Collection Development Policy: Special Collections

1.  Mission Statement  

Special Collections is a unit of the California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM) Library, whose primary mission is to serve as an essential partner in teaching and learning, research, and community engagement at the university.  

In support of this mission, Special Collections acquires, arranges, describes, preserves, and makes available records of enduring historic value that support the information needs of faculty, students, and members of the CSUSM community and beyond. As per the Society of American Archivists, historical value refers to the usefulness or significance of records for understanding the past. The enduring administrative, legal, fiscal, or evidential information contained within them justifies their continued preservation. The resources in Special Collections represent and complement the university's dynamic, multi-disciplinary, and diverse curriculum and community.

It is important to note that Special Collections is distinct from the CSUSM University Archives and the CSUSM Institutional Repository. The mandate of the University Archives is to collect, preserve and make available non-current records and historic information documenting CSUSM activities, functions, decisions, and/or policies and programs, as well as the campus and its people, administration and culture. ScholarWorks is the institutional repository at CSUSM. Its mission is to preserve and make accessible the scholarly, creative, and administrative assets of the University to support researchers, instructors and staff. It includes faculty scholarship, theses, dissertations, and graduate research, as well as select digital archival collections.  

 2.  Collection methods  

Donations are the preferred method of acquiring special collections. The collecting responsibility resides ultimately with the Library Dean, who receives input from appropriate stakeholders regarding the acquisition, transfer or donation of materials.  

Nature of ownership:

Material will be accepted by deed of gift, bequest, or other forms of documentation by which full and absolute title to the physical property is transferred to the CSUSM Library. The Library reserves the right to determine retention, location, cataloging treatment, and other considerations relating to the use or disposition of the material. Any limitation on use must be approved by the Dean of the Library at the time of accession into the collection.  

Special Collections can only invest resources and expertise in the preservation of items that the CSUSM Library owns. We are unable to accept items or collections on deposit or loan or any other means by which ownership is not transferred to the CSUSM Library. Exceptions may be made by the Dean of the Library if the deposits or loans are considered integral to furthering the mission of the Library.   

Collecting criteria:  

Acquisitions will be evaluated by the same criteria as for overall library materials1. Additional selection criteria specifically applicable to Special Collections will be considered, including but not limited to:  

  • Quality of material 
  • Authoritativeness 
  • Circumstances of creation 
  • Enduring value:  evidential, informational, intrinsic 
  • Cost of retention: processing, storage, preservation, technical support 
  • Format appropriateness  
  • Copyright and fair use 
  • Nature of restrictions by donor 

Each prospective donation will undergo archival appraisal to assess research value, documented authenticity, and preservation concerns. Records should be in a format that facilitate preservation and access.  

3.  Procedures for accepting collections  

The Library Dean has the ultimate authority to determine whether a collection is appropriate for acquisition by Special Collections. If so, the collection may be accepted with no serious preservation, use or access concerns relating to format, condition, or other characteristics. 

Acquisitions and accessions process: 

Once a collection has been accepted, two copies of the Deed of Gift will be sent to the donor to be signed within two weeks. The Deed will be signed by the Dean of the Library. The donor will retain one copy for their files and return one to Special Collections. If the donor is unable to provide a signed deed of gift after two requests, the donation may be returned. Special Collections does not provide appraisals for donations. 

 4.  Collecting areas        

Who we serve:

Special Collections is accessible to the CSUSM community, visiting researchers and members of the public, all of whom register according to the appropriate department procedures and regulations. We serve: 

1.  Faculty, scholars and other professionals 

2.  Students 

3.  General public

Collection priorities:

Our collecting priorities are informed by the research needs of our stakeholders. To this end, Special Collections seeks to collect in subject areas receiving substantial and sustained attention within the University community, those representing ongoing departmental research interests, or those areas that are the focus of interdisciplinary programs. In addition, Special Collections seeks to play a role in the broader research community by building collections in areas not well covered by other repositories. Due to preservation concerns and space constraints, we do not actively collect oversized items, including artwork and/or three-dimensional objects. Exceptions may be made by the Library Dean on an individual basis.  

Geographic scope of collections:  

San Diego County with an emphasis on North County. 

Subject areas:  

  • Collections that support CSUSM curriculum 
  • Development of the North County region 
  • North County history 
  • Records of prominent local businesses or businesses that have roots in the region 
  • Papers and records of individuals, families and organizations that have helped shape the region and community 
  • Underrepresented communities: including but not limited to Native American communities, Latino-Chicano community, new immigrant communities etc. 
  • Economy 
  • Agriculture 
  • Water rights 
  • Dairy 
  • Labor 
  • Arts and culture 
  • Women 

Subject areas and record types we do not collect:    

  • Collections unrelated to the University’s academic mission or the geographic scope 
  • Records of primarily genealogical value  
  • Personal financial records including checks or income tax returns 
  • Daily financial records for organizations (particularly from the 20th century) such as bank statements, canceled checks, receipts, daily balances, and invoices. 
  • Personnel or confidential files 
  • Medical records 
  • Duplicates of any items 
  • General readership books, periodicals, or other printed material not written by or about the donor/organization  
  • Photocopies or other reproductions of original material, unless the originals are no longer in existence or are unavailable to the public 

5.  Types of materials collected                                    

Special Collections accepts archival collections that include a broad range of formats and material types including, but not limited to, paper documents, photographs, maps, electronic files, and digital records. 

Physical condition: 

Since Special Collections does not have a dedicated in-house preservation and conservation unit, we are unable to accept materials that have significant associated repair and storage costs. Exceptions may be made by the Library Dean on an individual basis. 


Due to limitations on storage space, Special Collections does not collect duplicates of items. Exceptions may be made in rare circumstances. 

Media formats: 

Media preservation concerns and reformatting capabilities influence the record formats that we are able to accept. Decisions of acceptance will be based on file formats and the content of information represented in the files. Media generally collected include: 

  • DVDs  
  • CDs  
  • Audio cassette tapes 
  • VHS tapes 
  • Photographs* 
  • Negatives* 
  • Slides* 

* Photograph collections are selected for acquisition based on accompanying descriptive and technical documentation, the quality of the images, and the relation of the materials to research and instruction.  

Born-digital materials: 

Materials that are “born-digital” (created in electronic format) will be considered if they are accessible for research, can be migrated and preserved relatively easily using accepted industry standards and common technologies, and include appropriate metadata. Such materials may be added to the university's institutional repository when appropriate.  

Deaccession policy                                           

Deaccessioning refers to the removal of materials, formally and permanently, from Special Collections, or when there is a legal transfer of ownership or a permanent disposal. 

Because of the importance of preserving special collections materials in their original format and the role of special collections as repositories for cultural history, Special Collections will carefully assess all materials before accepting them to lessen the likelihood of deaccession. However there may be circumstances when Special Collections will conduct a reappraisal of its holdings and identify materials that no longer align with the institution's collections policy. In such a situation, we will adhere to the guidelines for deaccession of materials established by the Rare Book and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries in Standards for Ethical Conduct for Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Librarians, with Guidelines for Institutional Practice in Support of the Standards, 2nd edition, 1992.  

Guidelines include:  

  1. When considering deaccession of rare books and manuscripts, Special Collections weighs carefully the interests of the public for which it holds the collections in trust, the interests of the scholarly and cultural community, and the department’s own mission and resources. 
  2. Special Collections will consider any legal restrictions, the necessity for possession of valid title, and the donor’s intent in the broadest sense. 
  3. Procedures for the deaccession or disposal of materials will be at least as rigorous as those for acquiring collections and should be governed by the same basic principles. The decision to dispose of materials must be made only after full and scrupulous consideration of the public interest and the needs of researchers. 
  4. Mandatory restrictions on disposition which accompanied a donation will be observed unless it can be shown clearly by appropriate legal procedures that adherence to them is impossible or substantially detrimental to CSUSM. When statements of donor’s preferences accompany an acquisition, any departure from them will be carefully considered and negotiated with the donor or the donor’s heirs or settled by appropriate legal procedures. 
  5. Procedures for deaccession of “materials found in collection,” for which no record of the gift or its terms exist, shall be governed by county and state regulations for unclaimed property.  
  6. In preparing for and accomplishing any deaccession, Special Collections will take care to define and internally state the purpose of the deaccession.  The following points must be taken into consideration: 
    • Special Collections will ensure that the method of deaccession aligns with the purpose of the deaccession. 
    • Special Collections will disclose to the potential new owner or intermediary agent any action, such as the retention of a photocopy of the material, which may affect the monetary or scholarly value of the material. 
    • Special Collections will not allow materials from its collections to be acquired privately by any library employee, officer, or volunteer, unless they are sold publicly and with complete disclosure of their history. 
    • Due consideration should be given to the library community in general when disposing of items. Sales to, or exchanges between, institutions and/or cultural heritage organizations may be explored. 

 6.  Weeding and Re-Appraisal        

The following criteria will be used to evaluate material to be weeded:  

  • Collection relevance: Is the item relevant to the teaching, learning and/or research needs of CSUSM stakeholders and/or the collection priorities of Special Collections? 
  • Intrinsic value: The Society of American Archivists defines this as the significance of an item derived from its inherent original form and generally independent of its content. It may include an item's form, layout, materials, or process. It may also be based on an item's direct relationship to a significant person, activity, event, organization, or place.  
  • Format: Is the format obsolete or inaccessible? 
  • Duplication: Is the item duplicated, and if so, is demand sufficient for multiple copies? 
  • Physical condition: Is an item damaged in such a way that prohibits its use?  
  • Research value: Are materials still valuable for research interests? 
  • Uniqueness: Is the item irreplaceable, unique, or otherwise valuable?   
  • Usage: How often has the item/collection been retrieved for use in Special Collections?  Can we anticipate future use? 

7.  Loan Policy 

Special Collections follows the Rare Book and Manuscript Section/ACRL’s “Guidelines for the Loan of Rare and Unique Materials” and “Guidelines for Borrowing and Lending Special Collections Materials for Exhibition.” All loans are considered on an individual basis and are subject to conditions specified by CSUSM Library.  All loans require a minimum of three months’ advance notice and a signed CSUSM Library loan agreement form. 

Loans for Exhibitions

Because of the unique and irreplaceable nature of many items in Special Collections, the following considerations apply toward loan agreements:

  • The request complies with any donor agreements and all copyright restrictions 
  • Nature and number of items requested 
  • Physical condition of the items 
  • Items are to be displayed in a secure area under stable environmental conditions with respect to light, temperature, humidity, fire suppression, etc. 
  • Borrowers will supply a standard American Association of Museums facilities report 
  • Borrowing institution provides and demonstrates proof of insurance on the material to be lent at values assigned by CSUSM, and that if a current appraisal of the material is required to determine insurance values, the borrowing institution is responsible for any appraisal fees; a certificate of insurance coverage must be supplied to CSUSM before the requested items will be released 
  • Mode of transportation is approved by CSUSM 
  • All aspects of the loan must be documented on a loan agreement form supplied by Special Collections and must be signed by appropriate representatives of both parties  
  • The borrowing institution must agree to abide by any other regulations concerning the security of the materials lent by Special Collections as may hereafter be established by the latter. 

Approved 5/22/2018 (Collections Committee, Library Cabinet)