Skip to Main Content

Policies and Procedures in Special Collections and Archives









The purpose of an Arrangement & Description Policy is to detail the manner in which Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives (SCA) applies preservation (of) and access (to) its primary source acquisitions--in all media formats--for its users. This policy covers how materials are handled after the moment of acquisition through to dissemination, both in-person and online. This policy dovetails with several procedural documents that altogether detail how SCA processes materials in accordance with related institutional policies, any applicable federal and state statutes or laws, and professional best practices.


Unless indicated specifically otherwise, this policy details policies around the arrangement & description of primary source materials in SCA only; cataloguing of secondary source materials (published books/journals/films etc.) in SCA is predominantly a function of Cline Library’s Content, Access, and Delivery Services (CADS) department.


Implementation and modification of this policy resides with the SCA Archivist for Arrangement & Description in collaboration with others in Special Collections and Archives. Authority and approval of this policy resides with the Head of Special Collections and the Dean and University Librarian of Cline Library.


  1. GOALS

This policy serves two principal goals:

  • To act as a reference point for those Cline Library archivists, librarians, staff, interns, student workers, and volunteers engaged in processing projects for long-term preservation (of) and access (in-person and online) to SCA materials.

  • To improve transparency and trust-building with researchers (including faculty, students, and community borrowers); material donors (present and future); other professional colleagues; and the broader public about the processing of archival materials in SCA.



Several key definitions will help inform this policy [Get these from the SAA glossary]. Link to the full glossary as well.

  • Appraisal

  • Archives

  • Arrangement

  • Collection

  • Deaccesioning

  • Description

  • Finding aid

  • Original order

  • Papers

  • Preservation

  • Primary source material

  • Processing

  • Provenance

  • Reappraisal

  • Records

  • Respect-des-fonds

  • Rights management

  • Secondary source material

  • Special Collections

  • Unprocessed backlog



    1. Arrangement may be identified during appraisal

    2. Arrangement shall precede description

    3. Arrangement shall commence at the highest hierarchical level within a group of materials

    4. Arrangement shall respect or, where possible, restore original order

    5. In the clear absence of original order the Archivist for Arrangement & Description will determine an appropriate order based on the nature and content of the records

    6. University Archives shall be structured in a manner that documents both the official and unofficial functions and activities of the campus through its administration, faculty, staff, and students



    1. Arrangement defines description

    2. Description establishes intellectual control over SCA materials

    3. To the extent possible by SCA staff and competing workloads, a cursory finding guide (using More Product, Less Process) to unprocessed or midst-processing materials shall be created shortly after the donation of materials.

    4. SCA shall utilize a shared descriptive standard (Describing Archives: a Content Standard) in its finding aids in order to communicate both content and context of its holdings for patrons.

    5. Description shall move from the general to the specific and not be repetitive

    6. SCA shall consult the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials [hyperlink] when materials being described pertain to Native American communities. Where appropriate, SCA will consult the Arizona Board of Regents’ Tribal Consultation policy (1-118) [hyperlink] when collaborating with source communities on issues of description.



This section will highlight only a selection of preservation strategies as they relate to SCA’s broader preservation policy (link here) and its relationship to the function of arrangement & description.

    1. Macro-level (see mostly the preservation policy)

    2. Micro-level (re-housing/preventive conservation)

      1. Food and Drink Policy, as it relates to A&D



While the formal process of applying historic value to materials found in the SCA unprocessed backlog in an effort to dispose (deaccession or destroy) materials not selected for permanent retention may have occurred at the moment of acquisition, those tasked with arrangement & description shall refer to the SCA Collection Development Policy when confronted with materials that are felt to not be worth permanent retention. Furthermore, appraisal and reappraisal may reveal materials subject to federal legislation (FERPA/HIPPA). This process of appraisal can be applied shortly after formal acquisition or may also be applied during reappraisal of previously-processed materials.



    1. SCA shall engage in an active digitization program in an effort to balance the long-term preservation of its resources with enhanced public access.

    2. Selection for digitization shall be made based on regional significance and/or long-term preservation and access risks.

    3. SCA follows the latest professional benchmarks for digitization and employs standardized metadata schema in an effort to a build a successful digital preservation program.



To whatever extent possible, SCA shall have full rights to materials in its possession. It may be determined that, during the process of arrangement & description, that entire/portions of materials may be found to be the legal responsibility and/or physical/intellectual property of another individual or organization. The Archivist for Arrangement & Description shall work with the SCA Collections Manager in either (1) securing the appropriate permissions through the legal instrument of a deed of gift; (2) appropriately deaccessioning these materials to source individuals/repositories upon discovery OR (if desired) (3) SCA will work with appropriate rights holders on permitted access to these materials by its patrons through a unique agreement.






Analog workflows

  • MS processing manual [blend these two together and include other formats]

  • Photo processing manual [see comment above]


Digital workflows

  • Processing of electronic records (hybrid/standalone)

  • Benchmarks and steps for digital capture (all in-house capture formats, including photos, films, and oversize)

  • Using the SCA still and moving image cameras (capture and processing workflows)

  • Digital selection criteria (may be more policy-based than procedural)