c.  Create a Box Content List.  Complete a box content list for each box and place it inside the appropriate box.  (See Box Content List.)
d.  Label the Boxes.  Write your name, a brief description of box contents (i.e., photographs), including the date range (i.e., 1800-1900), and box number (i.e., 1 of 2) on both short ends of the box. 

4.  Complete a Donation Transmittal Form. (See Donation Transmittal.)  Include the form with the delivery.

5.  Delivery to the Archives.  Please contact the archivist to arrange for a time for delivery.  There are two options for delivering materials:
a.  Hand Deliver.  This ensures the safest delivery of your items.
b.  Mail.  Use Fed Ex, UPS, or United States Postal Service (USPS) and mail to:

The Cambridge Public Library
Cambridge Room Archives and Special Collections
449 Broadway           
Cambridge, MA 02138

When using USPS, be sure to purchase tracking, and if necessary, insurance.

6.  Sign the Deed of Gift.  (See Deed of Gift Form)  Once the donated materials have arrived in the Cambridge Room, the archivist will complete a Deed of Gift form and mail it to you.  You must complete the form and send it back to the archivist as soon as possible.  Once this form is complete, you have transferred ownership of the materials to the Cambridge Room.   Once the transfer is complete you will receive a letter of acknowledgement.

Appraisal Guidelines
An archivist “appraises” a collection to determine if it has enough historical value to justify the expense of storage and preservation. An archivist does not appraise a collection to determine its monetary value.  Appraisal is an analytical process that involves asking theoretical and practical questions, the most important being – does this material fit within the collection development scope?  Below is a list of questions to help guide the appraisal process.

  1.  Did the donor create the materials?
     If not, does the donor own the materials?  If yes, is the donor willing to sign a deed of
    gift that transfers ownership to the library?
  2.  Do the materials fall within the collecting area (i.e., relating to the history of Cambridge)?
  3. Who created the records?
    Did this person or group play an important role in the Cambridge? Was this person or group representative of Cambridge as a whole, or representative of a group within Cambridge?
  4. Why were the records created? Do the records provide information beyond this initial
    purpose?  Does a diary record just the weather, or does it also detail community events and people?
  5. Is this information available elsewhere?
    Examine the published histories in the collection.  What do other repositories have?  The  
    older an item is, the less likely it is duplicated somewhere else.  How often do you see items like this?
  6. Does the collection have similar materials already?

If yes, does it duplicate what the collection already has or does it add depth to the collection in this area?  If no, does it fill in a gap, or is it outside the collection area?

  1.  Does it document prominent citizens and/or everyday citizens?
    The collection currently represents prominent citizens of the 19th century.  Areas in need of growth are under-represented groups (such as minorities, the poor, uneducated, women, etc. between the 17th and 21st centuries.)
  2. How complete are the records?
    Do they document a short period of time, a lifetime, or something in between? Are there
    gaps in the dates that would make research difficult? Are photographs unidentified?
  3. How large is the collection?
    What is the proportion of useful material to the overall size? Size will play a factor in not
    only the amount of shelf space devoted to it, but also the cost in terms of supplies.
  4. Are the records in a discernable order, or are they in chaos?
    The time needed to arrange a collection for use should be a factor in appraisal decision.
  5. What kind of physical condition are the materials in?
    What are the preservation needs? Will strict handling procedures need to be imposed?
  6. Will the format cause problems in the future?
    Oversize materials have special storage and preservation needs. Film, video, and digital
    objects are very fragile media that may need to be transferred in the future. Electronic  
    records such as an author’s draft novel on computer disk will also need to be updated as
    word processing programs and operating systems change.
  7. Is there any information that is restricted?
    Examples include student information or medical information.

Deaccession Policy
The Cambridge Room reserves the right to dispose of materials inappropriate or no loner of value to the collection.  Options include returning materials to donors, selling items, and offering collections to other institutions (when feasible).  A deaccession record is created for each item or group of items removed and includes a brief description of the material, reasons for removal, and information on its new location (if applicable).


Cambridge Public Library