Materials are defined as deaccessioned when they are removed formally and permanently from the collections, or when there is a legal transfer of ownership or a permanent disposal. The deaccession of materials in manuscript and archival collections is governed by different principles from those for general research collections. Because of the primacy of preserving University Archives materials in their original format and the role of University Archives as repositories for cultural history, University Archives carefully assesses all materials before accepting them to lessen the likelihood of deaccession. Valid reasons remain, however, for deaccessioning materials held in University Archives.
The Rare Book and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries included a lengthy set of guidelines for deaccession of materials in Standards for Ethical Conduct for Rare Book, Manuscript, and University Archives Librarians, with Guidelines for Institutional Practice in Support of the Standards, 2d edition, 1992. The following policy for deaccession of materials from University Archives incorporates and upholds the standards established by RBMS for the ethical deaccessioning of materials from University Archives.
Guidelines for the Deaccession of Materials
- When considering deaccession of rare books and manuscripts, University Archives weighs carefully the interests of the public for which it holds the collections in trust, the interests of the scholarly and cultural community, and University Archives' own mission and resources.
- University Archives will consider any legal restrictions, the necessity for possession of valid title, and the donor's intent in the broadest sense.
- Procedures for the deaccession or disposal of materials will be at least as rigorous as those for purchasing 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.
- 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 Cal Poly. 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.
- 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. Thus, "materials found in collection" become the property of the archives after seven years of documented continuous ownership.
- Responsibility to the needs and reputation of University Archives requires that, in preparing for and accomplishing any deaccession, University Archives will take care to define and internally state the purpose of the deaccession, to avoid any procedure which may detract from the Library's reputation for honesty and responsible conduct, and to carry out the entire process in a way which will not detract from public perception of its responsible stewardship. The following points must be taken into consideration:
- University Archives will insure that the method of deaccession will result in furthering the agreed purpose of the deaccession.
- University Archives 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.
- University Archives 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 will be explored as well as disposal through the trade.