National Historical Publications & Records Commission

American Library Association -- Society of American Archivists

Joint Statement on Access to Original Research Materials in Libraries, Archives, and Manuscript Repositories

1. It is the responsibility of a library, archives, or manuscript repository to make available original research materials in its possession on equal terms of access. Since the accessibility of material depends on knowing of its existence, it is the responsibility of a repository to inform researchers of the collections and archival groups in its custody. This may be accomplished through a card catalog, inventories and other internal finding aids, published guides or reports to the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections where appropriate, and the freely offered assistance of staff members, who, however, should not be expected to engage in extended research.

2. To protect and insure the continued accessibility of the material in its custody, the repository may impose several conditions which it should publish or otherwise make known to users.
a. The repository may limit the use of fragile or unusually valuable materials, so long as suitable reproductions are made available for the use of all researchers.
b. All materials must be used in accordance with the rules of and under the supervision of the repository. Each repository should publish and furnish to potential researchers its rules governing access and use. Such rules must be equally applied and enforced.
c. The repository may refuse access to unprocessed materials, so long as such refusal is applied to all researchers.
d. Normally, a repository will not send research materials for use outside its building or jurisdiction.

Under special circumstances a collection or a portion of it may be loaned or placed on deposit with another institution.
e. The repository may refuse access to an individual researcher who has demonstrated such carelessness or deliberate destructiveness as to endanger the safety of the material.
f. As a protection to its holdings, a repository may reasonably require acceptable identification of persons wishing to use its materials, as well as a signature indicating they have read a statement defining the policies and regulations of the repository.

3. Each repository should publish or otherwise make available to researchers a suggested form of citation crediting the repository and identifying items within its holdings for later reference. Citations to copies of materials in other repositories should include the location of the originals, if known.

4. Whenever possible a repository should inform a researcher about known copyrighted material, the owner or owners of the copyrights, and the researcher's obligations with regard to such material.

5. A repository should not deny access to materials to any person or persons, nor grant privileged or exclusive use of materials to any person or persons, nor conceal the existence of any body of material from any researcher, unless required to do so by law, donor, or purchase stipulations.

6. A repository should, whenever possible, inform a researcher of parallel research by other individuals using the same materials. With the written acquiescence of those other individuals, a repository may supply their names upon request.

7. Repositories are committed to preserving manuscript and archival materials and to making them available for research as soon as possible. At the same time, it is recognized that every repository has certain obligations to guard against unwarranted invasion of personal privacy and to protect confidentiality in its holdings in accordance with law and that every private donor has the right to impose reasonable restrictions upon his papers to protect privacy or confidentiality for a reasonable period of time.
a. It is the responsibility of the repository to inform researchers of the restrictions which apply to individual collections or archival groups.
b. The repository should discourage donors from imposing unreasonable restrictions and should encourage a specific time limitation on such restrictions as are imposed.
c. The repository should periodically reevaluate restricted material and work toward the removal of restrictions when they are no longer required.

8. A repository should not charge fees for making available the materials in its holdings. However, reasonable fees may be charged for the copying of material or for the provision of special services or facilities not provided to all researchers.

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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