Today: McKeldin 08:00AM - 05:00PM

General to Special Collections Transfer Policy


The framework for this policy is provided by the ACRL Guidelines on the Selection and Transfer of Materials from General Collections to Special Collections (third ed., 2008).

The ACRL Guidelines provide the following rationale for transferring materials from general collections to special collections: “virtually all libraries acquire materials that, with time and changing circumstances, become rare and gain special cultural and historical value. These materials may also gain significant monetary value in the marketplace. Librarians have a responsibility to identify the rare and valuable materials currently held in general and open stack collections and to arrange for their physical transfer to a library location that provides an appropriate level of access, preservation, and security.”

Age and inherent value are not the only reasons to transfer materials from general to special collections. Materials may also belong in special collections because of the particular research interests or foci of those collections. The University of Maryland Libraries have many and varied special collections, and printed materials are an important component of most of them. Those materials may not be especially rare or valuable but are important to those collections.

This policy addresses two major components of the ACRL Guidelines, criteria for selection and transfer procedures.

Criteria for Selection

The ACRL Guidelines state, “The criteria for what is rare or unique are not always obvious; reasons for considering items as valuable candidates for inclusion in a special collection will vary among institutions. The transfer decision should include an evaluation of the special qualities or an item relative to the collection’s development policies….in most cases a combination of general criteria will apply when evaluating an item for transfer: 1. market value; 2. age; 3. physical and intrinsic characteristics; 4. condition; 5. bibliographic and research value.”

As indicated previously, the University of Maryland Libraries Special Collections are varied, and each will have its own criteria for inclusion of printed materials. No blanket policy is possible, especially with regard to age. Each Special Collections unit has its own collection development policy that spells out its criteria in detail. The following is a list of the subject areas in the Libraries’ Special Collections with brief notes of the print components. Printed materials in these areas that are part of the general collection should be considered for transfer to the appropriate unit in Special Collections. Note that in all cases condition is an important consideration.

Mass Media and Culture

Relevant serials and monographs

Labor History & Workplace Studies

Labor publications printed between 1850-1899 (rare)
Labor publications printed between 1900-1950 (special collections)
Special groupings of books (ex. Samuel Gompers Library)
Labor reference/statistical books that will be useful to reading room researchers (any date)
Labor union serial/pamphlet/newsletter publications (any date)
AFL, CIO, and AFL-CIO produced publications, including serials (any date)
Publications, serials produced by or about the labor union collections that are represented in Special Collections (Carpenters, Bakers, etc.) (any date)


Rare Books and Literature

French History & Culture
German Expressionism
Spanish Theatre
Charles I’s Eikon Basilike (original edition, 1649)
Iconography and Art Criticism
20th Century Authors
Katherine Anne Porter
William Morris
Children’s and Juvenile Literature
American Political History
Art & Craft of the Book
Books as Objects

University Archives

University of Maryland publications

State of Maryland and Historical Collections

Historic preservation
Maryland history and culture (including county and local histories, Maryland authors)
Maryland African American history
Maryland agricultural history
Maryland business history
Maryland environmental history
Genealogy (selective)
Maryland geography
Maryland military history
Maryland politics and civic activities

Special Collections in Performing Arts

History of American music education, concert music, and band history
History of American and European popular music history
Official publications of performing arts organizations whose archives SCPA stewards
History of American modern dance or theatre, especially those focused on companies local to the DC Metro Area and surrounding suburbs

Transfer Policy Procedure

The ACRL Guidelines propose five procedural phases, which are adapted here.

Identification of materials

Identification of materials for transfer can be undertaken in a systematic and comprehensive way, e.g., by reading the shelves or producing review lists by date or other criteria from WorldCat. This would require a significant investment of human resources. Alternatively, materials for possible transfer can be identified during routine handling by circulation, Preservation, or other operations in the Libraries. This would not make big demands on human resources but it is necessarily haphazard. Subject librarians should alert the appropriate Special Collections unit if they come across potentially rare or special materials.

Review and decision to transfer

Not all items selected for transfer may be transferred to Special Collections. Considerations include the following:

  • Market value
  • Age
  • Physical and intrinsic characteristics
  • Condition
  • Bibliographic and research value
  • A particular importance to collections already in Special Collections

Each consideration in itself may not warrant transfer. Subject librarians should work with curators and librarians within Special Collections and Preservation to determine if the transfer should proceed. They may also wish to work with cataloging specialists to determine any descriptive needs.

Preservation Assessment

A preservation evaluation should be made prior to transfer. In consultation with Special Collections specialists, preservation specialists will determine if any physical alterations or conservation are needed.

Cataloging review and processing, including location changes

Once an item has been selected for transfer, catalog and circulation information will be updated to reflect availability and location. The Special Collections curator and the cataloger should consult to determine whether or not an item needs to conform to rare item cataloging standards. This may include instructions on special handling of the material like labeling, and notes for provenance, printers, binding, and citations.

Physical transfer

Physical transfer, including preservation, cataloging, and processing, will be completed in a timely manner.

Appendix: Transfer from Special Collections to General Collections

There may be cases where it seems appropriate to transfer printed materials from Special Collections to general collections—for example, duplicates of books that are not rare or unusual. Such transfers would follow the same procedures as used in transfers to Special Collections, only in reverse, with the appropriate subject librarian making the final decision. The General and Special Collections Duplication Policy should also be consulted.

Policy created 2015; Reviewed and approved by CDC 9/21/15